By in Country Guides September 23, 2013

If moving to Barcelona, the second-largest city in Spain and one of the most beautiful places in the world has been a dream of yours for some time now, there are a few things you should think about before you embark on this adventure.

Consider the cost of living, neighborhoods, job opportunities, and language. The more information you gather about Ciudad Condal, as locals like to call it, the easier it will be to adjust to the new environment. Learn Catalan and Spanish as well, because folks that live here tend to speak both.

The city is the only owner of the Royal Gold Medal for architecture, meaning every time you stroll around, you will be in the presence of architectural marvels that have inspired people around the world.

Paperwork Will Be a Big Deal If You Want to Live in Spain

Are you thinking about settling down in the most cosmopolitan place in Spain? If so, you should think about the essential paperwork needed to travel abroad. To make it easier for yourself, create a checklist and write down all the essential documents you have already gathered and that you are yet to obtain.

Start with a passport and visa. Check government websites and see exactly what you need to provide to get your visa approved. If you are a US citizen, you will be able to stay in Spain and other members of the Schengen area for up to 90 days without a visa. But since you are relocating for a longer period of time, here are your options for staying in the country legally:

  • Family reunification visa (visado de reagrupacion familiar)
  • Work visa
  • Student visa (visado de estudiantes)

Once the hard part is done, and you have your visa, you will require an identity number. Apply for Número de Indentificación de Extranjeros, or NIE, by providing:

  • The application form
  • A copy of your passport information page
  • Proof that you paid an application fee

This is a requirement for every foreigner that wants to work, rent or buy a house, and open a bank account.

Spanish Banks Make Money Transactions Faster

Are you planning to stay here for a while? If so, consider getting a bank account in one of the Spanish banks. International banks are great, and you will be able to access your money there, but sometimes, transactions take time. People who don’t want to wait days to have their funds opt to open an account in one of the local banks. To do this, you will need to pick a bank and provide your NIE.

A Spanish account will come in handy if you want to pay for groceries and things on a day-to-day basis, as 24.30% of all payments are made by credit cards.

You Need an Individual Health Card to Access Healthcare Services

The healthcare system in Spain has a good reputation, and to use its services, you need to have Targeta Sanitària Individual or Individual Health Card (TSI).

Obtaining a TSI will be easy if you have a social security number. Register at INSS (Instituto Nacional de la Seguridad Social) and see what documents you need to obtain a TSI.

You can opt for public or private health insurance.

You Need to Think About the Cost of Living and Transportation When Moving to Barcelona

Money is a big part of the relocation. No matter how big or small your budget is, prepare yourself for life in the new environment by researching prices and other aspects of the cost of living.

According to data from Numbeo, grocery prices in Barcelona are around 50% lower than in New York City, while basic utilities for 915 sq ft apartment are slightly higher. For a meal in an inexpensive restaurant, you’ll need around $12, which is half of what you’ll pay in the Big Apple.

Besides, relocating from a major US city to the Catalan capital means paying much less for renting a place. Monthly, you will require around $1,000 for a one-bedroom flat in the center, and if you are moving with your family, a three-bedroom apartment will cost you around $1,600. Of course, these prices vary depending on the location you choose. In comparison, rent prices in NYC are nearly 70% higher on average.

Pick the Right Neighborhood Before Relocating to Barcelona

The famous Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier once said, “allow me to state here how much I love Barcelona, an admirable city, a city full of life, intense, a port open to the past and future.” Therefore, finding a perfect home in some of Barcelona’s residential areas won’t be that hard, after all.

