When choosing to move to Spain, many Americans, especially those under 30, are seduced by an expatriation project in Barcelona.
The festive character of Barcelona, its dynamism, and its pleasant climate are the main reasons for expatriation in the administrative and economic capital of Catalonia.
Discover what to know before moving to Barcelona from US in the following guide.
Moving to Barcelona: How to Succeed in Your Catalan Adventure?
Moving to Barcelona means living near the sea, opting for an optimal quality of life all year round, and choosing a friendly and safe destination.
However, an American living in Barcelona requires adaptation. Indeed, in Catalonia, the habits and customs are different from ours.
The Language: Catalan
Barcelona may be a Spanish city, but it is the administrative, economic, and cultural capital of an autonomous community: Catalonia. The people of Barcelona do not speak Spanish but Catalan.
Learning the local language is imperative to manage the various administrative formalities. However, some things can also be done in English and Spanish, although there are fewer of them.
The Cost of Living in Barcelona
The cost of living in Barcelona has increased by 26% in the last five years. In 2021, the salary of one in three households was less than €1,322.
However, the cost of living in Barcelona is relatively lower than in the US.
Despite some differences according to expenditure items, Americans moving to Barcelona should not be surprised by the rates charged.
|Expenditure item||Average Budget|
|Apartment of 85 square meters||1 200 €/month|
|Internet + Telephone||35 €/month|
|Metro-bus ticket||2,20 €/individual ticket|
|Membership in a gym||50 €/month|
|Appointment to a general practitioner||50 €|
|Table wine||4,50 €|
|Coffee served on the terrace||1,40 €|
Housing: Prices and Neighborhoods to Choose
The choice of the neighborhood where to settle during moving to Barcelona depends on several factors, including the composition of your household and your place of work.
While the Gracia neighborhood will suit families without children or with young children, the Barceloneta neighborhood will be preferred because of its view of the sea.
The Sarria neighborhood is more suitable for young single adults, with its cafes, restaurants, and creative workshops.
The other primary criterion for accommodation in Barcelona is price. The following table will give you a better idea of the cost of housing in Barcelona.
|Type of housing||Average rent|
|Apartment of 85 square meters||1 200 €/month|
|Charges for an apartment of 85 square meters||120 €/month (water, gas, electricity)|
|Youth Hostel||20 €/night|
|Room in a shared apartment||400 €/month|
The city of Barcelona is divided into ten districts with different characteristics. For example, some of them are particularly lively at night due to the number of foreign visitors and are therefore not recommended for those who wish to spend quiet nights.
Overall, Barcelona’s success as a tourist destination has contributed to a sharp increase in the price of accommodation in the city.
Depending on your income, moving to the suburbs may be more reasonable. For example, some families do not hesitate to move to Sitges or Castelldefels, two towns close to the airport, south of Barcelona.
Overall, the Barcelona real estate market is dynamic, and ads are quickly snapped up, especially since there are properties for all profiles.
Transportation: a Wide Choice
There are many ways to get around Barcelona. The metro, which is clean, modern, and inexpensive, is the preferred means of transportation in Barcelona. In fact, one metro ticket purchased in Barcelona gives access to all other metros, buses, and funiculars for 75 minutes.
Otherwise, Barcelona has a network of city buses, a rail service (Ferrocarril), and some transportation solutions that contribute to the city’s charm. Among these are the Montjuïc funicular and the eponymous cable car.
It is also possible to take a cab to different parts of the city, and there is also a shuttle bus that connects the city center to the airport.
The Banks: Subtleties to Know
To open a bank account in Barcelona, the following documents must be presented:
- Valid identity document
- Foreign Identity Number (NIE)
- Proof of income (salary slip or tax notice)
- Proof of residence
Except for American government officials or military members, Barcelona banks generally open accounts for Spanish tax residents.
In addition, the Spanish banking system has certain particularities compared to the US.
