Apr 192010

Look at that plate of Spanish tapas to the left.

Can you guess what flavor and food is sitting atop those slices of bread? Is it sweet or savory? Does it consist of fish, or cheese, or vegetables… or white chocolate? Is it soft or hard? Creamy or crumbly?

You really can’t tell until you bite into it, can you!

The same goes for cities. You can hear hundreds of hours of talk about how freaking fantastic a certain place is, and you can view ten thousand photos of its sunny streets and towering spires… But until you are standing there in person, smelling its real-life air, you can’t really begin to taste it.

This is to say: I’m quite glad that I changed my original travel plan.

Perhaps you didn’t know this, but I wasn’t supposed to be traveling around the world. No! In fact, the scheme I told everyone for months and months at the beginning of my trip planning was that I was going to move my life to Barcelona, Spain, and live and work in that lovely city for a full year.

It was only later that I realized that if I was going to take a whole nine months off, I might as well see the other side of the world, too, since expenses would balance out in the end given the relative cheapness of continents besides Europe.

So, when my bus finally pulled into Barcelona this Monday at six in the morning, after eight hours on the road from Madrid, and after eight months of traveling through Asia and Africa, I was quivering with anticipation. What would my dream city be like in reality?

Here is the answer: I am having a fantastic week here in Barcelona because my hosts and new friends are fabulous… but the truth is that this city does not look or feel anything like what I imagined, and I now realize that I made the right choice in not moving my life here.

Do you have a dream city? Is your dream city, in fact, Barcelona? I am positive I could have made a great life here, and I’m sure you can, too… but let’s take a good hard listen at voices from on the ground here.

When I told my Spanish host in Barcelona (the distant cousin of a schoolmate of my father’s… yes, I know this is another miraculous chain of hospitality like in Japan, and Bangkok, and Madrid!) that it is a somewhat common American dream to want to pick up and move one’s life to Barcelona, my host looked me in the eye and asked very bluntly: “WHY?”

“I don’t know,” I stuttered, “I mean, like a lot of people, I guess imagined Barcelona to be positively bursting with color and dancing and partying in the streets… I imagined art everywhere, and warm weather, and beauty left and right!”

But I couldn’t help but agree with the words of an Italian woman who I met yesterday as she examined her shattered illusions. “Maybe it’s just the weather,” she said, “but Barcelona just looks gray to me right now. I just don’t feel the energy I thought I would. And it’s cold!”

My host chuckled when I told her what my dream Barcelona looked like. “This is just a city like any other,” she said. “We go to work each weekday. We party a little… but not so much.”

And what about the sights? As a tourist in Barcelona, it is very possible you may go to Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia church (pictured, left), which you have been longing to see for years– and have trouble seeing it behind the throngs of tourists and construction cranes. It’s still stunning, but will you wait the two hours and pay the hefty fee to enter? Perhaps not.

“OMG, HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE BARCELONA?!” typed everyone who heard I wasn’t obsessed with the city yet. “I LOOOOOVE BARCELONA!”

“When were you here?” I asked.

“I was fifteen, on a school trip,” typed one. “I was nineteen,” typed another, “and come to think of it, it was before I had really traveled anywhere else.”

“Hmm,” I said.

“It’s actually making Barcelona lose some of its charm that there are so, so many tourists here, now,” admitted my Barcelona host.

“I love Barcelona,” said my friend Sinead who moved here from Ireland four years ago, “but I am working so, SO many hours just to pay my rent that I hardly have time or energy to go out. My salary is awful as a foreign English teacher who doesn’t speak Catalan, and this is an expensive city! And you really have to watch out for all the pickpockets.”

“I’m having some problems,” sighed to me a 32-year-old American who sold his car dealership and followed his dream of moving here three weeks ago, “because I thought I would learn Spanish quickly, but all the signs are in Catalan! And also I had this idea that people would be really friendly… but they haven’t really been.”

Oh, our delicate dreams!

“Aww, I LOVE Barcelona!” typed a woman on Twitter when she caught wind of my disillusionment. “I felt disappointed at first like you, but after living there for several months, it really grew on me. By the time I left, it had become my favorite place ever!”

This I believe. I COULD live here and meet more wonderful people and eat more delicious food and have an utterly lovely time.

But let’s go back to that plate of tapas again. The answer to what is on top of the bread in the first picture is: creamy white cheese coated with sweet berry jam. Did you guess it? Indeed, that particular tapa was pretty tasty… but there were other tapas I ingested that I found even more delicious.

And like tapas, like cities. Everyone and their mother seems obsessed with the idea of Barcelona lately… but once you bite into it, it may not be quite the taste that you imagined!

This is not to say that Barcelona isn’t fabulous, because it is. And this is also not to say that you should be fearful of following your foreign dreams, because you shouldn’t be.

The moral is simply this: Sometimes it’s wise to browse the other delicious options out there, too, before you gorge yourself on one single dream… or cheese and jelly tapa!

From my experience, these are my 3 best travel items. They could be useful for you, too!