Consider the amount of money you are willing to spend on rent or buying a home before you pick the area. When the budget is calculated, you can do your research and find a location that you will be pleased with. Barcelona is divided into ten districts, each with a unique vibe:

  • Eixample is a trendy and upscale spot that attracts folks who crave the best of nightlife and culture. Here you can see some of the most famous buildings of Antoni Gaudi, the legendary architect who left a permanent mark on the Catalan capital. You can also eat at high-class restaurants and take a stroll through parks.
  • Ciutat Vella is a historical center and the third most densely-populated area. Locals know it as the old district or the gothic district. It is the home of Plaça Catalunya, the most famous meeting point in the city.
  • Sants-Montjuïc is the center for cultural institutions and the textile industry. The spot preserved the vibe of a small local community, and it is a perfect place for those who love to get around on foot.
  • Les Corts is the least populous district, so if you don’t enjoy big crowds, look for an apartment in this area. It is also a business hub with plenty of office spaces and business-people rushing around.
  • Sarrià-Sant Gervasi combines urban tapa bars, boutiques, and hillside walks. This largely residential area is famous for its slower pace and tranquil vibe, which makes it one of the best places to live with family.
  • Gracia is the smallest district by area and one of the hippiest. Close packed streets and the Mediterranean architecture give it a unique feel, attracting mostly young professionals and artists.
  • Horta-Guinardó is a biking and hiking paradise. Many outdoor enthusiasts would consider it perfect for settling down.
  • Nou Barris is an immigration hub. Since 2000, many foreigners from Romania, Ecuador, and Ukraine settled down here.
  • Sant Andreu is a village-like district that is 20 minutes away from the center. If you would like to avoid tourists and large crowds, you should seriously consider this district as your next home.
  • Sant Martíis populated mainly by working-class residents. The area has a huge outdoor space that residents use to play football, basketball or for cycling and jogging.

When searching for the right neighborhood, some people seek open spaces, others look for high-class restaurants, while some only care about the location. Whichever district you choose, ensure that it has all that you require.

Choose Between Metro, Buses, and Trams to Get Around

The city is big, but luckily it has a well-developed public transportation network that you can use to get from one place to another fairly quickly. You can use the metro system, which has eight lines, 160 stations, and 156 trains, or the well-developed bus network which is operated by Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona. The peripheral areas of the city are connected to the center via six tram lines, which are operated by Tram. You also have the option of taking night buses that run late into the night or hop on local trains, railways, and taxies.

Don’t leave your bike in storage. Know that you will be staying in a place that has, on average, 55 rainy days a year, which makes it perfect for cycling. There are 200 kilometers of cycling paths and over 400 biking stations where you can rent a bike.

If you choose to ship your car, keep in mind that there are three international routes and a comprehensive network of highways and motorways through the metropolitan area.

Commuters wait, on average, 10 minutes.

This Is a Great Place for Career Chasers

Are you relocating because of work? Do you want to climb that career leader while living in a sunny Mediterranean location?

Barna, as locals like to call this city, is a place where many expats found their home, as well as fulfilling career opportunities. The GDP of $31,578 per capita is 16% higher than the EU average, but this is also one of the best and fastest improving business centers in Europe.

The manufacturing industry contributes significantly to the economy, and 67% of industrial establishments in Catalonia are located in Barcelona. You can find work in SEAT, Derbi, or Nissan.

If the manufacturing sector is not for you, there are companies in telecommunications, tourism, and fashion you should check out.

Leave Your Old Job Behind and Start a New Career

When relocating to a place with a multicultural workforce, you are bound to have a variety of employment opportunities. Almost 17% of all the workforce in Barna is not from Spain. If you only speak English, there are employment opportunities in hotels and bars. Since this is a famous tourist spot, knowing the language is highly appreciated. Also, if you have a working knowledge of Spanish or Catalan, your choices of employment multiply. You can apply for some of the many teaching or telesales jobs.

Networking Is Essential in Finding Employment

It would be a good idea to look for employment while you are still in the US, especially if you’re looking to obtain a work visa. Update your profile on sites like LinkedIn, join some local groups, and follow big companies. When you connect with other expats that are already living in Barcelona, they might assist you with the search. Depending on your work field, you can join the chamber of commerce, or other business groups.

