8 Must-Know Tips Before Moving from Los Angeles to Barcelona

Are you considering moving from Los Angeles to Barcelona? Let’s talk about what you can expect. I have some really cool information about the slower pace of life and navigating the local bureaucracy. If you’re from Baltimore, here is another great article.

Barcelona, Spain, is a dream destination for many and boasts a rich cultural heritage, breathtaking architecture, and vibrant street life. However, the leap from the United States to this Catalonian gem can be thrilling and bewildering. Based on firsthand experiences and insights from many expats, here are the surprising things you should expect when moving to Barcelona from the US.

Spain life

The Pace of Life

One of the most noticeable differences you’ll encounter is the slower pace of life. Spaniards, particularly in Barcelona, have mastered the art of enjoying life. They cherish moments spent with family and friends, which is evident in their daily routines.

Siestas and Business Hours

The famous siesta is not a myth. Many businesses, especially smaller shops and restaurants, shut down for a few hours in the afternoon. This break is a part of the culture, so adjusting your schedule around it could take some time. Unlike the 24/7 nature often found in the US, Barcelona moves at its own rhythm.

Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is not just a buzzword here. The Spanish are known for prioritizing quality of life over career aspirations. Working long hours is less common, and locals place a greater emphasis on social and leisure activities.

Food and Dining Etiquette

Spain food

Barcelona’s food culture is another delightful surprise. The culinary scene is diverse and intriguing, offering everything from colorful tapas to fresh seafood.

Dining Schedule

The dining schedule takes some getting used to. Lunches typically range from 1 PM to 4 PM, while dinners start much later than in the US, often around 9 PM or even later. This adjustment may be particularly challenging if you’re not a night owl.

Savoring Meals

Eating is not just about sustenance; it’s an experience. Meals are leisurely, multi-course affairs, often accompanied by animated conversations. Don’t be surprised if a dinner extends late into the evening.

Navigating Bureaucracy

Spain business

Bureaucracy in Barcelona can be one of the more frustrating adjustments for Americans who are used to streamlined services. Interacting with government bodies requires patience.

Documentations and Procedures

From residency permits to health cards, be prepared for a series of often time-consuming processes laden with paperwork. It’s wise to get acquainted with local requirements well in advance of your move.

Language Barriers

Although many people in Barcelona speak English, dealing with government offices usually requires proficiency in Spanish or Catalan. Learning some basic phrases and etiquette can go a long way.

Housing and Accommodation

Housing and accomodation in Spain

Finding the right home in Barcelona poses its own unique set of challenges and surprises.

Apartment Sizes

Be prepared for smaller living spaces than you might be accustomed to in the US. Apartments in Barcelona are often compact and lack some of the amenities considered standard in American homes.

Rental Market

The rental market can be competitive and fast-paced. Often, the best way to secure a good spot is through personal connections or local real estate agents.


Getting around Barcelona is a breeze compared to the sprawling cities of the US, but there are some key differences to note.

Public Transport

Barcelona boasts an efficient public transport system, including metro, buses, and trams. Owning a car is less common here, thanks to the excellent connectivity. However, understanding the schedule and purchasing the right transport card can take a bit of practice.

Walking and Cycling

Many locals prefer walking or cycling. The city is incredibly pedestrian-friendly, with plenty of bike lanes and promenades. This promotes a healthier lifestyle and lets you soak in the city’s picturesque views.

Social and Cultural Norms

Barcelona’s social and cultural framework can be intriguing and challenging to navigate as an American newcomer.

Friendliness and Social Circles

While people in Barcelona are generally friendly, forming deep, meaningful friendships can take time. The social fabric is tight-knit, and breaking into social circles may require effort and persistence.

Festivals and Holidays

Barcelona loves its festivals, and there’s practically one every month. These celebrations can be a joyous surprise and disrupt daily life, including business hours and traffic.

Healthcare System

The healthcare system in Spain is another area where you’ll find significant differences.

High-Quality Healthcare

Spain offers high-quality healthcare services, often at a fraction of the cost. Expats often praise the efficient and professional care they receive. Ensure you get your health insurance sorted promptly to take full advantage of the services.

Pharmacy Visits

Pharmacies in Barcelona are well-stocked and can offer a range of over-the-counter medications that might require a prescription in the US. The pharmacists are generally helpful and can provide advice and recommendations.

Embrace the Experience

Moving from the US to Barcelona can be both exhilarating and overwhelming. By embracing the local culture and being open to the differences, you’ll find that the transition becomes smoother over time. So, take a deep breath, dive into the new experiences, and enjoy Barcelona’s vibrant, colorful life.


Thinking about moving from Los Angeles to Barcelona?

Join our community of expats who have successfully made the transition and share your experiences. Connect with others, get valuable advice, and make your move smoother.


References to include:

  1. Cultural Adaptation: Ward, C., & Kennedy, A. (1999). The measurement of sociocultural adaptation. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 23(4), 659-677.

  2. Healthcare Systems: Nolte, E., & McKee, M. (2008). Measuring the health of nations: updating an earlier analysis. Health Affairs, 27(1), 58-71.

  3. Public Transportation: Hidalgo, D., & Graftieaux, P. (2008). Bus rapid transit systems in Latin America and Asia: Results and difficulties in 11 cities. Transportation Research Record, 2072(1), 77-88.

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