Working in Barcelona, Catalonia, for IT Engineers

First Published: .

Last Updated: 2022-04-03 Irish Standard Time

Note: This document is under construction

Society, Politics and laws

Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, a Nation with a strong desire of freedom, that wants to get the independence from Spain (which invaded militarily in 1714 and bombed the city many times since). Catalans are very different in small villages and in the city center, but me as Catalan, I think that we are nice but reserved, because we are used to be prosecuted just for being Catalans, so we people don’t earn our trust easily. However, if you make a Catalan friend, our loyalty is like family. This is related since medieval books already.

When we suffered the Spanish invasion in 1714, and later the invasion of dictator Franco with the help of Hitler and Mussolini, the Catalan language was forbidden, prosecuted, universities closed, Catalan Constitution removed, Parliament closed… but part of the freedom was recovered in 1975 when the fascist dictator Franco died. Most of the Catalan particularities were forced into assimilation to the Spanish model, however one interesting thing that was not changed was the Civil Right. That’s very important cause some laws survived and are different from the Spanish laws, and from most of the places in the world. One worth to mention is that our Civil Law gives us “Separation of Goods” (separació de bens), and that means, that if two people marry and one has 3 houses and €20,000 in the bank, and the other has €500 in the bank and nothing else, if they divorce, they’ll get exactly what they had. So individual A will keep their 3 houses and €20,000 and B €500. This is very different from the “Earning Goods” (bienes gananciales) in Spain, where if they divorce A and B would get exactly half of everything. When they get married is like everything goes to the common pool.

Must say that there are details, like if the partner leaves the job in order of take care of the house, they may get something in compensation, or if there are children, at least one house will be for the mother if taking care of the children, and the father will have to pay a pension to feed and take care of the children. Still, it seems to me much more fair that what I saw in most of the countries (even if in some they have pre-marital contracts).

The Catalan society is hard worker and loves to read and to study. We were compared often to the Jews, as an insult, by the fascist authorities in Spain during the dictatorship. For us it was not an insult. We were also called Polish, contemptuously, but again we don’t see being Polish as something negative.

One display of the passion for reading of the Catalans can be noticed by Sant Jordi’s celebration (Saint George), the 23th of April, which is a day in which girls gift a book to the men they love, and men gift a rose to the women they love, or they family or female friends.

The Castellers or Human Towers are declared World Heritage and have been present in many international celebrations like Olympic Games.

And the traditional parties in the villages have many books talking about them and are epic.

As Catholics, it is typical to have “el pesebre”, a recreation of the birth of Jesus, but our irreducible character have us to have particular elements like “el Caganer”, which became world wide famous few years ago.

Pesebre de Nadal

“el caga tió” is also typical, when the family meet and the children hit a log, and it poops gifts.

The love for Freedom and the defense of Human Rights has been a characteristic tread of the Catalan culture since it’s origins, around the 8th Century and the first bilingual dictionary known is Catalan-German German-Catalan. Catalans also invented the navigation code for ships that became universally accepted. Probably this love for Freedom is what makes Barcelona and Catalonia a place full of entrepreneurs and small business owners. It is said that “Catalans, from the rocks they make bread” (els Catalans de les pedres en fan pans) about the inventive we have to detect opportunities where others see nothing.

The 11th September is the national day, and is the day the Catalans remember that they fight to the end for their freedom that 1714, alone, against Spain and France troops, after a year of siege of the capital, Barcelona. That day every year, there are many cultural acts, and there is a demonstration for Independence that some years joined to 2 Million people, from a total population of 7,5 Million. You can visit parts of the city where there are still holes in the walls from the different times Barcelona has been bombed, at different ages, from Romanic era to 20th century.

My personal opinion is that the spanish government acts openly against Catalan economy, culture and language, and are always ruling against the decisions from Catalan Parliament (which was the first in Europe) applying a high degree of repression that they managed very well to hide using lots of economic resources. I think they act in the same way that many evil states did against national minorities. Nothing new. Just unfair.

