My first year in Barcelona – 5 things I’ve learnt


It’s been a year! I cannot believe I have been living in Barcelona for whole year already! It definitely has been quite a ride, to say the least…*cough* covid *cough*. Although I have not been able to experience living in Barcelona at it’s best, I have definitely become accustomed to everyday living as a local. After my first year in this city, here are 5 things I have learnt. 

Beware of the wind….

This is what happened… I had been smelling a weird scent on and off for a couple of days. I kept checking everywhere, and came to the conclusion that it was not coming from inside my apartment, but definitely coming from somewhere in my building. Eventually, I contacted the property manager to ask him if someone could come and check it out. He said “It’s probably just the wind”… ahm, what? I thought, maybe he doesn’t want to send someone out because he is only responsible for my apartment and not the entire building. As quickly as the smell came and went, it was as quickly as I let it go.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, I walk into the academy where I work. I am immediately hit with the familiar smell! I asked my boss where that smell was coming from. What do you think he said? “It’s because it’s been so windy lately, sometimes when it’s windy in Barcelona, you tend to get a strong smell of sewage.” I immediately felt bad for thinking my property manager was trying to play me. 

Doctor or Pharmacist?

When deciding to move to any foreign country, one of the first things we think of is getting refills for medications, or having to see a doctor to get them. For my ladies, if you take birth control then you know the process we go through in America to get refills throughout the year.

When I moved here, I was dreading the process of having to find an English speaking gynecologist, being that my Spanish was poor. Well to my surprise, the pharmacists here do more than just hand out meds at a window. They ask questions and help figure out the right meds for you. Now this isn’t the case for everything, but some things like birth control can be obtained from the pharmacist without a prescription. In my case, I gave the one I used in America to the pharmacist, he did a bit of research and got me something similar. Easy process! 

To order or not to order…

I admit, I am a major Amazon addict! I live on Amazon, even when I don’t need anything. Amazon Prime is the best thing ever! I just love ordering and having it delivered the next day or two.

Here is the dilemma. Living in America, I am used to Amazon delivering to my door and leaving my packages even if I am not home. In Barcelona, unless you have someone working in your building (like a caretaker), you have to be home to get your packages.

Not only are packages not left at your door, but if you are not home to let the delivery person into the building, then for sure you are not getting your package. There are sites around town that you can have your package delivered to, but that just delays the process for me. I have learnt to schedule my orders to be home for delivery. On Amazon’s website, you can track your shipments, however, if you are getting a package through regular mail (Correos), you never know when it will come. After two delivery attempts, your package gets sent back. 

As I mentioned before, if you are lucky to have a caretaker in your building, then they will usually collect packages for you. So if you live for online shopping like I do, be mindful before ordering. 

No sleeping in for you…

If you like to sleep in like I do, then ear plugs will be your best friend. I work later in the evening and so tend to have late nights, and in general, I am not a morning person. I like to sleep in until at least 9:30 or 10am.

My apartment is on a somewhat busy street, and I have surprisingly become used to the sound of the bikes and traffic in the morning. What I cannot get used to, is what sounds like someone walking through the street banging a pan! This is the sound of the butaneros. Los butaneros are men that walk around delivering gas canisters to homes. Most homes here use gas to cook and to heat water. These lovely gentlemen walk around the neighborhoods banging on the gas canisters to let people know they are in the area.

You might think, how long could that possibly last? Well, after the los butaneros move on…. In comes El afilador. El afilador is another lovely gentleman that blows a flute. He lets the residents know that he is available to sharpen knives. 

Once this musical team is done you are wide awake and so…no sleeping in. 

Bon dia

The official language of Barcelona, is not Spanish/Castellano, but rather Catalan. Although, you can get by pretty well with not speaking Catalan, you will find that is what most people here speak – especially if you are not directly in the city center. Also, all government signs, notifications and websites are in Catalan.

I don’t live or work in the city center and so I am surrounded by a lot of Catalan speakers in the fruit shops, supermarkets and the stores. Over the past year I have noticed the change in those that I come in contact with. When I first got here and was struggling with my Spanish, I could barely get a friendly smile. My Spanish got better, and so did their demeanor towards me. I then started to pick up on basic phrases in Catalan, like good morning, good bye, Merry Christmas… And now these people want to have full blown conversations with me. To which I just nod and smile, because those few phrases are as far as I go with Catalan at the moment. 

I’m sure there’s lots more about this beautiful city to learn and I can’t wait to find out and experience more of it. I have to say that learning the language of where you go or want to go will definitely make your experience almost 100% more enjoyable. 

Are you guys living abroad? What are some of the interesting things you have discovered about your new home?

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10 comments / Add your comment below

  1. ursula williams says:

    So proud of you. Happy Barcelonaversay.

  2. Mezan Ayoka says:

    This was such a great post! And very funny too, as we say in Jamaica sometimes you have to kin teet kibba heartbun. Can’t wait to visit (when it’s not windy) and have those lovely gentlemen replace my alarm! 🙂

    1. Lol. thank you Mezan! Barcelona can’t wait to have you. And I know the perfect place you can stay so you won’t miss those gentlemen!

  3. Love this! Happy Barcelonaversary!

  4. We went to Spain the summer before last and spent a whirlwind three days in Barcelona. So not enough time! I applaud you for having the courage to move there!

    1. Thank you Linda!! 3 days is definitely not enough.. hope you are able to come back soon!

  5. Kitty Dixon says:

    Oh my to the sewage – I guess it’s almost like living in an area with the dump – and I need an el afilador lol send him my way – awesome post learnt a lot from what most would consider random facts – very intriguing how different cultures can be ! Keep the posts coming they’re informative thank you for this great read

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