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  102 Responses to “A Warning About Your Dream of Visiting or Moving to Barcelona”

  1. Hi! Im 19 years old female from the Philippines. And I just graduated college and planning to migrate in Barcelona and maybe find a stable job there. So maybe you can give me some advised on this. Im going to live with my relatives there and leave my parents in the Philippines. I’m kinda nervous about it to be far from my parents. And its hard to decide if I continue my plan or not. I will really appreciate the advises you will give me. Thankyou.

    • Hi JanelMae,
      What exciting plans! As I was in Barcelona so long ago and for such a short time, perhaps others in this comment thread could better help you. Best of luck!

  2. I realize this is a bit outdated but wanted to add my position. What you experience could be experienced in most places. I’m from Chicago (yes, downtown) and moved to Stuttgart 5 years ago at age 40 to be with my German husband. Talk about tough community to penetrate!!! In my opinion, it takes time to make friends with Germans, and with Swabians in particular. I have 2 “friends” now but I have many acquaintances. Imagine how many I’ll have in 10 years!

    When you’re not in university or a child, it’s tough to make friends in most new cities. And I don’t go out to clubs and bars or do meet-ups. If I did, I guess I’d have more friends or acquaintances.

    • Mich, I have been living in Oporto, Portugal for the past 10 years. I am married to a Portuguese man. I have the same problems you have had. I would never move here again.

    • I have lived in Barcelona and Belgium. I am originally from Lisbon. I believe that in the southern Europe it is still much easier to make faster and stronger relationships than in the north (I don’t want to generalize of course) but on the other hand it is true that in Europe you have better chances to have a better quality of life in terms of work/free time in the north than in the south as well as evolve in your career. Nonetheless, I love Barcelona and the quality of life it can offer you is amazing compared to other countries in the north. I am still young (25 yrs old) but that is my honest opinion of what I have experienced so far. Btw I am thinking about moving back there.

      PS: It is true that you have to be careful about the pickpockets that is a big problem there and the amount of tourists is in fact very annoying when you are just trying to get to work for example xD

  3. Hi,

    I am an 18 year old guy here in the US. I will start college in January (October, November, December are free for me) and need something to do until then during the Fall months. During high school I studied Spanish for 4 years and absolutely enjoyed learning the language. I was thinking of traveling to Spain and enrolling myself at a Spanish school and immersing myself in the culture in order to elevate my Spanish skills.

    What I need is someone to advise me on this. Whether Spain is the right country to go to. How long should the trip be? Which Spain school is ideal? Even whether enrolling in a Spanish school is the best way to further one’s Spanish? Accommodations? I have so many questions.

    I would be so very grateful if someone was to help me. Thank You!


  4. Me, my sister, and my son are planning to move to barcelona this next year. She is planning on getting a nanny/ au pair job. My company I work for in the US is international so I am transferring to there so will already have a job lined up. Any advice for preparation like work permits, visas, etc? We are hoping to stay at least 1 year hopefully longer. Also budgeting for household items like groceries laundry personal care etc. Also what is the Healthcare system like?

  5. This website says many false things. Last summer i went a whole week to barcelona. After that week i completely fell in love with barcelona. I moved my life here in Spain and now i have been one year here, in theory i have to go back to USA, but i am going to stay here as much as i can sll my life. The tapas u show in the first photo aren’t spanish… I LOVE BARCELONA , people, food,weather,art,music,the catalan language,football team , all the beautiful little streets that make me fall in love again and again.

  6. I’m so happy to find this blog what a great resource!.
    I was in Barcelona this June (2014) and I said this my place to retire, currently living in Sydney since 2011 and prior in California for 24 years and traveled around the world Europe, UK, Ecuador, Colombia, Havana, and Panama then Fiji, Bali, Hong Kong, Japan I will say Barcelona is my place .
    Planning to move next May, so I have a couple of questions;
    Need a little more info on tourist account?
    You thing that with My wife and myself 4K US$ per month we could have a decent live with no car renting eat paella once a week and set menus?
    Worry about medical insurance (66YO) I guess is not easy to take a quick flight home (US) and go thru Medicare, or fly to Italy since Australia has a medical agreement the best option looks like to get travel insurance here in Sydney I can get Medical only for one year for two people $1206 for the whole year, is good to have options!
    I have been looking and calling real state agents and for me it looks great and cheap I can get a 2b-1 bath in and nice area for 1200 euros.
    I will like to know also from someone on fee/rates (monthly) for internet, telefono, agua, electricidad, even bike fees or other fee that might be hidden.
    Cheers Walter

    • With 4k US. dollars month you can live very very well here, 1200 Euros for one flat 2b is expensive, you can find good flats for half this price in Barcelona.or for 400 in villages near Barcelona.

  7. Hello! Just wondering if anyone had any suggestions as to good sites or places to look for finding work in Barcelona! I recently lived there for a few months and am looking to go back in either teaching a language or in the bar/restaurant industry.. Just need some help as to where I should start looking!


