The experience of living in Barcelona, the city of Gaudí. through the eyes of two expats (a Polish and a Venezuelan).
An expat couple living in Barcelona
- Basic information: we are Edwin (25 years old , born in Venezuela) and Milena (30 years old born in Poland).
- Occupation: Edwin is a web developer and Milena is a journalist (specializing in online marketing).
- Living in Barcelona for 9 and 7 years.
Why move to Barcelona?
Edwin was looking for a better future outside Venezuela and came here to work. When he arrived, he didn’t know the city, but over time he felt in love with it, started his programming studies and decided to stay here. He also had his cousins who had previously moved to Barcelona and it was a plus that led his choice.
As for me, I did some internships in Barcelona some years ago and I really liked the spirit of the city, especially its multicultural nature. Before I came here for the first time, I did an Erasmus exchange in Murcia and, although it was a very beautiful experience, I wanted to try my luck in a bigger city and close to the beach. My internship in Barcelona lasted 5 months and I liked the city, so I decided to move here after graduating and doing other internships. After that I wanted to stay, so I looked for my first job.
Procedures for working and living in Barcelona
What have been the procedures to be able to stabilize yourselves there (as in, to rent a flat and be able to work)? Did you need some kind of visa?
Neither of us needed a visa: as a European citizen, I didn’t need to do a lot of paperwork, just the NIE (Foreign Identity Number), and this was very easy. I only had to make an appointment at the police station and present my internship contract. Edwin had to request residency through social roots (which is also another type of NIE), and this has been possible only after three years of living here, as the law for citizens of countries outside the European Union is different. To rent a flat you also need the NIE and often you’re also asked for the last three work payrolls.
Language adaptation: Spanish and Catalan
How has your adaptation with the language been? Did you both speak the local language before moving to the country? Edwin’s native language is Spanish. As for me, I started studying Spanish at school and then I improved it a lot during my Erasmus studies in Murcia. So, by the time I moved to Barcelona, I could speak it fluently.
As for Catalan, we have never had any problems, speaking Spanish is enough. I suppose in some very specialized sectors they can ask for it, but in general it doesn’t usually happen.
What are Spanish people like?
What cultural differences have caught your attention? Undoubtedly the most notable cultural difference for me is the attitude to life that Spanish people have. They’re very cheerful people who know how to enjoy small things, like a simple beer in a “terraza” (bar). They’re very optimistic and they always look forward to the future with a positive attitude. They are very open to talk to new people. We Poles aren’t like this, we prefer staying at home and we are also more private, serious and pessimistic, we tend to complain more about things we don’t have than rejoice of what we have. We also like to have the future well planned, meanwhile Spanish leave the decisions for later and do not care so much.
Spain vs. Venezuela
Edwin, instead, has a different perception of Spanish and says Venezuelans are even more cheerful. For him, the joy that people from South America have cannot be compared to any European country. People in Venezuela start dancing on the streets out of the blue, for no reason, just to enjoy life. They are very grateful for what they have instead of always looking for more, as we usually do in Europe.
Job search in Barcelona
What is the search for a job like in Spain? Does it work delivering your resume in hand or better online? In our experience both work, it depends a lot on the kind of job as well. For example, in the hospitality sector it’s better to deliver resumés in hand or being recommended by someone, on the other hand, if you’re looking for work in online marketing, online is always better. As for the pages, we use LinkedIn (for us it is the best tool to search for work) and Infojobs.
Search for a flat in Barcelona
How are the rental prices in Barcelona?: Rental prices vary a lot depending on the area, the size and the condition of the apartment but it must also be said that due to Covid-19 prices have dropped a little. A single room in a shared apartment costs between 400 and 500 euros (it ,may cost more but you can find something nice up to 500 euros). A small apartment like the one where we live now, one bedroom and a living room, is an expense between 750 and 850 euros (bills not included). If it is a larger apartment, for example with two bedrooms, the prices start from 900 euros. Again, it all depends on the area and the size of the floor. The best page to search for flats and the only one we use is Idealista.
Best neighborhoods to live in Barcelona
We have always lived in the Eixample area and for us it is the best neighborhood to live (both Eixample Left and Right). Other neighborhoods we recommend are Gracia, Les Corts or the Montjuc/Poble Sec area. We wouldn’t recommend El Born or El Barrio Gótico, because, despite being very picturesque neighborhoods, the floors are usually very old and located in tourist areas where there is usually a lot of noise. We don’t recommend El Raval either, it is the least safe neighborhood to live in.
What’s it like to live in Barcelona?
We love living here, not only for the weather and the beach, but also for all the architecture of Barcelona and the infinite number of places to see and things to do. We have a lot of favorite places – parks, viewpoints, restaurants – getting bored here is impossible. Also, we like to be surrounded by cheerful people and, as we have mentioned before, Spanish people are like this. For example, entering a bar and listening to “Hello Pretty!”, seeing people smile while having a coffee – these are all these little things that brighten our day.
Reasons to live in Barcelona
The quality of life we have allows us to enjoy the city, our hobbies and to travel, so we are very happy. It is also a city full of international companies, therefore, there are possibilities to work in multicultural environments, which we really like. At the same time, we love to try new restaurants, go out and meet our friends in the bars, and this in Barcelona is never lacking, since here life is literally spent in the bars.
Do you plan to live there for a long time?
Yes, we really like living here and we plan to buy a flat. We don’t rule out the option of going to live elsewhere and staying there for a few months, but we would like to maintain our base in Barcelona.
Tips for living in Barcelona
- Would you recommend this city to live? Totally. We think there is no other city like Barcelona in all of Europe and it is a place where everyone can find something that they like and feel good. What makes Barcelona truly unique is its multiculturalism and the fact that everyone can be whoever he/she wants and live as he/she wants in this city.
- And for anyone who wants to move to Barcelona, any particular advise?: Above all, do not give up on the first obstacle, because, like anywhere else, you can also go through problems here. Read very carefully flats’ contracts, pay attention to possible scams and always keep an eye on your belongings, especially on public transport because there are a lot of robbers. But most importantly, we advise you to leave your comfort zone and go on the adventure of living here because the most unforgettable things happen when we leave the known and risk trying something new.
Upcoming projects and destinations
Finally, could you tell us something about your next projects and destinations?: We would like to launch our own traveling app, but we’ll talk about this later as soon as we have it ready. We also want to continue creating more content for our blog. This year, according to how things go on with the pandemic, we would like to do a motorcycle tour of Spain, visit Southeast Asia and also do the Route 66 in the USA. Let’s see if we can!
So, if you are looking for a multicultural, cosmopolitan destination, with a bohemian touch, with good weather and beach, Barcelona is definitely your city. Whether you already live in Spain or come from elsewhere, this city will steal your heart.
Interview conducted in January 2021 with @Milena&Edwin
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