6 Things I have learnt since I moved to Barcelona

This Sunday will mark my 8th week of living in Barcelona and ironically, I will be flying from Liverpool to Barcelona once again on that day as this week I am going home for 4 days for my graduation ceremony (and my Dad’s birthday I suppose). As I was unable to publish anything this weekend – owing to the lack of internet in my apartment – I have ventured out in search of wifi to write this post for anyone who is thinking about moving to Barcelona or Catalonia. Here are the 6 things I have learnt since I moved to Barcelona:

  1. It’s going to be hard to find your own place to live.

Thanks to doing the TEFL course I did at TEFL International I had a guaranteed place to live for at least 4 weeks whilst completing the course. Unfortunately, I had to move out of my first housing placement after 2 weeks but the second place I lived in was good. The family I stayed with were really nice and made sure I was comfortable, the shower was a little temperamental but on the whole I felt welcomed and supported. Despite this, I wanted to find my own place to live, something a little more central with a double bed as I already have a friend coming to see me in December and after spending my first year of Uni in a single bed i didn’t really want to go back to that for several months. Finding my own apartment was the only way to go.

This is where things got difficult. I spent hours and hours browsing all the housing websites I could from idealista to fotocasa but with so many people in Barcelona looking for a decent place to live in the city there would be 15 people interested in each apartment after 10 minutes of the advert being published. If we managed to book a house viewing and it didn’t get cancelled the people with the appointment 15 minutes before ours would usually get the place before we had even finished looking around. Furthermore, without a NIE or proof of work agencies were reluctant to deal with us and finding people privately renting was difficult with so many of the adverts from private renters seeming too good to be true. However, it is not all doom and gloom and if you want to move to Barcelona I suggest finding a room to rent, which you can also do on idealista, or joining some Facebook groups that post those kinds of adverts. When you have something secure like that, then you can look into renting your own apartment and sorting out all the legal documents you need to which leads me onto my next point…

      2. Getting a NIE is essential but also a nightmare.

If you are moving from outside the EU then you can skip this section as obtaining a NIE as an EU citizen is hard enough never mind being from the US on a visa. For people from the UK, like myself, a NIE is sort of like a National Insurance number so it is basically for employers, banks, internet companies etc. as a way to identify and put you in their records. In the NIE link above there is a list of things you need a NIE for but before you even get to applying for those things you need to apply for the NIE itself and that is where I currently am at.

You need to take your housing contract or some kind of proof that you are living where you are to your nearest “town hall” or Oficina d’Atenció al Ciutada  and register yourself as an empadronar-se which basically means officially saying that you live where you live. You will also need to fill out an EX-15 form and it has to be in Spanish, you can download an English version as a guide but the actual form needs to be completed in Spanish. When you have both these things, you will need to either get up early in the morning and queue at your nearest NIE office with the documents plus your passport, a copy of your passport and at least one passport photo. If you don’t have a Spanish bank account (catch-22 as you can’t get one without a NIE anyway) they will process your form, send you to the bank to pay the fee for the documentation, which is about 10 to the bank who will then sign something to say you have paid and send you back to queue at the NIE office to give that signed piece of paper to them. Then, or so I hear anyway, you will get your NIE the next day. I have also been warned that the bank will only deal with NIE stuff between 8.15 and 10.15.

3. Getting a Spanish mobile number is a must and cheap!

Remember pay-as-you-go? Remember how easy it was and how you never ended up with extra charges? Well, I’ve welcomed it back with open arms because here you can pay 8 and get 1GB of internet and calls for 20 cents a call until that runs out but don’t worry, you hardly call or text anyone as Whatsapp is the most common form of communication here and there is free wifi in abundance all over the city. I’m with Orange and they just gave me 2GB for free until the end of December.

4. If you have a student card bring it (even if it is out of date)

Museums and other cultural stuff in and outside of Barcelona offer discounts to students so it is always worth bringing it and just flashing it for some discounted entry. On top of that, a lot of museums have free Sundays (usually the first of the month) so it is always worth Googling that but be prepared for it to be a bit busy.

5. Make friends with the locals!

So you may not speak the language, but if you are teaching English like I am then it is well worth having conversations with your students about the area, restaurants they recommend and places to visit. Personally, I love talking to my students about little things such as Spanish sayings such as “do you have a grandmother?” which is something said to a person who is boasting about themselves and is based around the stereotype that grandmothers in Spain are there to dote upon their (usually male) grandchildren. I also taught a lesson on stereotypes and it had my students in fits of laughter as they told me about the stereotypes between Northern and Southern Spain – the divide is inescapable!

6. Living here may be stressful and lonely for a while but you will find your way.

Before I moved here I had countless people telling me how brave I was for doing this all on my own and although I was a little nervous about it all I didn’t really see where they were coming from. Now I do. Moving to another country alone is always going to be a little daunting and some nights will be hard when you are in unfamiliar surroundings without your support system but you will find people who will look out for you and help you feel at home and despite all the apartment/job finding stresses it will be worth it.



4 thoughts on “6 Things I have learnt since I moved to Barcelona”

  1. Good and informative post! It’s pretty interesting how so many European countries have similar policies. I moved to Sweden just over two years ago, and getting a “personnummer” (equivalent to the NIE) as soon as you can is essential but can also be quite challenging for newcomers.


    1. It’s crazy! When I looked up moving to Spain and teaching I never saw anything that told me how much of a big deal it is or what you would need to do to get one. Just assumed that as I am in the EU (for now, unfortunately) that I was okay to go where I wanted

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I also thought things would be a lot simpler. I ended up being lucky because I moved for work and had a full-time contract, but if you move without a job lined up, they won’t give you a social security number…(which to make things even more complicated…you need to apply for a job).

        Liked by 1 person

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