  8. Everything that this article says is true. I first moved to Barcelona, my favourite city in the world, a couple of years ago. I was looking forward to sniffy expatriates coming over and complaining about tourists, how good food was difficult to find, how its impossible to get to know Catalans (why don’t they learn English in their own city!?!?!. I was just looking forward to some good old-fashioined knee-jerk judgements based on the Ramblas and Sagrada Familia.

    But no. What was I greeted with instead? Nooks and crannies of the city that were completely tourist-free (try the gardens de Joan Maragall on Montjuic). Ugh. Some of the most decent, generous (admittedly initially insular) kindest people you will ever meet.A wide and varied cuisine that, annoyingly, contains many of the best blends of other parts of Europe, being so close. Perhaps most annoyingly, I found that Barcelona is not one place. Its the Barri Gotic, for tourists. its the actual beach area, its the tourist beach area, its the Parc Cuitadella and Born area, L’Eixample (which itself has about 5 different barris). Its the narrow streets of Gracia where tourists rarely get to. Each of them having a different vibe, people and speed of life.

    So irritating for it to have so much variance (I didn’t even mention the Camp Nou, Poble Espanyol and north-east of the city) that makes making a judgement on it, and writing a blog about it, an easy thing to do when you clearly haven’t experienced enough of it to deserve the right to pontificate about its downsides.

    I wish I’d thought of writing this article. But I don’t have time. I’m out enjoying Barcelona.


    • Well played, sir. :)

    • Well said Sean/Brian!

      There is so much more to Barcelona that Lillie clearly didn’t get to experience. I adore Barcelona and can’t help but feel baffled when somebody doesn’t see the same beauty in it that I do, but of course, we are all different and that’s what makes the world go round. Without diversity we’d all be living in the same place and thinking the same thoughts, still, I can’t help but jump in to Barcelona’s defense.

      I’ve lived here 8 years now, I’m still discovering new things to do all the time. The food here is incredible if you find the right places, and it’s usually very good value even for those of us on “awful” Spanish salaries. For €8 you can get a 3 course lunch including wine, water and bread; I doubt €8 would even cover the tip in the US!

      Additionally, she talks about the reaction from the locals. It’s worth considering for a moment here that humans rarely appreciate the place they grew up in. I’m from Yorkshire in the UK, a place with some of the most beautiful countryside in the world, the home of the stunning city of York and some of the oldest and most beautiful buildings in England. Did I appreciate it when I lived there? Of course not! I thought life was dreary and that all people did there was work and sleep, I couldn’t wait to leave and see something new, experience different places, people and cultures. Now I’ve been away for so long, I see my home town, and country in a totally different way. Although I don’t plan to move back, I relish going back and seeing it’s quirky beauty and appreciating so much that I’d grown up taking for granted.

      I’m also wondering just how much art Lillie was hoping for? It’s difficult to walk more than a few yards in Barcelona without finding something spectacular to look at, even if it’s graffiti! And regarding the difficulties our American car dealer friend was having with the language, I do agree that learning Spanish here is more difficult than it is in regions where only Spanish is spoken, but it’s still absolutely possible if you put the effort in. The locals are desperate to learn English and will bite your arm off for an English/Spanish language exchange. I had so many responses to my ad that I simply didn’t have time to respond to them all.

      For me, moving to Barcelona was a life changing decision that far exceeded any expectations I had! There were challenges, as with any international move, but I can honestly say I’m the happiest I’ve ever been!

      Now all I’m left wondering is if the Sinead from Ireland she knows, is the same Sinead from Ireland that I know? There can’t be that many Sineads from Ireland who moved here in 2006!

    • Hello Brian. I’m a Filipina married to a Brit in my 50s who have lived in the Philippines, Hong Kong and England and have travelled extensively in Europe, US and Asia. My husband and I are now in Manila and are looking at moving to Barcelona to live.

      May I ask:

      1. where are the 3 best neighbourhoods to live in Barcelona in your opinion that is close to the sea, accessible to the city, hospital, quiet;

      2. In those areas, how much would a 160sqm flat or home cost approximately you think.

      Thank you for your feedback. Hope you can email me back.

  9. hi,
    I’m Sonia from Barcelona, I really love your website. About your article, yes I believe that you have to spend a long time here to have truly relationship with Catalans people, and also that BCN is an expensive city. But it’s an so energetic city and the Spanish people are amazing when you reach to know them ! So continue to visit us !!!

  10. While your ‘title’ raises fear as one is googl’in through ‘I want to move to Barcelona’, there’s nothing substantial you ‘said’ that would raise that kinda fear! Wished you pointed out facts as to why it’s not such a good idea, as opposed to some vague feelings.

    • I hear your frustration. This article is sharing my personal experience of dreaming for years to move to Barcelona, then realizing upon finally visiting it that it is not a good match for ME. The warning is about building up a place before spending time in it. Likely the city is a great match for you. Best of luck, and enjoy!

