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Expat Advice: Moving to Barcelona, Spain

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What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Barcelona

Name three things that you wish you had brought and three you wish you had left at home.

The only thing I should have brought is my patience! Everything here (compared to the UK) seems to take forever, especially when it comes to business matters. There are queues everywhere and the Spanish seem to take it in their stride to stand around for hours just waiting - can be very stressful.

I wish I'd left my espresso coffee maker behind as I have not used it since I arrived and always take my coffee out in a bar (Spanish style).

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What advice would you give someone preparing to move to your area about the actual move, choosing a neighborhood and finding a home?

If they are coming from a prosperous Western European city or the States, I would say they should expect a much lower level of quality in customer services and professionalism in the working environment.

Barcelona is great if you can party and sunbathe all the time and not worry about work and earning a good salary.

Choosing a neighbourhood depends on the kind of lifestyle you want to live - Barcelona is one of the most densly populated cities in Europe so negative side is noise, pollution and small living spaces. Plus side is you can walk everywhere and always plenty of places to go out and eat and shop. Suburbs are quieter but more expensive, the wealthier Catalans choose to live in the hills looking down on the city (and the smog).

What type of housing do you live in? Is this typical for most expats in your area?

We live in a flat on the top floor of a 160 year old block in a working class neighbourhood in the centre of the city (equivalent to Soho in London). It doesn't have a lift but we didn't want to have noise above us as well as below - Barcelona is the noisiest city in Europe (fact). Don't know about other expats as hardly know any - difficult to get to know people in this city.

How did you choose your neighborhood and find your home or apartment?

Came over to look at properties to buy and having visited Barcelona all my life (my father is Spanish) pretty much knew where to look. Made up our minds after seeing 5 flats. We bought it through a wellknown local estate agency - too much red tape to try and do it privately, although many Spanish natives buy direct from sellers to cut out some of the (high) costs associated with buying property over here.

Are your housing costs higher or lower than they were in your home country? What is the average cost of housing there?

To buy a similar property in London would be around double and rates in the UK are very high. However, the costs involved in buying a property here is very expensive compared to UK, for example, an estate agent here takes 10% commission compared to 1.5% in UK. Stamp duty here is 7%, in UK it is only payable on properties over a certain level and even then is only around 2%. Capital Gains Tax is also payable on selling property here, even if this is your only residence, unlike UK. Therefore buying and selling property in Spain is not a fast way to make money, unlike in UK.

Otherwise, most other things here are cheaper, like utitilites (except telephone which is very expensive). Barcelona has become very fashionable in last few years and prices have risen dramatically, and cost of living is way out of balance with average salaries which are 50% - 75% lower than London.

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