It’s easy to talk about all the good things about this city because there are plenty of them – and you will find MANY videos and blog posts to explore this point of view. But I want to get real with the challenging parts… it’s always good to see both sides of the story!
Let me start by first saying that I adore Barcelona – This is why I live a great part of the year here! Also, I am just sharing these from my own personal experiences and in sharing with long-term expats here. I always say… it might not apply to your experience, but it’s worth keeping an eye open just in case! And I love to get real with travel experiences! Let’s get started!
Watch the price tag seems to change…
I accept that there are tourist areas in many cities where the price tag for food (and other things) are generally higher. Fair enough – The label or menu usually indicate the fixed prices. But what if the price just changes because you look like a tourist? What if there is one price for the locals and one for the foreigners? Not good!
When the price tag is not fixed or even labelled, it’s hard to know if the price you are paying is just made up for you. And this has happened more than 3 times (my magic number for taking note of things!). I will give a few examples…
There is a wonderful shop (I don’t want to name it because I actually love going to it regularly now) I know. When I first started going to this organic food market, it was the height of tourist season (August) and the prices were high. I thought this was the norm… Until I went there a few times (even after the Summer was over), to discover that my price tag for the usual grocery shopping had actually now been cut by half because they saw that I was not just a passer-by and now part of their furniture. The following high-tourist-season came… and guess what? My price stayed low… while I saw other customers had the high price tag again.
Another shopping experience of magic number price tagging: I was with my friend when we were buying a large bottle of drinking water. There was no price tag so we just assumed it would be the normal price. When we got to the counter, she cheekily tripled the usual price without blinking. My friend was furious and said “you know the shop next door has it for the usual price, no tourist prices.”. With that said, we were one foot out the door when she called us – She changed her mind and now offered us the usual price. Too late, we were gone.
And yet another examples, where the change I received was less than expected. It’s easy to forget to check your returned change after purchasing something when you are on holidays. It’s a form of trust. Yet, time and time again, I realised I was short-changed, with no receipt too. Once, I challenged a lady and she was almost annoyed at me for noticing, even when she was in the wrong – like it was my fault because I demanded a receipt and wanted my money back! This has happened to a few friends before too.
Why am I telling you? Not to say that every shop keeper is a crook – There are some amazing business owners out here. But it’s worth being aware of the few people who take advantage of our trust.
Keeping it simple: Check your change, always ask for a receipt and watch out for your rent prices if you intend to stay long-term.
Spanish flat mates are LOUD…
This is not a challenge for everyone as some people love this! Some people enjoy having an active social life in their home share, that’s cool too. I personally love this outside of my home only… I like to have a nice quiet space to return to and have my privacy respected. I also work from home sometimes so noise levels matter.
As a Londoner for many years, I think I have been used to the whole “do your own thing” motto with living with others. We are friendly, but we like to have our own lives too. I must have just picked this up.
The thing is Barcelona’s flat-sharing system seems to be very temporary (thanks AirBNB!). So, your flatmates might change every month if you pick this type of household (worth keeping in mind if you don’t like this). Since being in Barcelona, I have had many flatmates from all over the world. I love meeting everyone. I’ve learned so much as the vibe is much friendlier than London flat-sharing in general.
From observation – By far, the most loudest flatmates I have had are Spanish (I say this as a person who is half Spanish and it’s not meant as an insult!). One thing many of us love about Spain is how open and caring-sharing the culture is… But it might not be something you want to do ALL the time. Nothing wrong with having a little bit of space if you’re the indoor introvert like me 😃 But if that’s your thing, you’ll love Spanish flatmates.
Mixing Catalan & Castellano…
It is common to see 2 people having a conversation with both… This is something I am getting used to. Someone might speak in Catalan and get an answer back in Castellano. As we are in Catalonia, Catalan is the most obvious language, even when not everyone speaks it. Sign posts, menus, shop fronts etc are all in Catalan (with translation sometimes).
If you are learning Spanish here, watch out for the differences… Even the expression of saying hello and goodbye might be Catalan, even when the whole conversation wasn’t. It can get a little confusing for many people who are learning. I personally love it!
As my Madrilenian cousin tells me, the Catalan words sounds (to her Castellano ears) like half of the word was cut off and french replaced it!
Hmmmm, I can see what she means although it is not true for everything – Examples:
- Mixing Spanish/French – The word Exit (you will see this on sign posts): Salida (Castellano) and Sortir (French)…. Catalan: Sortida.
- Words that may sound like they are cut in half – The word Few : Pocos (Castellano) is Pocs (Catalan) – The word Minutes: Minutos (Castellano) is Minuts (Catalan) – The word All: Todos (Castellano) is Tots (Catalan) – The word Friend: Amigo (Castellano) is Amic (Catalan)
… I’m no language expert but you get the general idea! All in all, it’s a good experience and I’m loving that I am slowly understanding Catalan as the months roll on.
The attitude of “foreign women are easy”…
OK, I speak as a woman and an obvious foreigner because I am a person of mixed race background and I look Black. But this can apply if you also look like a blond-haired, blue-eyed American – known as a Guiri. If you look like and/or a foreigner, many friends have said that this is true.
I don’t know why but maybe it’s the whole “beach, sand and sex on holidays with no-strings” thing that has got many local guys thinking that foreign women are easy. And maybe it’s also because they think it’s only a short-term-thing-until-the-foreigner-heads-back-home kinda thing. But it’s out there… So, if you’re thinking of dating here, look out for it.
An extra insight for women of colour… I hate to say this but there are many prostitutes that are on the streets, even in broad daylight, that are from African and South American descent. Of course, there are many European ones too but for some reason, there seems to be more non-European looking girls. This really bothers me on SO many levels. Even to the point that I hate to be out late at night on some streets. If someone dares to call me one or thinks of me as one, they have another thing coming 😝
Seeing homelessness and hunger in a different way…
This breaks my heart all the time. It can affect anyone! Homelessness in general is horrible to see. And Spain’s economy in La crisis doesn’t help.
This is when it really hit me... I was walking through a park when a very well dressed elderly man (probably in his 80’s) walked past. Without even taking a second glance around (like it was the most normal thing to do), he dipped his head and hands in the dumpster to seek out food and found something to nibble on. The pain in my heart was so sharp. I have seen people of all ages, from all backgrounds, do the same.
I am not saying that this is unique to Spain or this city, but this is when I personally had the serious realisation that it doesn’t matter who you are, how you dress, your past etc… homelessness and hunger can happen to anyone. We all need to open our hearts more 💛
OK, my options on any of these points might change with time (who knows!) – but these are some honest observations so far. I wouldn’t change my experiences for anything, nor do I feel put off by this wonderful city – Because as I aid before, there are so many wonderful things happening too!
If you liked this post, you might want to check this one out too. Much love to you! 💛