    • I agree, it gives absolutely no meaningful value. The dreams were silly to begin with, there’s so much more to Barcelona than the Sagrada Familia, and if you’re living there, go out of season if you don’t want lines!! dreams! instead of doing some research, they came from shallow stereotypes and childish expectations. The article is useless! and the 1st ‘replier’ did the same! he complains of empty non-touristic streets! oh! and how the food is eclectic! LMAO

  11. Can anyone tell me roughly how much I can expect to earn teaching English please? Either in a school, or teaching business people and private lessons? Thanks!

    • It depends on the hours you are given… schools pay around 15 euros and hours, it can go up to 20 but it is rare. the most you will get in hours is somewhere around 25, and that is also rare, I myself only have around 12. You could end up making around 1500 a month, but it would probably be closer to 1000!

  12. I’m coming on my third week in Barcelona. I’m a single man in my 50s. I’ve been living out of the country for a few years now. Most recently I was living in Thailand. I’m from Los Angeles California. Hello it’s a beautiful city. I think it’s difficult. For one It is expensive. I’m spoiled by living in Thailand. I am a member of Meet up.com. And go to events almost every night. Yet in the almost 3 weeks I’ve been here I haven’t really made any connections are friends. There are no Americans of these events. And the people were much younger. I was hoping to make it a life change now I’m not sure.

  13. Hi there

    My Partner and I are thinking about re locating to BCN. I have visited 5 times and he x2 and we both love it. Your article highlights my fears as he works abroad and does a month on and a month off. How are you getting on now??


    • Hi Gemma, I decided to move back to Boston in the USA, so I can no longer speak from experience in Barcelona. I bet you could make it work if you really want to! Best of luck.

  14. Hi! I’m currently a college student and it’s my dream to move to Barcelona after I’m done with my studies. My ultimate dream would be to work for FC Barcelona, as I’m a huge fan, but I know it’ll be difficult. I’m 100% American but I’ve been studying Spanish for 8 years now so I can definitely hold a conversation with a Spaniard (I spent two months there over the summer a couple of years ago, fully immersed in Castilian). I’m also currently learning Catalan in college (and Portuguese) and I’m hoping to graduate with a double major in Economics and Spanish with minors/certificates in interpretation, Catalan, and Portuguese. My hope is that I can establish connections in BCN (I’m traveling to Salamanca this summer and spending four days in BCN) by interning and studying abroad there for a semester. That way I’ll hopefully have job opportunities right out of college. I am slightly apprehensive though. Any information or thoughts that would help me?


    • P.S. I’m also like you, living in the Boston area (and then attending UMass Amherst)

    • Hi Andrew, oh fellow Bostonian! I don’t have any specific leads for you, but if you reach out enough, you’ll make it work! Best of luck and keep us posted.

  15. well this october most probably i would love to be here for Clasico btwn Barca and madrid as my amigos not football fanatic so its altogether a solo trip. 4-5 days in catalan. any suggestion for budget accommodation will be highly appreciated.

  16. I could barely recognized city when reading this article. I have moved to BCN 6 Months ago and it is one of the best decisions I have made when moving my home (I’ve lived before that in London, San Francisco, SIngapore, various cities in France and Germany). I disagree with almost everything that is described in this article.

    • I’m actually really glad to hear that I’m wrong in your experience! :)

    • Hi Rob, I’m glad to hear that! In the last 10 years I’ve lived in Calella (near BCN), UK, Australia, New Zealand and Shanghai. I am moving back to BCN next year to hopefully settle down. Do you have any advice for me? I need to hear from someone who loves Barcelona! Do I need to learn Spanish or Catalan? Thanks

  17. It is good to see the different perspectives for a dose of reality. I have visited Europe six times: west, central, mediterranean, russia and ukraine – so have seen many sides of a wonderful continent. I am planning on starting with a 4 week “taster” visit to Barcelona, but have already found great long-term rentals should I choose to pick up my life and stay. I have the unique opportunity to stay employed with my current employer, as I work remotely anyway…so my physical location does not really matter. I figured, why not take advantage of that and do something that people spend their lives wanting to do. I haven’t been able to find any information about the work permit requirements for a situation like mine. Can anyone shed any light on this aspect? Also – does anyone have experience moving dogs overseas? It seems that as long as vet records are up to date, they don’t do the quarantine thing anymore – so that’s good. I guess I am most worried about the actual transport. Any feedback would be appreciated!

    • I don’t have any information on that but perhaps other readers do? Best of luck with your exciting plans!

  18. We were thinking of visiting Spain…do you have any recommendations besides Barcelona? Would we perhaps like Madrid better?

    Thank you so very much in advance for any advice that you can offer to us.

    • Spain is (of course) great! I particularly loved the southern part… Granada and all that. Madrid is neat but more “businesslike” and urban.

  19. I have just returned from Barcelona and I have to say it was absolutely amazing. I found the people to be wonderfully friendly but I do speak fluent Spanish so that might have made my experience a little different. Catalan is not so difficult if you speak Spanish. My partner and I plan on buying property there in the next couple of years and maybe moving there full-time in the future. I am so glad I came across your website it really brought me right back to our great vacation.