Keep in mind that the job market is competitive; that’s why finding a recruiter to help might be the best solution.

Barna has the 4th highest GDP per capita in the EU

The Differences Between American and Spanish Culture

As an American relocating to Spain, you should be prepared for some different cultural experiences. The pace of life here is probably way different than what you are used to. Locals are more relaxed; they don’t rush things. Strong family ties and enjoying everyday activities are essential parts of life. Learn how to kick back and relax, and you will be one step closer to becoming a local.

To prepare yourself for life in this Mediterranean gem, grab a book, go online, and research; you will discover a unique blend of cultures and traditions.

It Is Important To Learn to Speak Like a Local

Don’t mix up Spanish and Catalan. They are not the same language. Most folks in Barna are bilingual and can speak both. If you want to fit in and become a true local, you should take some language lessons. It will be easier to master them, because you will be learning languages abroad, surrounded by native speakers.  Other parts of the country prefer one or the other, but here, you should be able to understand both.

Day-to-Day Routine Is Not Like in America

Are you bored with a strict 9-to-5 working schedule? Living here means you can have a “broken workday,” or as workers call it “horario partido.” This gets you a work break between 2 and 5 pm.

With a long lunch break, you will have the time to go out and eat a three-course meal, without glancing at the watch all the time.

Also, some stereotypes are based on truths. One of those are late dinners that Spanish families partake in, and they usually start from 9 pm. Moving internationally and living here means you can have late breakfasts as well.

Don’t leave shopping for Sunday, because most supermarkets and shops are closed. Saturday should be your grocery shopping day. If your neighborhood doesn’t have a big store, there is a chance that local vendors will close early on Saturday, just so they could spend more time with friends and families.

A Heaven for Sports Fans

This is a place with a long sports tradition. Did you know that Barcelona is home to the second richest soccer club in the world? Maybe you’ll soon become one of those diehard fans of FC Barcelona, who often describe their favorite team as “Mes que un club,” a Catalan phrase meaning “more than a club.” If soccer (known in Europe as football) is not your forte, try watching basketball, handball, or ice hockey.

Being active has never been more tempting because there are more than a few gyms you can check out, beaches where you can play catch with your pets, or have a volleyball match. Take advantage of hiking and running trails, and start preparing for a yearly marathon race.

For all water sports lovers, there is a non-stop, around the globe yacht race, and Piscines Bernat Picornell venue that hosts water polo matches, swimming, and synchronized swimming events.

Keep in mind that engaging in sports is one of the fastest ways to meet people and make friends.

Making New Friends Will Be Easy

Being in an unfamiliar place can get lonely. To avoid feeling blue and alone, try creating meaningful relationships. Living in the second-largest city in Spain means you will have the chance to make some new friends and expand your social circle. Sports are a great way to do it, but if you are not a sports type of person, there are plenty of places where you can meet people.

Start by joining expat groups. There are a few of them, and they organize occasional gatherings.

Go out and explore: in a lively community like this one, it is a piece of cake to find something fun to do. Check out restaurants, find a new favorite spot for dining out, and invite colleagues or neighbors to join you in this little adventure. Festivals, celebrations, museums, and movie screenings are also fantastic places to introduce yourself to a new crowd. Luckily, the community doesn’t lack any of those, and people living here are friendly, open-minded, and cheerful.

Did you know that Nou Camp is the largest stadium in Europe?

Take Some Time to Know the City and You Will Feel Like at Home

Boxes are unpacked, all the documents are gathered – now comes the fun part. Put on some comfy shoes, bring sunglasses, and take your time walking around the area. Start small by discovering all the nooks and crannies of your neighborhood. When you find a favorite dinner and shop, it is time to discover the rest of Barna.

Barcelona is home to many foreigners; they settled down here because of the friendly and accepting locals, good food, relaxing life pace, and job opportunities. Whatever the reason for your relocation was, you will find a few more that will make you stay here for a long time.