About bullfighting, Catalan Parliament organized a referendum to forbid bullfighting in Catalonia. I volunteered in that legislative popular initiative, to get signatures, and I presented, with many more volunteers, the signatures to the Parliament. We won the referendum and we abolished the bullfighting spectacles, that to be honest are horrendous animal torture. The spanish courts overruled over our Parliament and people’s vote and forced the law that forbid the bull torture to be abolished. Citizens took another approach: nobody goes to these monstrosity primitive animal torture events, so these businesses cannot survive, even receiving subsidies from spanish governments. You can clearly view the cultural differences and cultural clash between spain and Catalonia in things like that. For spain bullfighting is culture, for us is savage. Many often say that the bull doesn’t suffer when is stabbed and killed… anybody outside of spain knows that this is BS. To understand this you have to understand that the fascism did a military coup d’etat in 1936 against the legitimate Republic, supported by the Italian and German fascists, that tested the psychological terror war bombing the Catalan population, and after Second War fascism was never eradicated from spain. The dictatorship lasted until 1975 when the dictator died, and in 1983 there was an attempt of another coup d’etat, with the military tanks in the streets… the history books explain histories about Catalonia having been always part of spain, when our nation existed much before theirs, and they have statues and mausoleums dedicated to fascists and to the dictator himself, nazis are legally protected as a minority and you can watch in public tv spanish politicians expressing their support and love to the bloody dictator. Something that would not be tolerated in any modern European democracy happens every day in spain. The spanish estate has lived in a bubble where they think they can do whatever they want, and politicians became indecently rich and use and abuse the citizens, and the justice from their tribunals is highly politicized and “the only justice” they recognize. They prosecute freedom of expression, and civil rights have been going backward and backward… the press is conveniently subsidized so they will never bite the hand that feeds them. But you can read about all of this in international press published in other countries.

You can see that clash as well if you talk about bullfighting or Catalan Independence. Most Catalans will talk calmly about these themes, and will respect any position and argument peacefully, but if you talk to a Spaniard about these, you’ll see a ferocious, visceral, reaction, or in the best case an uncomfortable blocking and refusing to talk about this. The roots of their history are based on lies and imposition and they cannot imagine their country without Catalonia. For them Catalonia is a possession, and Catalans are second line citizens, and a change in the status quo is a nightmare. Another clash you’ll find it in the monarchy. Catalans are openly anti-monarch and Republican.

As an expat Engineer in Barcelona you will enjoy a happy life and you will not learn about all of this unless you start to befriend locals.

If you do the effort to talk in Catalan, even if it’s just two words, locals will really appreciate it.

Weather

The weather in Barcelona use to be excellent. Sun is present from 7 in the morning to 20:00 almost all the year, and specially in June, July and August, people enjoy the beach.

It has a weather similar to California.

It rarely snows, but if you go to the North, near Pirineus mountains, you can see snow in winter.

Even if weather use to be excellent, with no wind at all, and few frequent rain, must be said that when it rains it rains. Rain can last 4 hours and more, and be very intense. Very often the semaphores (traffic lights) stop working in Barcelona when it rains.

The city

The city is very well designed with most of it being square islands similar in size. Is easy to drive as every street is two ways and you can go back by just turning right right right right or left left left left.

With a beautiful architecture thanks to genius like Antoni Gaudí, or Salvador Dalí (both put in jail for talking Catalan at different times) .

Sants street is the longest commerce way in Europe. they say, created by many small commercial stores. Many of them have been bought or replaced by Chinese, as the traditional owners could not afford the more and more higher rents for commercial locals in Barcelona. Still many resist.

Transport

The city has buses, metro, taxis, tram, bicycles that you can use paying a yearly sum.

Huber was forbidden by the Spanish government.

Taxis in Barcelona are very characteristics, all the same color, black and yellow. In the airport there is an official taxi stop, so don’t get to any random guy that asks you if you want a taxi. The taxi drivers are in a specific place and they will not go to you, as they expect you to go to them.