  20. Hello, I live in Barcelona and of course, I love it.
    Maybe you should know before visit Barcelona:

    – If you want to eat tapas, go to Andalucia… tapas are from there. In Barcelona you’ll find them, but tapas nor Sevillanas are Spain :)
    – If it’s cold, maybe is because Barcelona is not a tropycal city… (in winter rains! lol) anyway much bettar than Warsaw, Madrid or Londong during this season.
    – If you got robbed… maybe it was because you were walking with your bag opened, you left your mobile on a table or you were drunk and lost it, not robbed… Go to Brasil, Argentina, Madrid, Romania, Greece, Tailand, USA, Poland, whole east europe, ah… LONDON… and let me know if you can leave your mobile in a table 😉
    – If you want a non-expensive City, go to Bangkok…Barcelona is expensive, but for sure there are some more expensive than it… (london, new york, paris, rome, madrid, san sebastian, nordics… etc)

    If you didnt like barcelona, maybe it was because you haven’t seen what Barcelona brings :)


  21. Interesting..I’m thinking about moving out to spain for my studies. I am american but I speak fluent spanish because my parents were born in Latin America but cannot speak catalan although I can understand it.. Anyway I am trying to decide where to take the plunge. Either Barcelona or Madrid. I’m trying to figure out the fashion and art culture of both cities as that and writing are of utter importance to me. Can you help me out?

    • What exciting plans! People like each of these cities for different reasons, though the general feel seems to be that Barcelona is more fun, while Madrid is more practical and business-like. I’m sure you would have a lovely time in either city, though! Also consider, however, some of the other spots like Valencia or Grenada, both of which I really enjoyed.

    • I’m going to chime in here as someone who has lived in Southern Spain for the last seven year. I wholeheartedly agree with what Lillie says – considering going to a smaller city if you want to improve your Spanish even more. Whenever I’ve been to Barcelona, I’ve mostly been spoken to in Catalan. Not a big deal because It’s not terribly different from Castellano, but when you’re defending a master’s at the UAB and your feedback is in Catalan when you’ve given your speech in Castellano? Yeah. Barcelona as a city does’t do it for me, and I champion the smaller cities for studying, like Cordoba, Alicante, Murcia or Valladolid (where I studied). If you want more info, email me. I live in Seville, and my blog is listed above.

  22. Great input from everyone here – really enjoyed all the different ends of the spectrum. It all really depends on the personality of a person, and you will only get back what you put in. I must admit this city tops all the destinations I’ve been too. I only arrived home today from Barcelona and my wife and I are looking into emigrating to Barcelona. I have done some pretty extensive research already with regards to the basics – cost of living, job vacancies, language, etc, and I’ll make sure no rock is unturned, hence, my finding of this blog. My wife is Romanian and is already fluent in Spanish, so that’s part of battle tackled head-first. In terms of jobs we wouldn’t even consider moving unless an attractive offer appeared and thankfully we could earn similar to what we are on now. Most importantly for your own sanity you must mix the locals and make an effort. Easier said then done for sure, but you’ll settle a lot quicker with that…simple logic!! I’m going to learn the basic Catalan – objective number 1.

  23. I’ve lived in Barcelona 8 years. It’s a city. Cities aren’t easy. And this one has lots of tourists, which is the good news and the bad news. You have to know where to go, just like you would in London and New York, and that just doesn’t happen in a week or whatever. It takes time. It took me a long time to find the ‘real’ Barcelona, and to understand the cultural difference between Catalonia and the rest of Spain. And then there’s the language. Spain has 5 national languages, so foreigners should keep that in mind when they pick where to live (I knew little about Catalan before coming here!)

    It’s hard to make a living here (27 % unemployment in Spain) and even when there wasn’t a ‘crisis’ most work was not paid well…..but, it’s sunny. You’d make more in London. But it rains there. And there’s the beach here, and the wine, and the Pyrenees, and France just over that way….it’s the lifestyle here I find attractive.

    To each their own. I love this city but at times it’s noisy and overwhelming and unfriendly. I’d say to anyone thinking to move here to 1. make sure you have your work visa or whatnot sorted 2.try to get a job lined up before you come 3.realize that it’s only warm/hot here from May – October 4.be ready to learn both Spanish and some Catalan 5. be prepared to share a flat or pay a lot in rent and fees….otherwise, it’s rough.

    Good luck!

  24. Hello, I’m from Barcelona and I have to say I’m surprised with the expectations that are often laid on the city. In my opinion, what you were expecting was unrealistic, just as it is unrealistic to hope one will find a perfect man/woman to live happy and wonderfully forever. It just does not happen: if you want to live somewhere, you’ll have to cope with some inconveniences, and you’ll also need to understand that place (involved task, just like it is involved or impossible to fully understand a person). That being said, I’ll add that though now I’ve had to move away from there, Barcelona is the city I want to marry, eventually.

    P.S. It is true that the working life there is complicated. Spain (as most countries in Europe) is experiencing a devastating economical crisis. Me and a lot of my friends have had to emigrate because of it.

