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By Regina W. Bryan in Barcelona—
I came to Barcelona in 2005, and my goodness there was a lot I didn’t know! An ex-pat friend and I often joke that if we had known what it would take to establish ourselves in this sunny metropolis by the sea, we never would have come. Yes, it was that hard.
Don’t let these less than encouraging words burst your bubble if you’re hot on moving to Barcelona. Come! Come now while prices on apartments are low! Come, but bear in mind these useful tips:
1. Learn at least some Catalan.
Did you know we speak Catalan here? Never heard of it? I hadn’t when I boarded my flight to Barcelona by way of Paris, but found out real quick that Catalan is not Spanish, and that you need to speak it to get a number of jobs in this city.
Catalan is spoken throughout Catalonia, in Andorra, and on the islands of Ibiza, Mallorca, Menorca and Formentera. It’s a language, not a dialect, and is a very important part of the culture here.
Depending on how long you plan on staying, you’ll need to take a stand on Catalan: To learn or not to learn it. If you want to work in a public school, or in almost any “local” job, you’ll need it. If you’re working for a foreign company or teaching English, you won’t.
All Catalans are bilingual, so you can also get by with Spanish. That said, Catalans appreciate it when you speak in Catalan – go figure! I’ve been here six years and speak very little Catalan day to day, but understand a lot and have taken a couple of courses. I can order coffees and ask for the time. The Catalan government offers FREE classes to those who are interested in learning the language.
2. Rent a room before you rent a flat.
I recommend living in either one of the Eixample neighborhoods, Gracia, Barri Gotic, Poble Sec, Poble Nou, Raval, or La Ribera if you want to be where the action is in Barcelona. There are many other barris, or neighborhoods, but most of them are out of the way or ugly (La Pau, for example, is awful). Still, the best way to find out which barri is right for you is to rent a room in one of these areas and then explore from there.
3. Know your budget for renting a room or apartment.
Renting a room can range anywhere from €200 to €600 a month, depending on how big it is, the zone, cool-factor, private bathroom, etc. Renting a flat usually runs somewhere between €600 and €1200 (and up), but these prices have come down a lot recently thanks to very high unemployment in Spain.
If you find an apartment through a rental agency, expect to pay at least one month’s rent as a commission. You may also need to have a work contract, which is a perfect catch-22.
4. Know how to work in Barcelona.
It’s not easy right now to get a job in Barcelona or anywhere in Spain because of that nasty unemployment issue. The economy here is not great. However, depending on what your skills are you may be able to find gainful employment. Infojobs.net and Loquo.com are logical places to begin your search.
If you’re not European, and you don’t have a visa, you will have to work illegally. Many employers do not want to break the law, so you Americans and Canadians out there, bear this in mind! If you’re interested in getting legal in Spain, you need to see an immigration attorney. Don’t think you can do it on your own, no one is that smart or that patient.
5. Meet people.
The best way to get into the groove and find your place in Barcelona is through people who already live here and know the drill. Meetup.com has a ton of groups in Barcelona, many of them perfect for practicing your Spanish/Catalan, meeting locals, and getting a better idea of what Catalonia is all about.
6. Other Web resources
Aside from Meetup.com, here are a few sites that I have found useful over the years. Good luck!
* In English, a guide to what’s happening in the city: http://www.barcelona-metropolitan.com/
* Short-term rentals and info on the city: http://suitelife.com/
* Multi-language paper and web on Barcelona: http://www.bcnweek.com/
Other tips for moving to Barcelona?
Did you move to Barcelona and have other advice for those looking to make the move? Ready to establish yourself in Barcelona but have some questions? Talk to us in the comments section.