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Americans in Barcelona

Everything USA citizens need to know before relocation to Spain

Americans in Spain: if you ever get the chance to travel outside of America to Europe it is well worth it and it will forever change your life. Although traveling to different countries is amazing, you will also experience some cultural differences that take some time to get used to. While this is not something to worry about, it is important to be more socially aware and willing to adapt to different situations.

The ultimate relocation guide for Americans in Barcelona

Barcelona, Catalunya and Spain, a quick intro

Autonomous community: Catalunya

Catalunya is an autonomous community of  Spain. An autonomous community (comunidad autónoma) is a a region with a degree of self-governance and legislative powers granted by the central government, allowing it to manage certain internal affairs while remaining part of the larger nation. Catalonia, for instance, has its own parliament, government, and control over specific policy areas within the framework of many nationalities and regions that make up Spain.


Spain has granted certain powers to the communities, which allows them to exercise their right to self-government.


The capital of Catalunya is Barcelona.


Spain is divided into 50 individual provinces (provincias) and each province belongs to one of the 17 autonomous communities.

Catalunya consists of four provinces:


Some autonomous communities have additional second level subdivisions, known as ‘Comarcas’ (‘districts’ in English). These are entities which are created by the municipalities to oversee their responsibilities and services.


Catalonia is divided into 42 comarques. These all exist as local governement areas and have a respresentative commercal council. A Comarca is a group of municipalities, roughly equivalent to a “county” in the USA or the UK.


Each municipality (municipio) forms part of a province, which in turn forms part or the whole of an autonomous community.


There are, at present, 948 different municipalities in Catalonia. Each municipality is run by a council (Ayuntamiento) which is elected every four years by the residents in local elections.


In general, municipalities enjoy a large degree of autonomy in their local affairs.

Safety in Barcelona

Overall, Barcelona is a very safe place to live but like most large cities, pickpockets are rife in Barcelona, especially in the main tourist attractions such as La Rambla and La Boqueria. If, despite all precautions, the worst happens and you need to report a crime, call 112 or go to any police station (Comisaría). 


You also need to be wary of apartment scams when searching for accommodation – make sure you go and view the apartment and always get someone to look over your contract before signing anything.

Expat stories of Americans in Barcelona

In a city with a 23% non-national population, Barcelona is filled with expat stories. At Barcelona Expat Life, we help amplify the stories and experiences of expats in an effort to connect an expat community of many different backgrounds. Expats share common struggles, discoveries, surprises and motivations, all within the context of their own unique journeys.

Why 2 Americans prefer life in Barcelona

Blogs & relocation guides for Americans

Special blog & relocation guides for Americans to help you get settled in to your new life in Barcelona as an expat.

Etiquette in Spain

Greetings in Spain

Something that is very different in Spain from America is that Spaniards greet each other in a more affectionate way. Often, when you meet up with friends and family they say hello with a hug and two kisses on the cheek. This is very normal for Spaniards and happens every time you meet someone. In America when you meet someone you might shake their hand or just give them a wave, unless it’s someone you know well who you might greet more affectionately. 

Spanish time

Something you will notice about Spanish culture is that they are never in a rush to get through the day. They enjoy the little moments of life and aren’t stressed about getting the next thing done. When they go out for meals they sit and enjoy each other’s company or the area they are in. During the week you will see people sitting at a cafe for lunch with friends drinking a glass of wine. 


In America, people often eat their lunch at their desks orsimply grab something to eat very quickly. When you go to a restaurant in the U.S. oftentimes your waiter will get your order in right away and try to get you in and out of the restaurant quickly. In Spain, the waiter doesn’t bother you too much and most of the time you have to ask for the check. Overall, the Spanish lifestyle is a lot more relaxed and slower-paced than it is in America. 

Cheers to the weekday?