  25. We have lived in Barcelona periodically and plan to always have more time in the city. The culture, markets, tapas bars, etc are the best. You must find your favorite places including wine shops! Catarina Market lunch is one of the best loactions to have a tasting of may cuisine and meet locals. You will hear tales of pickpockets, etc which can be true but Barcelona is no different than any other large city…. NY, Chicago, Mexico City, any city on any continent, ete…. etc. Be wise. Salud!

  26. I’m an American living in Barcelona, but unlike you, I didn’t just arrive to a city with out visiting a few times, or really checking out the good AND the bad of it. I’m originally from Monroe Michigan (outside of Detroit) and although I’m of Mexican Decent, I DO NOT speak a word of Spanish. Even today after going back and forth for the last 7 years, and finally settling in a year and half ago, I’m just now picking up conversational Spanish, and I do fine here, I live in L’Eixample, literally downtown Barcelona, and so far, everyone at the Grocery Stores, “Euro” Stores, and even Clubs, seem to speak enough English for me to communicate effectively with them. Haven’t had a problem yet. Although there are certainly a few things that are different here, and you do need to be a bit cautious when on the streets. but C’mon, DETROIT or BARCELONA? Which city scares you the most?? SO for me, I love Barcelona because I’m able to see it for what it is, and for what it’s NOT! The only thing I say to people coming here to live, or to vacation is, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. The Good & the Bad of Barcelona can be studied pretty easy on the internet these days, AND Hope you have/ or make good money, because it is EXPENSIVE to live here, and no doubt, one of the most expensive cites in Europe to live despite the economics. Barcelona Spain, I love it.

    • BTW, dealing with “Rude” People..hahaha, I don’t let that slide for one moment. I’ve encountered a few Rude people here in the past, and the very Second you get RUDE back to them in ENGLISH, trust me, it’s all love and smiles !!! :) Straight up, these people here are not used to having someone dish it right back, and when it’s been done, they seem to back down really quick, juss say’n! Don’t ever let anyone come off like a jerk when you don’t deserve it.

    • Great points!

    • Thanks Lillie, I’m a Record Producer here in Barcelona doing both Spanish & American music, and I admit, there’s been a few bumps along the way, but I managed. I hope it gets better for you. God Luck.

    • Ah, good to know! Indeed, since I wrote this article, many lovely things have happened. I am now settled in Boston, not Barcelona, and here’s a summary of what I’ve been up to this year: http://www.aroundtheworldl.com/2012/12/29/travel-writing-and-love-reviewing-a-great-year/

    • Hi Frankie,

      I am currently in US. My GF and I want to move to Spain and start our own study abroad program. I wonder how hard is it to do that as American citizen. Do you have any insight for that?


    • I’m not sure, but perhaps some of the other commenters have insights? Good luck!

    • I agree with everyone saying “to each their own” because it truly is that. People’s tastes are different and they like what they like! From me, I’ve visited Barcalona a couple of times and now my partner and I are ready to move there asap! :) It’s beautiful, culture, full of life, sun, sand, and amazing food. That’s my opinion though. Also for people who say it’s expensive? I personally feel you’ve clearly never lived in London, Paris and Especially Dublin Ireland! Those places are OUT OF CONTROL expensive. I’ve lived in 2 out of those three and I can safely say if you do your homework and go into a new country with your proper Visa/work Permit already sorted, you should be great! It’s just about knowing what you are getting into and really giving life in a new place a fair trial. Like anything else in life you can’t expect to get something back if you won’t put something in as well. I am American with Mexican roots and I do speak intermediate Spanish. But even if I wanted to simply speak in English, I found that people are kind enough to speak back in English as well. I fully intended (and already have been) brushing up on my Spanish at home. I’ve also been teaching my wife Spanish as well since she doesn’t speak it at all! But even she loves the city as much as I do. I wish everyone and anyone Safe travels and well wishes if they are moving there or just going on holidays. It is a gorgeous city with wonderful things to enjoy if you are open to see and experience them. :) Best of luck to all! Happy Thursday! Xxxx

  27. I don’t know, I mean the article makes an interesting point. But you may be in the minority. :) I’d say most people who fell in love with Barcelona weren’t naive because they were 15 or 19, and it doesn’t take most people months. I LOVE Barcelona. I will admit the first time I went there I stayed in a hotel near the airport (thanks to my overprotective Dad, haha) and only encountered one or two locals, who were actually pretty rude. But the city was so cool that I had to go back. And my second trip was amazing. I met more people who were much nicer, and saw more sights. I had a whole list of things I missed on my first trip, and still didn’t see all that I wanted to on this trip. So I have to go back. Barcelona has a great reputation for a reason – it’s pretty close to perfect for a lot of people. I will admit though that living somewhere is totally different from visiting there for a week when the weather is great. That’s why I would never move to Barcelona – I want to just enjoy it as a getaway from my regular life.

    • Good input! I don’t think I’m in the minority regarding the job market there. The plan of moving there, getting a job, and having an easy life is, in reality, a lot harder than easy!

  28. I think there are certain cities you appreciate for particular reasons. I do really love Barcelona and always have, but I think I fell in love with it for it’s amazing Catalan cuisine I discovered there!

