Home to the largest football stadium in the world, Barcelona is a vibrant city full of life.
It’s no shocker as to why people love the city. Every year, millions of tourists flock to Barcelona, attracted to its remarkable medieval and contemporary architecture and an abundance of attractions.
Check out the best Barcelona attractions, excursions, and guided tours here.
In this post, you’ll find out all about the high-spirited Barcelona life, the language, lifestyle, social culture, cost of living, and more. We also outline some of the important documentation needed to live in Barcelona such as an NIE and Social Security Number.
Life in Barcelona – What is Barcelona like?
Barcelona’s lifestyle is much more relaxed and merry compared to other European cities.
Since Barcelona is a popular destination amongst tourists, it can get pretty crowded. The city’s architecture and relaxed yet lively lifestyle attract people from all over the world. In peak seasons, the beaches and tourist hotspots are bustling with thousands of tourists.
Americans in Barcelona, especially, might initially experience a culture shock because of the contrasting lifestyles.
People in tourist hotspots are likely to know English, but this won’t be the case for the city’s inner local parts. Although Spanish is a popular language throughout Barcelona, Catalan comes first. This comes as a surprise to many tourists and immigrants.
Catalan is similar to Spanish but not a subset. It’s the official language at schools, institutes, and most workplaces and is also used for communication on signboards and road signs.
After Catalan, the most common language in Barcelona is Spanish. So if you know Spanish, it will definitely come in use. And since Catalan is a Romance language, it’s easier to learn it if you know any other Romance language – like Spanish, Italian, or French.
Some say the Spaniards are a nocturnal nation – since the entire country sleeps, on average, an hour less than the rest of Europe. The thing is, Spain is in the wrong time zone.
Back when WW2 was raging, Hitler approached Spain for support, but Spain chose to stay neutral. However, the Spanish dictator General Franco pushed the country’s clocks one-hour ahead to align with Nazi Germany. All the Spaniards have been in the wrong time zone since.
Mondays to Fridays, work times are usually from 9 am till 8 pm with long lunch breaks. Lunch is the most important meal of the day in Spain, taking place between 1 pm or 2 pm till 4:30 or 5 pm. Many public and semi-private schools go on till 5 pm, and by the time after-school activities end, it’s already 7 pm. It’s not unusual for kids in Spain to sleep around or after midnight.
The Spanish siesta, a late afternoon nap, has been a part of the country since the Roman Empire rule. This tradition comes as a huge surprise to travelers in Barcelona who are used to clocking-in from 9 am to 5 pm back home.
The Spaniards, however, make their own rules. Unlike the rest of the world, they take 2 to 5 hours off from the late afternoon (after lunch) to nap.
Many local businesses keep this tradition alive by shutting their doors for a few hours anytime between 1 pm to 5 pm (depending on the area).
You won’t find common USA ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, colors, additives, and preservatives in many Spanish products. Barcelona’s gastronomy is focused more on healthy, wholesome dishes made from fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Social life in Spain
The Spanish culture is very amiable and welcoming. It won’t take you long to get to know your neighbors and make friends.
Barcelona’s social life is centered more on outdoor activities like going out for dinner, coffee, or drinks. Even birthday parties are more likely to occur in a restaurant or park instead of someone’s house.
Barcelona cost of living – Is Barcelona expensive?
As in all cities, the cost of living in Barcelona is dependent on your standard of living and the area you choose to stay in. You can exist happily on a budget, or splash out on the good life. But here are the basics that you can expect.
Wages & Salaries
The minimum wage in Spain is approximately €850 per month. The average monthly salary is €1470 (after-tax).
You can rent a 2-bedroom flat from approximately €600 to €2300 (for a fully-furnished luxury apartment). Electricity, water, gas, and WiFi are not included in this amount. However, these prices vary depending on the neighborhood. The general rate is €20/ m2.
A meal at any good restaurant can cost about €20-25, sometimes even less. Grocery shopping is also quite affordable – costing about €150-200 for a single person.
Public health system
The public health system is free. If you opt for private health insurance, it will cost about €50 to €100 per month.
Public transport is very cheap and common in Spain, as is the norm for most of Europe. Many prefer to use public transport because it’s easily accessible, efficient, and faster than waiting in traffic.
A one-way ticket costs €2.30. A 3-month ticket for metro, bus, or train within your area can cost €140-150. The public bicycle system will cost about €45 per year.
For more details on the cost of living in Barcelona, check out this list.
Moving to Barcelona – Expats in Barcelona
Whether you’re moving to Barcelona to work, study, or retire, it’s essential to have your documents arranged in advance.
The most important document needed in Spain is an NIE (Número de Identificaión de Extranjero) – a tax identification number for non-citizens. You should probably apply for yours from your local Spanish embassy before arrival since getting an NIE is not an easy process. EU Citizens do not need an NIE if they’ll be working/studying in Spain for less than 3 months.
If you’re moving to Spain for work, your company may take care of this for you, or you can request an NIE after arriving in Barcelona. You may need to provide proof such as your employment contract, a document from the company employing you, or your university documents.
An NIE enables you to:
- Open a bank account
- Receive wages/ salary
- Pay taxes
- Obtain a driver’s license
- Register for a social security number
Note: children also need an NIE to get social security.
Social Security Number
Any person who works for a registered company or is self-employed in Barcelona needs a Social Security Number to access Spain’s social services. If you’re moving to Spain for a job, your employer may pay for this. EU citizens do not need a Social Security Number if they’ll be studying/ doing an unpaid internship in Barcelona.
Permanent Residency and Citizenship
After living in Spain for five years, expats can apply for permanent residency. And after ten years of possessing a permanent residence, expats can apply for citizenship.
You can find more information about obtaining a Spanish nationality here.
Final thoughts on why you should move to Barcelona
Spain is an ideal destination for solo travelers, couples, and families. In general, it’s a family-friendly country with plenty of activities for children.
You will never get bored of the warm weather, beaches, castles, stadiums, aquariums, and wholesome Spanish food.