Moving abroad can be really exciting. So many new places to explore, people to meet, activities to try. All of these things were on my mind as I prepared for my move to Barcelona. But of course there were things I didn’t even consider and wish I knew about. Not all of them bad, because some were honestly a nice change from what I was used to. I wrote this list of things I wish I knew before moving to Barcelona so that it can help you prep better and know what to expect. This list is by no means exhaustive and only includes things I personally experienced or was told about by friends.
After living in Barcelona for three years in a few different neighborhoods, I learned a lot about this city. If you are looking for more unique things to do in Barcelona, then check out my Barcelona Off the Beaten Path guide with all of these tips!
Things I wish I knew before moving to Barcelona
Stores closing on Sundays
This one really surprised me. In the US, stores are open every day of the week and expect lots of sales if it’s a major holiday. Make sure to do your grocery shopping or regular clothes shopping any other day of the week. But having stores being closed on Sunday’s really limits your options on things you can do.
In a way I get it, cause it gives people who would otherwise be working the day off to spend with family and friends. For locals who have lived with this their whole lives, they know to plan accordingly. But for me, having just arrived, it was a shock to not be able to hit the supermarket on any given lazy Sunday.
Just a few months ago, some malls started opening their stores on Sunday’s. Some people are claiming it’s because summer is here, others think it may be a more permanent change. Only time will tell.
Not being able to buy in bulk
For the people who like getting in one big grocery haul a month, you may be making more stops at the grocery store than you’re used to. Because unless you have a huge apartment to house a huge or possibly two fridges, you just won’t have the space to store it all. And even if you could store it, no place is selling large quantities of anything. There’s no Costco here.
Lack of heating and air conditioning in apartments
I didn’t expect this one to be so bad cause I didn’t think it got THAT cold or even unbearably hot. I was wrong. Winter gets cold, like that seeps into your bones kinda cold. You’re going to want to get one of those little heaters or extra blankets for your apartment. Trust me, you’ll be happy you did.
Eating outside culture is huge
People love being outside, all day, every day. Doesn’t matter if it’s cold or hot. I still don’t know if it’s because of how much people smoke (because they do a lot), but there could be so many tables inside and people will wait to sit outside. I loved this one because I love people watching and getting fresh air. The only downsides were bugs possibly chilling around your food or inhaling lots of smoke.
Don’t expect prime customer service
Oof, this one was rough. It wouldn’t have even been so bad if I didn’t feel that sometimes I was being outright ignored. There were times I saw someone see me, and then just act as if I wasn’t there. Cannot say for sure if it was because I’m not Catalan or because I’m a foreigner, but either way it wasn’t a nice feeling.
No convenience stores with everything
You will find loads of convenience stores around, but the majority of them sell the same things. That includes water, soda, drinks, chips, and snack type foods or things you can easily cook at home. But if you try finding a store similar to Walmart or Target, you will not find it. I understand the reasoning behind it, because mom and pop shops can thrive because they’re usually closer and more convenient to get to. It’s just not convenient in terms of having to visit many stores to get what you need. Eventually this will probably change, so I did enjoy these moments while they still exist.
Don’t eat on La Rambla
When I first visited Barcelona back in 2011 I was not the savvy traveler I am today, so I did eat at La Rambla. Since then I’ve learned that the quality of the food you eat there is so low compared to the price they’re selling it. You might think or feel it’s a steal because it’s not that expensive, but the taste just doesn’t compare to other places you could be eating at.
The Independence movement is strong
I knew that Catalunya had been wanting to separate from Spain for a long time. What I didn’t know was how violent things could get. I don’t know for sure if the streets and trash bins were on fire because of participants or infiltrated people. Apparently prior to the protests in 2019 there were no fires, but the protests I witnessed had me feeling like I was not in Barcelona. These things do not happen often, but they can depending on the political climate. I only say this so you’re aware, know what’s going on, and can prepare to stay safe.
I hope this info has been useful for planning either your trip or move to Barcelona. If you are visiting soon then I recommend this post where I talk all about getting to and from the Barcelona airport.
This list is by no means exhaustive of all the things I wish I knew before moving to Barcelona. I’ve provided ones I encountered, but I’d love to know what surprised you! Leave me a comment and tell me about it.
Don’t forget to grab my Barcelona Off the Beaten Path guide with lots of unvisited places by most tourists. I did all the work for you to have a great experience!
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Viaja more y live más,