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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Barcelona, Spain

Oct 27, 2014

La Barceloneta Beach in Barcelona

One expat who lives in Barcelona experienced very little culture shock when she moved there. She suggests that when you are open and sincerely interested in the people you meet and their way of life, you'll almost always have a great experience.

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


Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?


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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

I learned enough Spanish to get by with, and I keep learning.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

No, not at all

How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

To start with, there was none. As time went on I found out Spaniards have a different way of looking at punctuality. Nothing else negative to report.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

I don't think I ever went through any culture shock. Most people I met were very friendly and helpful. Particularly employees of City Council and similar places were nice, they spoke slowly for me and explained things properly. If it was culture shock it was definitely a positive one.

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

I still try to be punctual, but I accept the fact that Spaniards don't handle appointments and the beginning of meetings the same way I do.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

Friendliness, willingness to help, tortilla, gazpacho and sangria.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Spaniards, like most people from Southern Europe, love loud music, even late at night. I'm more a quiet person.

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

I wouldn't know. There may have been some.

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

I think culture shock is a different name for lack of information and too many or wrong expectations. It's all about how people interact with each other. If you walk up to somebody and show you are interested in them and their way of life, you will nearly always have a wonderful experience.

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Comments about this Report

Nov 5, 2014 05:34

Although I do not live in Barcelona proper (we are in a town in Barcelona province) I completely agree with the writer of this expat report on culture shock. My experience mirrors hers in that 99% of the people my husband and I have dealt with have been helpful and friendly. The only shock has been the cost of utilities and clothing. Not much you can do about the charge for electricity, gas and water; however, once you learn when and where to shop for other items (clothing, household goods, etc., you can control your costs.

Apr 27, 2015 04:10

Thank you for your comments. I agree lack of information and uncertainty certainly can create culture shock. Are you on a temporary assignment or do you plan to live here permanently? Since I am a recently retired expat, I was wondering if your experience is different.

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