Here are the most important ones:
- Banks are open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. from Monday to Friday
- An appointment with an advisor is not necessary to open a bank account
- Checks are not used by Barcelonans for their daily operations
- All cash withdrawals are subject to a fee if made from an ATM belonging to a bank network other than your own.
Following moving to Barcelona, schooling your children should be anything but a problem.
For the very young, there are daycare centers for children between the ages of 4 months and 3 years. Moreover, sending a young child to a Catalan school is possible, although American living in Barcelona often prefer to opt for international instruction.
Administrative Procedures when Moving to Barcelona
Preparing for moving to Barcelona from the US consists in organizing your international move.
Contacting a moving company can be helpful unless you plan to buy everything locally or rent a furnished apartment.
Before moving to Barcelona, don’t forget to notify the American authorities of your change of address (Social Security, Taxes, etc.). Also, remember to cancel your various contracts (electricity, Internet, etc.).
In addition, for an American citizen, a visa or a work permit is the only immigration procedure to complete to enter Catalonia. Also, certain administrative formalities must be carried out once you are in the country in order to stay legally in Barcelona for an extended period:
- Obtain an NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero): this is essential to work and carry out many procedures such as finding housing, opening a bank account, or signing an employment contract.
- Registering with the Barcelona Municipal Registry (Empadronamiento): another essential formality to carry out procedures and prove your residence.
- Register with the local social security system (CatSalut): this is mandatory for all workers.
- Open a bank account: a simple and quick procedure that will allow you to receive your salary and have your bills deducted.
- Have your driver’s license approved.
Moving to Barcelona and Finding a Job
An American moving to Barcelona needs a visa or a work permit to travel as a tourist and register with local or national employment agencies.
Employment opportunities for an American living in Barcelona are quite varied. In any case, the Catalan market is buoyant, especially for foreigners. However, when it comes to employment, there are some local specificities:
- A good level of the Spanish language is essential. A command of English is appreciated
- Catalan is only required in public administration, and some local companies
- The more qualified and internationally oriented the work, the less valuable Catalan is
- A significant portion of jobs are not found through the official market (word of mouth and relationships are preferred)
The Sectors that Recruit the Most
The sectors most likely to recruit foreigners in Barcelona are
- Computer science and information technology
The Different Employment Contracts
Spanish companies offer different types of employment contracts:
- Permanent contract (indefinido)
- Fixed-term contract (fijo)
- Temporary contract (obra o servicio determinado)
- Part-time contract (tiempo parcial).
Salaries an American Living in Barcelona Can Expect
According to a report published by the Area Metropolitana de Barcelona in May 2021, a person living and working in Barcelona needs to earn at least €1,322 per month to live decently.
However, the average salary of a person working in Barcelona full-time is approximately €3,100 per month. Salaries vary greatly depending on the profile (between €960 and €13,200 per month).
Generally, professionals with more than five years of experience receive a higher salary than others (average salary valued at 36%).
Health Care for Expatriates in Barcelona
Moving to Barcelona from the US also means finding out about your future health insurance.
The Healthcare System in Catalonia
There are two different healthcare systems in Barcelona and, more generally, in Catalonia.
CatSalut: the Catalan health service
Public and universal, CatSalut guarantees health coverage for all citizens who have an individual health insurance card (TSI). This card is only issued if the worker pays contributions in Spain.
CatSalut provides access to emergency rooms, general practitioners, and health specialists in the public system.
The Private Health Service
The private health service provides access to consultations with doctors and specialists affiliated with the private health system.
Health insurance when Moving to Barcelona
What to know before moving to Barcelona in terms of health is that several insurance solutions are available to American living in Barcelona, Spain, in addition to CatSalut and the private health service.
International Health Insurance with the 1st dollar
To benefit from better coverage during moving to Barcelona, it is possible to take out international health insurance through the 1st dollar insurance before your departure.
This international insurance offers essential guarantees such as repatriation assistance and coverage for routine care and hospitalization, including in the private sector.
Finally, international insurance has the advantage of being managed entirely in the US and covers the insured anywhere in the world, including during temporary stays in the US.