Living Like a Local: 5 Tips for Arriving in Barcelona

First time in Barcelona? Between the beautiful architecture sprawled throughout the city, delicious tapas, fantastic shopping, stunning beaches, and amazing nightlife, the city provides a myriad of destinations to go explore. However, while packing your cutest outfits from back home, it is important to remember that you will be in a different country with a unique culture and fashion trends that you should be aware of. The culture shock is real, so here is a brief list to help you to understand what cultural differences to anticipate in your first weeks abroad.

The view from my walk to class.


It is critical to get familiar with the Metro as soon as you arrive in Barcelona. Many Americans make the mistake of relying on taxis when arriving to Barcelona, which can be fairly pricey. The metro can be very confusing and intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of it, it is fairly simple and you can get everywhere around the city! A monthly metro card costs €52,75, which allows unlimited travel for 30 days.It is worth the investment. Also, walking is never a bad idea, get lost in your new city!

study abroad, studying abroad, study abroad in Barcelona

Strolling through Las Ramblas.

study abroad, studying abroad, study abroad in Barcelona

Gelato sold on Las Ramblas.


Pickpocketing is an extremely prevalent issue in Barcelona. If you haven’t had something stolen, perhaps you have not been living in Spain for a long enough time. When walking, it is very important to know where your belongings are at all times, and be very aware of your surroundings. Pickpocketing is often takes place in the metro areas and top tourist destinations like Las Ramblas. Ladies, if you are wearing a purse keep it held closely to you and make sure it is zipped. Don’t carry a lot of cash at one time; just bring what you need on daily outings.

study abroad, studying abroad, study abroad in Barcelona.

The exterior of La Sagrada Familia by Antoni Gaudi.


Tipping in Barcelona is much different from other countries, specifically the United States where tipping is somewhat mandatory and in a significant amount. In Barcelona, tipping is completely optional and not very common. You may see some people leave small change at cafes, but it is common you will not see anyone other than tourists leaving a tip, so save money and keep your change!


This was one of the hardest cultural differences to adjust to. Coming from the United States we are taught that staring is rude, however in Barcelona staring is a cultural norm, and the locals will stare at you, and you can stare right back and it is perfectly okay! Not only will people stare, but you will also find that personal space is much closer to those whom you are interacting with, often just inches away. You will often notice that people will stand and sit very close to you on the subway, especially when it is crowded so don’t get caught off guard.


One of the biggest cultural differences I have encountered since being abroad is the dress code between Americans and Spaniards. In the States, you find girls showing up to class with leggings and a t-shirt, or dressed extremely casual. However in in Barcelona, people are very fashionable and value presentation a lot more than Americans. In Barcelona it is considered trashy to be wearing exercise clothes as your outfit for the entire day. It is evident that fashion and presentation are highly valued so if you are looking to fully immerse yourself in the European culture, shop like a local at affordable European stores such as Zara and Mango.

Below the Arc de Triomf.


Right outside of my apartment doors













Brynn M. is the Fall 2017 MOJO Blogger in Barcelona, Spain. She is currently a Junior studying Communication at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *