Studying abroad in a foreign country is exciting, but it can also be challenging to get adjusted to a new city. Barcelona is the perfect example – the capital of Catalonia is brimming with culture, sports, fashion, finance, media, and entertainment but 2,000 years of historical remnants are visible at every turn. Here are 10 important tips to know before you go.
Is it Castilian Spanish or Catalan?
Castilian Spanish and Catalan are both official languages in Barcelona. There are many similarities, so it may be confusing to an untrained ear when you first start your study abroad adventure. But don’t worry! Servers, taxi drivers, professors, host families all speak Castilian Spanish, and most speak English, but it doesn’t hurt to learn a few words in Catalan to ease the transition. Two great resources to help you practice are Parla.CAT for Catalan, and Duolingo for Catalan and Spanish.
Get familiar with public transportation
Barcelona has one of the best public transportation systems in the world where you can get anywhere around the city via bus or metro with one swipe! If you plan to use public transportation often, you can get a three-month student pass for only €145.30 – that’s €1.61 a day for unlimited rides! Learn the metro map and save your valuable euros for more noteworthy uses. If you’re ever in need of a taxi though, it’s best to use the Cabify app.
Read the news
Or watch a local news channel. Not only will this improve your foreign language skills, but it’ll keep you up-to-date on current and upcoming events happening in the city. You’ll also learn about other regions in Spain to help you plan for weekend trips! El Periódico and La Vanguardia are great news outlets to get you started.
Bring a water bottle
Most restaurants in Europe charge two to four euros for water, and it’s usually more expensive than a can of soda or a glass of wine. Save money by carrying a reusable water bottle, which you can refill at CIEE Barcelona and other areas around the city. You’ll be doing a lot of walking and exploring throughout your time abroad, and a water bottle will help you stay hydrated and save money.
Avoid athletic attire
Barcelona is a trendy and fashion-forward city and you won’t see locals wearing leggings, sweatpants, yoga pants, or athletic shorts on the streets. It’s important to blend in with locals, so go chic and modest, and invest in a few good pairs of jeans for study abroad.
Two is better than one
Exploring by yourself can be nice, but what makes for a richer and much more fulfilling experience? Having a friend with you! It’s most cost effective, you have someone to watch your back, and you’ll create amazing memories together that’ll be fun to share for years to come. Take the metro to Barceloneta, try the churros at a new café, explore a new market like Mercat de Santa Caterina, or visit any pieces of work by Gaudi. The possibilities are endless to get familiar with your new city, and the experience will be even better when you have a friend beside you.
Shops close Sundays
Don’t put off shopping until Sunday! Most high-street shops, shopping centers, and malls are closed on Sundays in Barcelona. Grocery stores are also closed, but you might be able to find small corner shops for items. Have no fear – plenty of restaurants, cafes, museums, and cinemas are open, so you’ll always find something to do!
Tip at your own discretion
Gratuities aren’t expected but they are welcomed in any situation in Spain, including eating out, taking a cab ride, or getting a haircut. Tips should be left in cash and it’s usually less than 5%, but if you experience bad or surly service, don’t feel obligated to leave. Often a service charge is added to the bill – so be sure to check first.
Friends and family typically kiss each other on each cheek as a hello and goodbye. Your host family will most likely do this with you, as well. Don’t be nervous, they aren’t regular kisses – people normally touch their right cheeks together and make a kissing sound, then repeat on the left side. A simple hola is okay for strangers, like shopkeepers, taxi drivers, hairdressers, and others. But if you become friends with a local, it’s customary to kiss each other on each cheek as a greeting, most commonly between women.
Use your student ID
Barcelona is filled with history, art, entertainment, and more. You will never be bored when you’re studying abroad here. Remember to take advantage of all the student discount opportunities that are available to you! Show your ID at bookstores, clothing stores, museums, restaurants, shows – everywhere you spend money. A 10-15% discount could mean hundreds in savings that you can put toward studying abroad.