In the city you can stop a taxi just by raising your hand horizontally, but only the cars with a green light turned on are available, the other have a customer inside and will not stop.

Airports

Barcelona has a big airport (big compared to Cork, but small compared to London Heathrow). It has two terminal that are separated by 20 minutes car drive, so pay attention to which terminal you go.

The airport is known as “El Prat” airport. The Spanish government renamed it unilaterally to Josep Tarradellas in another silly attempt to make Catalans feel that they live in a colony ruled by Spain (Josep Tarradellas traded the Catalan independence to become President of the reinstated Catalonia’s self-government in 1977, after the dead of Spanish dictator Franco in 1975).

Traditions

Across the most than 1,000 years of history of Catalonia, there are many traditions:

Sant Jordi, where men gift a rose to their beloved women and women gift a book to their beloved men.

Castellers or Human Towers.

La Sardana, Catalan dance prohibited during the franco’s dictatorship.

Correfocs, diables, gegants, Sant Medir, els reis mags or reis d’orient, la verbena de Sant Joan…

Many music has been composed: la Santa Espina, UN’s hymn from Pau Casals, Lluís Llach’s l’estaca which was adopted by the Solidarnosk movement in Poland… some music famous instruments are: la flauta travesera, or la gralla from Valencian country which has a very especial sound. In Balearic Island they have a beautiful especial way to create and recite poems which is called: glosa.

The contemporaneous music is very alive with many high quality groups.

Local food

Catalonia has many farms and produce high quality food, and we really enjoy food.

Some of the typical dishes: Butifarra d’ou, fuet, secallona, esqueixada de bacallà, pebrots escalibats, truita de patates, calçots amb salsa romesco, crema catalana.

One typical food. “La calçotada”. Which is a social party, normally for lunch where we eat scallion/spring onions and meat cooked at the fire on the barbecue. We peel the external layers, and eat with a sauce called “romesco”.

Calçots, scallions grilled at the barbequeu
Butifarra d’ou (egg sausage, to eat like that)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzTg4Odf5hU

If you are in a Catalan typical restaurant you should try to drink with: el porró.

Population

Languages

We speak Catalan and Spanish. Knowledge of English amongst the population is not very good, with terrible accent.

During all the dictatorship Catalan was forbidden and prosecuted, so mine was the first generation to learn to write in Catalan. The language survived because families speak privately, hidden, at home. Talking in public would mean getting beaten by spanish police and sent to jail. Famous people that get beaten and detained for talking Catalan were: Antoni Gaudí, creator of the Sagrada Família (Holy Family church), and Salvador Dalí (famous painter).

Although when I studied all the lectures were taught in Spanish, except Catalan lecture, and all the books were in Spanish, I got a very good written dominion of Catalan.

I taught my mother to write in Catalan cause during the dictatorship it was forbidden and prosecuted and so she didn’t know.

When I compare Catalan and Irish languages, I see the same behavior between Spain (still) and England (then). Unfortunately Irish has been practically lost.

A note about this: after the fascist side won the war against the legal Republic, in 1939, the dictator forced famine mostly in the South of Spain to force the population to emigrate to Catalonia and the Basque Country. In Catalonia there was around 1 Million and half of surviving Catalans, and Spain sent 2 Million of Spaniards. With the Catalan forbidden and prosecuted, the Catalan teachers sent forcefully to live in Spain so they could not teach Catalan, it is a miracle that Catalan still exist. Can only be explained because we are stubborn, we love our language and culture, we are resilient and don’t want to lose it, and also Catalans mostly helped all these people that came and were very poor, and as these people were nice and honest, they learned the language and taught it to their children too. But the society now is heavily mixed, and with the laws coming from Spain, to force 25% of Spanish in the schools despite our Parliament’s different will, the pressure to reduce the budget of our public TV, most of sources of entertaining like Netflix coming in Spanish, the Catalan not being official in European Parliament because Spain doesn’t want… the social usage of the Catalan language is going backwards and backwards, near the no return point according to the experts. It is clear for most of the population of Catalonia that if we want to save the Catalan and live being respected, with freedom, our taxes used to our benefit… like in any normal, advanced, democratic country of the world, we need to become independent and create the Catalan State. That’s why the Spanish state sent the spanish police to charge against voters, when we celebrated our referendum, and they were desperately stealing the bailout boxes while Catalan citizens built human walls to protect our right to vote, our right to become independent, our freedom. Even with their brutal efforts, the referendum was massively won by the pro-Independence. That’s why a referendum is not allowed by the Spanish State. But the Spanish State and the spanish king congratulated, gave medals and bonus salary to those police and paramilitary guardia civil that charged against elder, women, children… that in any democratic world would had been sent to prison for crimes against humanity. This time all the world saw it. Catalans loved Europe before seeing how they inhibited themselves and gave support to Spain.