A big cultural difference you will notice traveling to Spain from America is that people drink alcohol more casually than they do in the U.S. When you go to lunch, it is very normal to order a glass of wine with your meal. Some of the locals have mentioned that growing up they always had a glass of wine at dinner with their parents. This really creates a positive relationship with alcohol which a lot of Spaniards have. In the U.S. drinking beforel the legal age limit of 21 is heavily frowned upon, and sometimes causes kids to overindulge in alcohol later on because of a lack of exposure as children.

Experiences from Americans in Barcelona: cultural differences

American Schools in Barcelona

You will find below information about the international schools with an American curriculum in Barcelona. 

Americans in Barcelona: Paperwork

Moving to another country involves having to carry out numerous administrative procedures.

In order to live, work, and study as an Americans in Barcelona, there are certain documents that are mandatory or highly reccomended to obtain. Often, the process for doing so can be quite complicated if you’re not familiar with the Spanish system. Certain things, such as renting accommodation or opening a bank account, may require additional paperwork to be completed.

Americans in Barcelona: Taxes

Regardless of where you reside, if you are a US Person, you are required to file a US federal tax return and pay US taxes on your worldwide income.

Buying property in Barcelona

It is understandable that if you have already bought property before, you will feel more confident about the purchase of a property in Spain. However, there are many factors to look out for in Spain when buying property. Without the right guidance, it is easy to overlook these matters. Pitfalls for those buying property in Spain include the deposit, purchase tax, off-plan properties, registration of property, and the possibility of illegally built properties.

Experiences from Americans in Barcelona: apartment hunting

Wealth management for Americans in Barcelona

Setting up a business & entrepreneurs

As opposed to some other EU countries, creating your own company in Spain is no easy task. You’ll need determination and perseverance and, ideally, some professional help. The process for setting up a company can be broken down into simple steps, however, it is advisable to be assisted by a professional advisor to avoid delays and pitfalls.

Digital nomads

The Digital Nomad Visa gives non-EU nationals the chance to live and work in Spain for up to five years. This visa was only recently approved in November 2022, with the aim of attracting entrepreneurship and boosting the tech industry in Spain. 


A Digital Nomad Visa in Spain can take around 20 days to receive after applying and is valid for 1 year to begin with. It can then be renewed for up to five years, but to maintain the visa, you must not be absent from the country for more than six months per year. 


There is also the ‘Digital Nomad Residency Permit’ (valid for three years. Both visas serve the same purpose, however you can get the Digital Nomad Visa in your country, while you can only obtain the latter in Spain). 

American students in Barcelona

Barcelona is by far one of the greatest destinations in Europe for foreign students and is full of many exciting prospects and opportunities. As the capital city of Catalonia, a region with its own unique identity, Barcelona is definitely one of Spain’s most intriguing cities historically, culturally, and politically.

Useful addresses for American students in Barcelona

The American community in Barcelona

It’s natural for expats to gravitate towards each other, so there are several communities for Americans in Barcelona, such as the two below.

Leisure & free time

Lastly, if you love to travel, living in Europe is the place to be. It is very accessible and easy to travel to many other countries in Europe – and for a reasonable price too. In America, most states take a few hours to get by plane, and can cost a few hundred dollars. In Spain and Europe in general, you can find fairly cheap flights to almost any neighboring country. This is why most Spaniards love to travel for vacation or just for a weekend getaway.


However, there are plenty of incredible places in Catalonia that are easily reachable by train from Barcelona. Two must-see towns are Girona, with its medieval heritage, and Tarragona, a former Roman capital.


Catalonia is also home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Spain, with seaside destinations such as Sitges, the Costa Brava, and the Costa Daurada.

Why not visit some of Catalonia´s best preserved medieval villages. From stunning Besalú to the hidden jewel of Rupit, and last but certainly not least, the clifftop village of Tavertet.


One more place to add to your bucket list is Montserrat, a mountain famous for its unusual appearance and the Benedictine Monastery of Santa María de Montserrat. Not only is the Monastery of huge religious importance, but the natural beauty surrounding it is simply breathtaking.

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