Hola from Barcelona, Spain! Or I should really say from the province of Catalonia which many locals passionately differentiate from the rest of the country.
Although I have only been here a matter of weeks now, I definitely don’t have a shortage of topics to write about in this bustling, nocturnal city. The night life here cannot be further from my sleepy hometown of Adelaide. For every night of the week there is a multitude of unique and quirky pubs in which to enjoy a cerveza or mojito (or ten). This usually follows a few drinks enjoyed over a 10pm dinner, and precedes a night of dancing until the sun comes up. Seriously, going home at 4am is considered a short night! Although these night spots are in high demand, supply is bountiful, so event organisers are constantly jostling for your patronage. They will often entice you with free dinners or cheap entry – so make sure you sus out all the party Facebook pages and sign up for these to save your pretty pennies! Another hot tip: pre-drink with a 12 € bottle of Smirnoff to avoid paying the same price for a single (albeit free-poured) drink in the club.
Despite the huge night scene, Barcelona definitely cannot be described as a city that never sleeps. If you want a greasy burger or slice of pizza to soak up your red cordial after a big night out, you are all out of luck. Shops open for business in the morning are sparse, to the point that I once ordered a toasted tuna sandwich from a bakery – I don’t recommend it. This rule generally extends to all shops until about 10am, and even though Catalans generally don’t sleep the siesta, it is the norm for small businesses to close and take a 2 or 3 hour break after lunch. This relaxed mentality is pervasive in the culture, so don’t expect things to happen quickly either. What you may now call ‘fashionably late’ is probably regarded as ‘on time’ here… Come to think of it ‘punctuality’ probably has a different meaning in Spanish.
On the topic of language, you will know that Spanish is the second language in Barcelona, following Catalan. Don’t stress – everyone speaks Spanish and very few foreigners feel compelled to learn Catalan. On that matter, it’s not just the 15,000 expats that speak English – you will find it everywhere. This is of course very useful, but it also makes it quite difficult to practice your Spanish. If that is a central goal of your exchange, perhaps consider going to a different city or to South America!
An attraction to come here though is definitely Universitat Pompeu Fabra. The uni is rated the 12th best university under the age of 50 in the world, and it definitely has a lot going for it, especially if you are studying business. The exchange program is also huge, and is very well supported. I definitely recommend taking a Spanish class – not only are they fun, engaging and informative, but you will meet a number of like-minded peers who are also eager to improve their Spanish and experience all this amazing city has to offer!