Nobody that was in a school, converted into a voting station, holding together expecting the spanish police to break the metal doors and to enter hitting everybody, in order to steal the bailout boxes with the votes, like we have seen in our mobiles, at any moment, could forget that feeling of knowing that we were going to be hit hard, brutally, at any moment. Nobody leaved. We stayed to protect the bailout boxes. Nobody can forget the feeling of being resisting peacefully, for the right to a better future. And we knew that if we got raided, with our peaceful resistance, becoming human walls that do not allow the aggressors to pass through, we would buy time for other schools not be raided. They raided few schools only because they didn’t have enough police, even having sent thousands from Spain, to face that pacific resistance. They spent so many time trying to enter in the schools, looking for the bailout boxes, that were cleverly hidden. We, like all the good people in the world, deserve to live in peace.

When my Irish friends ask me how different are Catalan and Spanish languages, I explain that Catalan and French are more similar than Catalan and Spanish. Catalan, French, Italian, Spanish… all derive from Latin language. As in the school we learn Catalan, Spanish, some French, English, Latin and Greek, in general Catalans learn languages, specially these coming from Latin, very easily.

Many ask if knowing Spanish, it is necessary to know Catalan, in order to live in Barcelona, or if Spanish is enough. The answer is that if you talk Spanish you don’t need to talk or understand Catalan to live in Barcelona, the same way you don’t need to understand or talk German in Berlin if you talk English. However, if you study in the university or if you go to some villages of Catalonia, you should understand Catalan. It is very violent when there are 98 Catalan students in a university Catalan class, with the lecture defined as in Catalan language, and one or two international students request to switch the lecture to Spanish cause they don’t understand Catalan. Often the university imposes to the Catalan students that registered in a Catalan lecture, the change to Spanish, with no refund. Is another form of oppression and human rights violation.

Catalonian public servants have the obligation to attend you in Catalan or Spanish. Although many will continue talking to you in Spanish when you address to them in Catalan. The Spanish police and paramilitary guardia civil don’t know Catalan and is not unusual to have problems with them if you address to them in Catalan. Some cases of people being forced to speak in Spanish by spanish police, and being sent to jail after refusing, are unfortunately not atypical. From time to time you can read about these things in the press.

Being a foreigner, some Catalans will continue talking to you in Catalan when you speak to them in Spanish, and that’s because they don’t discriminate you, they treat you as an equal, and because they love Catalan and they are aware of if all of us switch to Spanish, new people will not talk in Catalan and the language will be lost. If you tell them gently, “I don’t understand Catalan yet, can you repeat slowly please?” they will repeat slowly 2 or 3 times if necessary, and maybe will tell the phrase in Catalan and in Spanish, so you can learn.