  29. An interesting perspective and one that, as someone who has just returned from 6 months in the city, I agree with entirely. My first visit to Barcelona at the age of 15 was enjoyable but didn’t blow me away. When the opportunity to work there came up I was initially hesitant but so many people swore blind to me that Barcelona was one of the best places on Earth I convinced myself I must have missed something and took the plunge.

    Well, in retrospect, I was right and they were wrong. Don’t get me wrong I had the time of my life in Barcelona but the things I enjoyed the most could have taken place against the backdrop of almost any other European city. The truth is that when you work full time in a city you don’t spend all your days on the beach or at the Sagrada Familia. When there isn’t work to be done there’s food to be bought or laundry to be washed. Those long August evenings on the beach in your imagination become sweaty August afternoons spent cursing yourself for ever thinking an apartment without air conditioning was a sensible idea. If Barcelona confirmed one thing to me it’s that what makes or breaks a city is the people and (with a few notable and highly appreciated exceptions) I didn’t fall for the people of Barcelona.

    Maybe this isn’t there fault, it’s hard to imagine Glasgow coping with the influx of tourists that Barca sees every summer without the locals losing some of the shine that makes me love the city so much. Maybe it was my mistake to expect Catalonia to be like Andalusia, a land of mañanas and long liquid lunches. Barcelona is a more business-focussed city than London and there’s a definite pride in anything that makes it different from Spain. It’s just a shame that this pride manifests itself in a brusque and at times unfriendly attitude to others.
    And yet 4 weeks after leaving I miss the place immensely. It’s difficult to know how much of this is misplaced nostalgia owning to four weeks of staring out a window at hard Scottish December rain but the Barcelona weather forecast still sits tormenting me on my phone reminding me that whatever I say now, I will almost certainly be back.

    • Thanks so much for this beautiful, fascinating comment, Adam!

    • HI Adam, interesting comments. I’m surprised by the comment about Barcelona being more business focused than London, seeing someone wearing a suit here is a rarity (probably because of the heat) and perhaps it’s only in my circle of friends, but there’s none of this working through lunches and staying late at the office crap that people seem to do in London. A lot of people I know moved away from Barcelona in 2012, all bar one of them has moved back and the other one would if she it wasn’t for the work situation.

  30. What a refreshingly honest article. I’m a Scot who’s lived in Barcelona for nearly two years, and there is a tremendous amount of hype about the city. They did a great job with the marketing. But it’s like everywhere – it has its downsides. Three of my friends (residents) all got robbed on the same night last week (in separate incidents!). I don’t regret the move, though, and feel there’s still a lot more to get out of the place in the coming years.

  31. I just cant get enough of Barcelona, find it a vibrant, fun city just like edinburgh & Glasgow in Scotland but with better weather!
    I have been visting for over 6 years now and try to visit at least twice a year , I still have loads to sightsee!
    I have noticed the crowds getting bigger but find any major city is the same, normally around July, August I tend to avoid going.

    I have now decided to move next year for six months.

    Admittedly I work away for two weeks at a time and have a few weeks off to relax and party so not sure how living and working would be as I know the wages are not great.

    I do plan on living there permanently at some point though!

  32. I’m from Barcelona and I lived in foreign countries following the same idea you mentioned. Everytime we move for a long term, we know that it wont be easy, specially when you have to learn a foreign language. But I have to say that everyone who came here, remains with the idea that Barcelona is the center of the city wich is the part of the city crowded with tourist. You have to admit that we’re not walking trought the rambla or the gotic quarter… I work in a company with people from different countries and they all feelt the same when they arrived here. But after a couple of months, when they started to see the real Barcelona, and started to meet with people from, they saw a different city.

  33. I only know about the Bercelona soccer team. They are a superb team.

  34. I think different people find different cities appealing, simple as that. While I like New York, Paris and London, and will happily visit, I’m not in love with any of those cities. I’ve spent a lot of time in Paris over the years, but I have no inclination to live there. Barcelona – and Madrid – on the other hand, are two of my favourite cities in the world; I’ve been visiting them for years (have local and expat friends who live in Barca) and could easily see myself living in either city. Rome, Milan and Venice too. Bangkok and Buenos Aires are cities I’ve lived in and would move permanently to in a heartbeat. But then Dubai, a city that people tend to love or hate has been my home since 1998. I think it becomes easier over the years, the more we travel, to figure out which cities suit us and which don’t, and it certainly makes it easier to find that out before making a move :)

  35. and to add to what i just said, no where in the world one visits will fully meet up to all your expectations. I like comparing it to breaking up or ending a long term relationship. You feel that no one will ever be as good or the same as your last bf/gf but for those who have had more than one you know thats not true, things are never exactly the same, its different, just as good or better but you have to give it time and keep an open mind to accept its way. cities wont change for you, you have to adapt to what is going on around you and only then will you fully be able to enjoy life there

