The following list contains observations and facts that you would only get after spending time in Barcelona observing the culture. Very useful whether you are visiting or moving to Barcelona.
1. When using your credit card you will always need to sign and must bring some photo ID, either a passport or driving license. Chip and PIN is virtually non-existent in Barcelona.
2. The main language of Barcelona is Catalan, but the most widely spoken is Spanish. Catalan is spoken by 75% of the population, but virtually 100% of Catalans speak Spanish and there are many immigrants from South America and indeed from the rest of Spain, so Spanish is universal. In many bars and restaurants, Spanish is the main language.
3. Many large stores (such as supermarkets) do not let you bring large bags or backpacks into the shop. Many provide lockers with keys just before the entrance.
4. Pedestrian crossings – beware of the green man! In many countries when the green man flashes you have enough time to cross from one side to the other. Not in Barcelona. You normally have about 3 seconds to cross. If you are halfway across the road by this point you will probably need to start running. Do not attempt to start crossing the road when the man is flashing. This takes some getting used to.
5. Ticket validation for public transport – you must validate your ticket for all forms of public transport (trains, metro, trams, buses etc.). Validating means getting your ticket stamped in a small machine located in buses, or on the platforms when taking a train. Metros have a turnstile system where your ticket gets validated.
6. Metro turnstiles – when entering the metro you will need to insert your ticket into the gate to get through. Confusingly there are two types of gates: turnstiles and automatic glass gates. When entering though the turnstile gates you will need to pass the ticket with the left hand and pass to the right of the ticket. For the glass gates, you will need to pass the ticket with your right hand and pass to the left. When exiting the metro, you will not need your ticket at all.
7. Electronic goods are expensive in Barcelona, even more so than in the UK. In particular, computers, TVs and white goods are very expensive.
8. On the other hand, alcohol is very cheap. In bars (except in tourist areas) a bottle of lager will cost about 1.30EUR and a decent bottle of wine in a supermarket will cost about 3EUR. It is also possible to buy bottles of wine for as little as 1EUR or less. Lager in supermarkets is also very cheap. A 330ml can of normal lager can cost about 0.25EUR in supermarkets, but a known brand will cost double.
9. Smoking in Barcelona (and Spain) is extremely popular. There is a saying that goes “if you’re Spanish you smoke”. Spanish law has recently banned smoking from work places and applied smoking restrictions to restaurants, but many restaurants have smoking licenses. The majority of restaurants in Barcelona are smoking or have a smoking area. For the locals, smoking in public is considered a right, so if you are in a restaurant eating a meal don’t expect the customers sat on the neighbouring table to wait for you to finish before they light up.
10. In Barcelona, people like to take their time. If they have queued for a service (e.g. in banks or supermarkets) they will not be rushed once they are being attended to, even if the queue behind them is long. This can be frustrating if you are in a hurry, but it is part of the culture and they believe it is their right to take their time if they have been queuing.
11. Lunch in Barcelona is extremely important to the culture. If you are working in Barcelona for a normal Spanish or Catalan company then you will probably leave the office at 1:45pm to 2pm at the earliest and lunch normally lasts at least 1.5 hours. No matter how busy work is, very rarely is this hour and a half sacrificed. It is virtually sacred.
12. Tap water in Barcelona is perfectly safe to drink despite what you might have heard. Most people in Barcelona buy their own water because the tap water here does not have a particularly pleasant taste. It is normally used for cooking instead.