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12 things that are weird for expats in Barcelona

Updated: Nov 26, 2019

Living as an expat in another country will always result in discovering weird and different habits and ways of living. These are some of the most weird things, that you will experience as an expat in Barcelona.

1. Their eating habits

They eat bread and oil to every meal. Really, every meal. And potatoes  (patatas) are almost a religion here. They also eat a lot of sausage, jamón (ham) and fat meats and drink wine or beer every day – and they somehow still manage to stay really skinny! I don’t get it. It’s not fair. If I followed this diet I would probably gain 10 kilos a week.

Furthermore, they also eat many times a day and at ridiculous hours. Their eating schedule kind of looks like this:

Breakfast: 08:00-11:00

Snack/second breakfast: 12:00

Lunch: 13:00-16:00

Snack (again): 18:00-20:00

Dinner: 22:00-23:00

Of course these eating times does not apply to all, but the majority of the locals eat like this. Whenever I tell them that I usually eat dinner around 20:00 they look like they’ve just heard the joke of their live. Then when I tell them that we eat dinner around 18:00-19:00 in Denmark, they almost faint and don’t believe me. Very different eating habits indeed. The only thing in common is the potatoes.

Note: Almost all restaurants here close down after lunch and doesn’t open again before 20:30-21:00. So even if you’re not used to eating this late, you’re gonna have to when you visit Barcelona. Only the very touristy places are always open.

2. They do grocery shopping every day

The majority of the locals here goes grocery shopping every day. They buy fresh fruits and greens and bread. I don’t think this is a bad thing, I actually think it’s a wonderful habit. I love that I’m able to get fresh food here every day, but I also don’t wanna go grocery shopping every day. It’s too inconvenient for me. But I’d definitely wish that more cultures had this habit of fresh food.


One of the traditional fruit and veggies markets that I’m so lucky to shop in almost every day

3. They go to bed insanely late

When I say insanely late. I mean it. The majority of my co-workers and friends here goes to bed around 00:30-01:00. On week days! Of course it’s even later in the weekend.

For someone like me, who’s usually in bed by 22:00, this is outrageous. The thought that they can go to bed that late and still be functional at work the next day amazes me. They make a lot of fun of me here for going to bed when they eat dinner. I don’t blame them, haha!

4. Never stop for red light

In Barcelona, you don’t stop for red light. You stop for cars. If visiting, you’ll soon see that everyone just crosses if there’s no cars. Only turists wait for the green light here, so you can always spot them. It’s totally legal here to cross for red, so don’t be scared to do it, just make sure that there’s no cars or scooters. Every time I go back to Copenhagen, I’m so close to being run over because I got so used to just walking out.

5. Their sandwiches has only one ingredient

They eat a lot of sandwiches here. They’re called “bocadillos“. They usually only contain one ingredient and everyone seems perfectly fine with that. They most common are Jamón Iberico, and cheese. You can find these bocadillos everywhere, in restaurants, supermarkets and cafes. They never go down on sandwiches, and their bocadillos is one of the most common things to eat here.


Less traditional bocadillos – the really traditional ones has Iberian ham or cheese in them

6. They pack their lunches in small bags

I think this is one of the cute things that they do. I’ve noticed that all my co-workers bring their lunches in a small bag. Like, they pack a Tupperware and utensils in a small bag, that they then put in their bigger bag. At lunch time they bring this small lunch bag to the kitchen and unpack it like a picnic. It might be perfectly normal for many, but that would never happen in Denmark. Unless you’d wanna be bullied. Harsh, but true.


This is the infamous lunch bags that they pack every day

7. They HATE spicy food

This is hilarious. For me at least, since I loooove spicy food. But in Spain they CAN’T handle it. At all. The most spicy things you’ll find here is black pepper and paprika. If your want something more spicy you have to find an Asian supermarket.

Whenever I eat with some of my local friends and they get anything, that they think is just remotely spicy (read: not spicy at all), they sound like they’re about to die and burn up. I have a lot of fun with it and often challenge them to eat something spicy. They’re not fans.

8. Beer and wine are cheaper than water

This does not make any sense to me. But many times you’ll experience that beer and wine can be cheaper than water. I think it’s because it’s cheaper to produce. Their ground water here is so dirty that they have to clean it a lot and put chlorine in it – so it does not taste good. Maybe this is one of the reasons they drink so much beer and wine.

9. They are obsessed with colours

Colours on everything. Clothes, jewellery, accessories, interior, simply everything. For a Scandinavian like me, this is something close to hell. Scandinavia is known for style and minimalism. They do not know the word minimalism here. Everything has at least 4 different colours and mostly also different motives. Somehow it works down here, maybe because it’s more tropical. I’m having a lot of trouble with this thing though. I looked for 2 WEEKS to find a completely black scarf. It turned out to be near impossible, since they would all have a very colourful motives somewhere. It was ridiculous.


This is of course not how they’re dressed – but you get the point right?

10. It’s perfectly acceptable to be late – for everything

This is one of the things that I struggle with the most. That it’s somehow perfectly acceptable to be late – for everything. Even work. And it’s not just a little bit late, it can be up to 2 HOURS! I can’t count how many times I’ve been waiting for friends or other things for more than an hour.

Danes are like Germans. We’re never late, we’re always early. So after always showing up 10 minutes before, I quickly learned that I also need to be late down here. The problem is, that even when I’m late I’m still the first one to arrive. Also when I really try to be late! I simply find it really disrespectful to be late when you’re meeting someone. And even though I’ve been living here for almost a year now, I’m still not used to it and it still pisses me completely off if someones really late.

This being said, they are actually capable of showing up in time – sometimes. And if it’s really important. So at least it’s possible.


They’re ALWAYS late – checking the time will just make you sad or angry

11. They eat yoghurt for dessert

For you, and in some countries, this might be perfectly normal. But in Scandinavia we only eat yoghurt for breakfast. In Spain, even in restaurants, they offer you a little Petit Danone for dessert. I’ve so far respectfully declined.

12. Adults skating everywhere

Hear it out – I couldn’t come up with a better headline. They skate, rollerblade and ride scooters. Everywhere! Even full grown adults in suits and a nice briefcase use a scooter to go to work in the mornings. And half of their toys has motors on. I have to admire their laziness a little bit. But it simply to funny when you see a man in his fifties, in a suit, with a briefcase on a scooter or skating down the street.


These are the most common use of transportation in Barcelona

These are some of the things I find most weird and are having the most struggles with as an expat. Scandinavians are known for minimalistic style, structure and class. They do not have much of that here. But that being said, I still enjoy them (except for the being late part), since it’s a part of their culture. And I didn’t move abroad without expecting a different culture.

If you enjoyed this, take a look at their funniest traditions.

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