  36. i lived in Barcelona for 4 months as an architecture student in college. It was my first trip to europe and i remember the first week i was just in awe of all the new things. then a month went by and i just started to hate it. i hated everything, the people, the food, the smells, hate is probably too strong a word but i was very displeased. Two more weeks went by and i changed somehow. the city changed me, i let go and just lived, stopped missing american food. I realized how colorful the city really was and it was cold because it was winter (spring semester). but as time went on i just completely fell in love with the city. sure there are thousands of tourists in all the tourist spots; but its a big city there are so many places to see and especially if you get to know the people there they ARE very friendly. They really appreciate it when you make an effort to speak their language and are pretty accepting of everyone although i think it takes a little longer if your an american lol. just go to a local hangout often and you will meet people, also obviously it is a good idea to know spanish even tho they speak catalan you can still get by.. rambling now sorry

  37. I’ve been to a Tapas bar and they have some delicious food!

  38. Ms.Marshall,
    I’ve had tapas here at a resurant in waltham, but I bet it is nothing compared to the real thing. So what you said is true you can’t really tell untill you’ve experienced thr real thing!

  39. I moved here 2 weeks ago and I agree with most of what you say. The weather has been quite awful its too humid during the day and the storm today was something else. Also you have to remember Catalan is the language here not Spanish but its easy enough to pick up. Also the people are stressed and trying to finish work for the August holiday. I’m told August is the most colourful time in Barca. Time will tell.

    • Hi Alan, 2 weeks is a very short amount of time.. I wonder how long you stayed in the end? Both Catalan and Castillian Spanish are spoken here, both languages are official. Although I understand Catalan, I’ve never encountered anybody who can’t speak Castilliano if needed.

  40. Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia church looks really different from the churches in Boston. It looks really pretty, but why do some trees have no leaves when others have dark green leaves?? 😀

    • The trees with very few leaves are London Planes. They get trimmed *way* back every year because they grow so fast (see how the branches are uneven, wider in some parts?). They’re really common all over the city because the leaves are broad and they grow so fast that they open up quickly and cast lots of shade.

  41. I agree with you when you said “You really can’t tell until you bite into it”. It is really true, it’s like saying you cant judge a book by it’s cover which we as humans often do. I also like how you traveled from Madrid to Barcelona, which remind me of the Capulet house and the Montague house. Because both places are so alike but have a rivalry.

    • I don’t really see many similarities between Madrid and Barcelona to be honest. I love them both, but I wouldn’t really describe them as alike. To me Madrid has a totally different feel to it, bigger, more businesslike, more like a big city than Barcelona. The weather is also very different, Barcelona is more humid whereas Madrid is drier with more extreme heat in the summer and cold in the winter.

  42. Just because of this article, I am going to ask my mom if we can go to Barcelona this summer. It looks amazing.

  43. Ten years ago I moved to the Philippines to work and thought I’d be in an ocean side beach hut living the life. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I still daydream about Hawaii though, everyone there seems so relaxed.

    • I have lived in 5 different countries now & believe me, work normally comes first for most of the world right? Of course we’d love to relax by the beach all day and see the lovely sights but that’s not real life.

  44. […] finally going to see the city for myself. My expectations are a bit tempered after reading a warning about falling in love with Barcelona; namely, that it’s not the perfect paradise that Americans tend to picture it […]

  45. “I COULD live here and meet more wonderful people and eat more delicious food and have an utterly lovely time.”

    Not to take anything away from Barcelona, but as you may have learned, this could happen in many other cities.

    BTW, I have more than one dream city. In the US, it would be Seattle (even though I’ve been there many times before). Outside the US, the cities are Dublin (among other Irish cities), Sydney, and almost any city/town in New Zealand. Another dream place that emerged recently is an island off the coast of Cambodia called Koh Tonsay, which is not very far from Sihanoukville.

    I am hopeful that I will gt to spend some time in these places, but living in one of these places is another thing altogether.

  46. Okay, I really want to try Tapas now.

    I don't know that I really have a dream city.
    I love going and staying at other places on holiday, but I don't think I could ever leave my home for good to live any of the places I love to travel to.

  47. Barcelona has a very good nightlife, simply because there are lots of foreigners, students, and tourists. There are all the historical buildings and apartments which are too unique and primitive as well.

    You can take all the visit of this very beautiful city of Spain and feel the difference of a unique blend of urban and rural spain from your sight.

  48. My husband and I were supposed to move to Madrid for a teaching gig for a year. After visiting, I realized, although we were having alot of fun and the culture there is awesome, it wasn't the city for us in regards to a living situation.

  49. I'm with you on this one – Barcelona is a fun city, but it didn't give me quite the WOW factor I expected, probably for much the same reasons as you. The big tourist attractions are more tourist than attraction these days, the weather was reasonable without being amazing (and that was in June), the people were perhaps a little stand-offish and overall I found several other cities in Europe that I felt that I could live in more easily than that one.

    This certainly isn't meant to put anybody off going there – it's a great place to visit. It just didn't grab me as an equally great place to live.

  50. I actually did identify the tapa correctly…but only because I've had it before. I had absolutely no idea what it would be like before I tried it though!

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