While others will talk to you in Spanish even if you talk to them in Catalan (being their mother tongue is Catalan), that’s because we have suffered a lot of violence and oppression and we have been insulted continuously telling that talking Catalan to non-speaking is rude, so they feel shy, guilty, ashamed to speak to a foreigner in Catalan. So it’s usual that in a circle of 20 people talking Catalan, when another person arrives, and speaks Spanish, all the 20 switch to talking Spanish automatically. And if somebody does not switch, they will be told that they lack education. It has happened to many colonies, that the empire made the locals feel ashamed of their language, culture, traditions and folklore. So if you speak in Spanish to a friendly Catalan don’t take it wrong. They are helping you to learn it. If you are rude or you tell them that they must talk to you in Spanish, that will be rude, and they will not talk to you anymore. You would not tell to a Swedish that is rude to talk in their language in their country. Same logic applies. As a Catalan speaker, you find that many workers in Barcelona don’t speak or understand Catalan, and they are unable to serve a “cafè amb llet” (flat white) despite Spanish “café con leche” is very similar. Can you imagine being a French living in France and when asking for a “café au lait” in a cafe, being told by the server that they don’t understand, and that they don’t talk French?. In Barcelona, Catalans often heard aggressive answers from the Servers telling “talk in Spanish, this is Spain”. Don’t be surprised then, about why the support for the Independence is so high in Catalonia.

If you want to learn Catalan, you’ll make a lot of friends. You can check “parelles lingüístiques” which are volunteers that will meet with you for a coffee once per week, to help you to learn Catalan for free, and you’ll make lots of friends.

Currency

The currency is Euros. The format of the currency is 10,50€.

In Ireland it is used the mask €10.50.

Date Format

A mask of DD/MM/YYYY is used. For example 29/’1/2022.

The 24 hour format is used, like 23:00 to express 11PM.

Religion

Religion is Catholic, but mostly only old people practice.

Abortion is legal since 2010.

airbnb and hotels price

The controversial mayoress has forbidden airbnb in Barcelona. It is only allowed to rent a room, but not the entire flat.

Hotels prices range from €110 to €175 per night, except when the city is full and prices double or triple. For example for the Mobile World Congress.

Price of the rent

In the recent years rent has increased a lot.

In the year 2020 a flat with furniture, 5 years old new, 80 square meter in a middle class zone, can cost around €1,200/month.

English and expats

Well, it’s a shame. In Barcelona few people talk a decent English or even understands it.

You better print the address of the places you go to show to the taxi driver.

Salaries for IT

Barcelona is one of the most attractive places in Europe for IT.

A low cost of live compared to major cities like Berlin, London, Edinburgh, Cork or Dublin, and salaries very high for IT, with the excellent weather, a market of 40 millions Spaniards and 7.5 million Catalans (around 10 if we count Catalan speaking zones in the Meditarrean sea).

The minimum inter-professional salary is (updated to Jul 2019) €1,050 net per month.

Salaries for a Senior Software Engineer with 5 years experience will range between €35,000 and €65,000 gross per year. Most of companies provide an optional bonus too.

€55,000 gross per year is approximately €3,267 net per month within 12 payments in a year.

Stocks

Internet

Internet is decent, most areas of the city have Fiber and in some places they have 1 Gbit/s connections.

In some places far from the core of the city only DSL arrives.

Office Material

The paper we use here is Din A4, like in Ireland.

Buying Hardware

Barcelona is full of Hardware stores. There is one street where they are concentrated, is called Sepúlveda street.

The power plugs have two round holes, are not like the Irish or UK ones.

Security

Barcelona is a very unsafe city for their relaxed laws about re-incidence of pick pocketing and stealing amounts under 300 €.

There are people with more than 500 detentions for stealing in the metro that never went to jail.

Fights happen some times with criminals attacking citizens trying to steal using brutal force, although most of them will try to avoid using violence and just pick pocket as crimes with violence falls into another level, with more severe punishment at justice level.

Laws are very relaxed with criminals and popular voices tell that this is intentional by the governments to make the citizens live in fear.

I don’t recommend you to walk with a visible laptop bag in the city center, as you’ll attract the attention of criminals operating there.

The news media do huge efforts to hide the names of the criminals, so locals do not associate criminals with country of origin.

The only positive thing is that attacks with fire weapons are highly unusual and police normally is highly effective capturing the criminals very quickly.

