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Five things you must do upon arriving in Barcelona

Posted on 08 February 2010 by American expat!

 First things first

Assuming that you have arrived and settled into your short term accommodations, your first or second full day in your new home Barcelona should look something like this.

1. Get a pay-as-you-go Spanish mobile phone. 

This is absolutely your number one priority. Don’t worry, it’s easy and it’s cheap. You don’t have to bother with a contract right now, or which type of phone you want just yet.  But you need a local phone number—with texting abilities—as it will be your most used tool in settling yourself in and meeting new friends. Trust me on this. When I first got here, I tried to give my email away as my primary means of contact and received funny looks. Texting is the preferred method of communication and most Spaniards have a couple of cell phones. So, head off to any phone tienda (I recommend Orange as the service, it is cheaper at the time of writing than Movistar/Telefonica) and pick a crappy cell phone for 20 euros. It will have some credit on it, so you can start to use it right away. You can recharge in supermarkets, at the phone store, and at the ATM once you have a bank account.

*Update: I found a couple of options you can set up ahead of time to have a Spanish number before you even arrive. Check here for information on purchasing a Spanish SIM card and unlocked phone (or dual SIM phone).

2. Take a bus tour of the entire city.

Barcelona Bus Turistic

Barcelona Bus Turistic

No really, I’m serious.

The big red double decker Bus Turistic right at Plaça Catalunya will take you all over the city with an audio accompaniment in your language of choice. I don’t recommend jumping off at the tourist spots—save those for when you have visiting family or friends—but use it to learn about all the neighborhoods in the city. This will likely take you all day, but you will learn some history and you will be miles ahead of those (like me) who failed to do this and struggled for months trying to find which barrio was right for me. This is a bigger deal than it sounds – see why in this post.

3. Start your house search

Take your computer to a café or free WiFi area and go to Loquo.com and begin your search for a place to live.

Even if you have rented a place for a month, start your search now. It is tedious and you need to get a feel for each area and what you are up against as far as finding a decent place to live goes. Open the site and peruse the photos, prices and areas and make some notes about which ones interest you. There are some listings in English but those will likely be the more expensive and agency placed ads. So use an online translator in a new tab and copy and paste the text to get the gist of what each place is like. If you are feeling bold, email a few of the best ones on your list with your name, phone number, a little bit about yourself and a suggested date to see the apartment.

Note: Beware of ridiculously low priced nice, furnished two or more bedroom apartments. These are scams. They will ask you to deposit money into a bank account and pick up a key without ever meeting anyone in person. You will never find the key, nor hear from the thieves again.

4. Sign up with Meetup and Internations

Meetup: There are tons of groups in Barcelona. Join a few and get out and meet some like minded people. There are plenty of expat groups, Spanish/English intercambios (language practice and exchange), various activities like yoga, networking, eating, drinking, photography, volleyball, hiking and activities you otherwise do not need to bring your own special equipment nor transportation for. You will likely meet your very first friends this way.

For networking and socializing with professional minded people, you’ll want to sign up for an Internations account. This is a great group that throws monthly networking events in fabulous locations. I’ve met many interesting professionals from these events.

5. Sign up for a Spanish course.

There are so many in Barcelona, most of which are very good, and you need to learn Spanish as well as meet more people in the area. The classroom is a great way to do it, plus your new friends can also help you with your house hunt. You can even get a year long student visa from certain Spanish schools. Contact me if you want to know more and I will put you in touch with someone.

I have been to four six seven different language schools in Barcelona and there is only one I recommend staying away from, and I can’t for the life of me remember the name. It is the one at the end of La Rambla (as in closest to the sea). In fact, I recommend staying away from anything on or near La Rambla unless you want to mingle with tourists, thieves, jaded workers and terrible food.

Your first day is complete, good job.

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