Expectation vs Reality on Moving to Barcelona


As I officially hit the two-week mark in Spain next week, I thought I would talk about something we are all guilty of when making a major life change, even more so when moving abroad - setting unrealistically high expectations. Whilst I am still very much stuck in limbo between London and Barcelona, my first two weeks here have given me an avant-goût of what to come. I am sure I might feel differently in the next months or so, but I wanted to capture how I felt on week 2. This is also a good opportunity to share some obvious (and less so) reminders to all my fellow/ budding travelers out there not to get too caught up on expectations as they often turn out to be utter nonsense.

Expectation – Everything Is Cheaper in Spain

Reality - This statement really ought to be nuanced! First of all, depending on which country/city you are moving from this can be true or utterly irrelevant to you. I, personally, moved from London where things are relatively expensive and I still don’t think that’s a fair statement.

Let’s take the cost of housing for example, I guess if you are looking for a single room in a three/four bedroom flat share you can find something around 500 euros/month in the city, which is cheaper than in London. However, if like me you’ve done your fair share of sharing and are looking to rent a flat to yourself, then things can be a lot different. On average, a two-bedroom flat around Barcelona (not in the city center) won’t cost less than 950-1000 euros a month excluding bills. On top of that, you will often be required to pay up to two months’ rent in advance (as deposit) when signing the contract, plus agency fees in some cases.

Then again, transport here I must say is way cheaper than in London where I was paying over £200 a month from Zone 4 to Zone 1. In Barcelona, since the city is a lot smaller I only need to get a travel card that covers Zone 1, and you can get a T50 (50 journeys) for a fraction of what I used to pay in London. As for food, eating out, going out etc. it can be a lot cheaper depending on where you go.

Expectation – People Work Less in Spain

Reality – So let’s get this straight, some shops, banks, local authority buildings etc. do close at 2pm and re-open (or not) later in the day but for anyone looking for a corporate job in a Spanish or international firm you will be expected to work from 9am-6pm. Just like in London, people also tend to stay in the office late or come in early so forget about working less.

Expectation – I Will Do Even More Outdoor Activities Since It’s Warm (I am talking daily runs on the beach etc.)

Reality -  Wrong, wrong and wrong, for me anyway. I usually love running outside, but I found running in Barcelona unbearable to be honest. The humidity is a killer. I am usally quite good at running weekly and a 10k run doesn’t faze me anymore, but here it’s a different story. I recently ran a 7k run, in Madrid, and I seriously thought I wasn’t going to make it and it's not even Summer yet! Don't even get me started on running on the beach, it all sounds a lot more glamorous than it really is. Kudos to everyone out there doing it though!

One piece of advice when moving abroad, especially to a warm country, is to consider your tolerance to heat – mine is clearly super low. I am hoping it will eventually get better as I get used to it, but for now the plan is to sign up to an indoor gym.

Expectation -  I Will Go to Spanish Classes Every Day And Become Fluent/or At Least Have A Good Command of Spanish Within Weeks

Reality – Sadly, I am slowly realizing that this is not very likely to happen. As much as I want to pick up the language, after a full day at work the last thing I want to do is go to Spanish classes. One advantage I had when I learnt English as an au pair a few years back, was that I had plenty of time to go to English classes when the kid I was looking after was at school. The reality is a lot different now, juggling between work and everything else is not always that easy. Even watching TV in Spanish gives me headaches.

So, the plan on this one is to be patient with myself and slowly incorporate more time to learn Spanish. The good thing is, at my work place most people speak Spanish among themselves so I am hoping that somehow, subconsciously, my brain is picking up a few Spanish words everyday without me realising – we can all dream!

Expectation – I Will Spend Every Weekend Out And About Exploring The City

Reality – Who did I think I was when I thought this one would even be remotely feasible. On a sunny day in London I love spending time at home doing my things so how did I think I would studently become this girl who loves spending all her time out and about, casually taking pictures and exploring the streets of Barcelona. Ain’t gonna happen.

Expectation – I Will Totally Reinvent Myself

Reality -  The above leads me nicely onto this one. We are all familiar with the saying “New Year, New Me” right? For me, it was more like “New City, New Me”, again I was adamant that I would totally change everything I ever been over the past 28 years, just because I was moving away. I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions about moving abroad. I don’t think moving can change who you are, it can enhance your quality of life, change your perspective on things, help you grow but ultimately, it can’t change you.

Expectation – It Will Easier For Me Since I Have Relocated Before

Reality – Again, I couldn’t have been more wrong on this one. Yes, I did relocate 8 years ago but it was a totally different experience. I was 19 at the time, I was moving for different reasons and I was at a different stage in my life.

Each experience is different, that applies for yourself or somebody else’s experience. This is why it’s important to always keep an open mind when embarking on a new journey and refrain ourselves from setting rigid expectations, and instead spend more time enjoying the ride.

If Like Me You Live Outside Your Home Country- What Did You Learn When You Moved Abroad?