Barcelona was a target of jihadist terrorism, and Catalonia and Barcelona have been labeled to be a salafist city by experts. A former senior officer in Spain’s National Police Corps has said the 2017 terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils were organised by the country’s secret service in a bid to destabilise Catalonia before the independence referendum. The Spanish government keeps denying the requests for an investigation about the secret service involvement in this terror attack.

Police

There is the spanish police: “policía nacional” and the paramilitary spanish “guardia civil”. There is the local driving police “guàrdia urbana” in Barcelona and villages have “policia local”.

At Catalonia level there is the Catalan police “mossos d’esquadra”.

Only mossos d’esquadra, guàrdia urbana (part of them) and policia local (normally all of them as they are born in the village usually) understand Catalan.

The spanish police is sent from spain, are not born in Catalonia.

Nightlife

Dangers/Terror histories/Bad experiences

There are many to tell, I’ve pending explaining seeing thieves in the airport, fake taxi drivers offering their services, pickpockets in the center, assaults in the city center, skinheads robbing in the metro… don’t ever leave your belongings unattended. Don’t leave your laptop unattended in the cafe while you go to the bathroom.

Big cities have big problems.

LGTB+

Barcelona is a LGTB+ friendly city. Culturally the Catalan population believes that everybody should do with their life whatever they want and affection is displayed openly on the streets and accepted. Culturally, Catalans dislike racists and sexists. I think our culture is mostly nice with diversity and we welcome expats.

Restaurants

Those are my recommendations.

La parra

I come here since I was a child

http://restaurantlaparra.cat/

Santamasa

http://www.santamasarestaurant.com/

Centric 35

Unfortunately this restaurant is closed. They could not make it through covid lockdowns.

Is from a good friend of mine 😊 The Cheff and owner. If you tell Oriol that you’re a friend of Carles he will be very happy.

https://www.tripadvisor.ie/Restaurant_Review-g187497-d3635494-Reviews-Centric_35-Barcelona_Catalonia.html

https://restaurantcentric35.business.site/

Clarius (Catalan-French cuisine)

https://hedofoodia.blogspot.com/2019/05/clarius-restaurant-barcelone.html

Can Xurrades

http://www.canxurrades.com/


1881 per Sagardi

Restaurant and terrace in the Museu d’Historia de Catalunya
Plaça de Pau Vila, 3, 08003 Barcelona
At the top of the Museum of History of Catalonia you can enjoy a restaurant, a coffee bar, and a terrace for having cocktails. The terrace is a cityview where you can see all the port and part of Barcelona. Is very beautiful at nights. There are few tapas bars and pubs and open discos just down next to the Museum’s entrance.

http://www.mhcat.cat/la_visita/mirador_restaurant/restaurant_1881

The museum is very interesting too.

1902 Cafe Modernista

Next to the Recinte Modernista Museum, you can have tasty tapas with beautiful views and after going to the museum.

Carrer de Sant Antoni Maria Claret, 167 | Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau, 08025 Barcelona
(st Sant Antoni Maria Claret, 167)


https://www.tripadvisor.ie/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g187497-d6503265-i137778634-1902_Cafe_Modernista-Barcelona_Catalonia.html

The terrace is owned by the restaurant which is inside, and is very nice, and the menu looks amazing.

Iconic places in Barcelona city

Sagrada Familia from Gaudi.

F.C.B. Football Club Barcelona stadium “Nou Camp”.

Nearby Iconic places

Monserrat, has unique type of rounded mountains. And on top, in the church, there is “la Moreneta” which is a figure of the Mother of Christ, which is black.

Activites

Social Security / Hospitals

Social Security is universal. Everybody is attended in the hospital, for free.

The spanish governments have been reducing the budged from the public health in favor of the military and to bailout the private banks with public money, and they have been undermining the Catalan health system, the free resources and the salaries of the professionals to the point that many emigrate. Thanks to the love of the professionals working in health, free health care is still a very good service.

There are also private hospitals, of course, and they will operate you faster, so a private medical insurance could be convenient for you. The healthcare insurance companies are called “mútua”.

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