When visiting a foreign place, its easy to feel a little bit overwhelmed by how different some things are. I’ve never lived in a city or internationally, so combining those two is a little bit of culture shock. Here are a couple of differences between Barcelona and the United States:
Dogs don’t need leashes, here. They are very well-behaved and stay with their owners, even if another interesting dog is walking nearby (mostly). Its also interesting to note that they tend not to spay or neuter their pets here.
The metro/buses will get you anywhere, and if you don’t have an unlimited pass, you can go from metro to bus, or vice versa, and it will still count as one stop within an hour! The stops are all in Catalan, but are pretty easy to figure out.
- People don’t go out in Barcelona until American clubs are having their last calls. Discotecas don’t fill up their dance floors until at least 2am, and people stay out until 5 or 6am. The metro ends anywhere from 12-2am and doesn’t start up again until 5am, so it kind of makes sense that people would stay out until the public transportation is up and running again.
Barcelona is a part of Catalonia (Catalunya) and they are damn proud of it. Their ultimate wish is to separate from Spain and start their own country, but there are a couple things in the way (being barred from the European Union for example). Catalonian flags hang proudly outside many apartments, all of the streets signs are in Catalan, and the people identify more as “Catalan” then “Spanish.” However, that’s not to say that Spanish isn’t spoken and celebrated, because it very much is.
When you see the walk light flashing, get out of the street. Cars will not stop for you like they do in the United States. People on scooters are crazy and will weave in and out of traffic as they please.
- Living with a host family means adopting some Spanish traditions, including wearing socks most of the time. Spanish people believe that you can get a cold if you walk around barefoot, so my feet have not gotten a whole lot of air (ew).
There are many different options for cheap eats in Barcelona. Lunch is the big meal of the day (instead of dinner), so restaurants make a “menu del dia” that includes a starter, main course, drink, and dessert for about 10 euro. The food offerings are usually fixed, but often there are a few choices to pick from. Tapas are good for snacking or for dinner and you can order as many small plates as you’re hungry for (depending on where you go, they can be 2 euro or less). There are a lot of chains in Barcelona that offer all you can eat paella, beer, and other things – a great way to start off the night!
- Chocolate caliente (hot chocolate) is literally chocolate that has been melted. It is so rich and creamy.