1. It now feels strange to have a beer alone.
Every time I’d go to a bar and sit by myself, I’d end up invited into a group of ten people talking about FCB, music or the Sunday electric brunch at Montjuic. People here are so unbelievably friendly and sociable, that sitting alone is much harder than it is to make friends. The beauty of Barcelona is the ridiculous diversity of its characters — from a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who speaks perfect Catalan, to a Masters student in politics from Jerusalem and a filmmaker from Sweden — company there was extremely interesting.
2. I never wear flip-flops on Saturday nights.
Clubbing in Barcelona is huge. Regardless of whether I was a tourist hitting up Opium on a Saturday night or a local pub crawl guide, rules for party attire were strict. Ponytails on girls are frowned upon and flip-flops are avoided like the plague. Once I was out with a group of British guys, one of whom was asked by the bouncer to go home and change his flip-flops in for a smart casual outfit. Instead of risking social rejection, I now just limit the flip-flop radius to my apartment.
3. I learned how to turn leftovers into gourmet cuisine.
Whoever decided that cooking delicious food requires a ton of preparation and a dozen obscure spices, has never been to Barcelona. I can pull out a piece of stale bread, toast it, rub it with a piece of tomato, top with olive oil and have myself a delicious pa amb tomàquet in hardly any time. Whenever I had some jamón and cheese, I’d throw them on top for an extra rich bite. Leftovers in Barcelona are really a second chance to make something good, so I rarely ever throw out food now.
4. I can make a fantastic paella like it’s no big deal.
And I got the lesson gratis, too! The jist of it is to use all fresh ingredients, be liberal with the saffron, use good quality oil and put some elbow grease into it. I can now tell a good paella from a bad paella just by smelling it, and I always hover over whoever’s making it to make sure it’s exactly right.
5. I demand a lot from nature now.
For a city rat like me, having access to the gorgeous Mediterranean sea, which is surrounded by clean beaches was a huge treat. If you tell me I can also have a pristine, quiet mountain like Monserrat and an amusement park on top of a hill overlooking the city, then boy, I’m sold. As if all that nature isn’t enough, Barcelona throws in Montjuic, where I latched on to a group of joggers and got my health on every evening. Big city life plus the beauty and tranquility of nature – that city set the bar high.
6. I never go to the beach anymore.
Barcelona residents don’t generally go tanning at the beach, yet they all look perfectly bronzed. I guess it comes from whatever you’re doing — shopping, hiking, biking or having a beer on a terraza outside. Now the idea to go to the beach and barbecue my body for hours seems like a complete waste of time.
7. I expect to eat well for almost no money.
Barcelona has one of the most exciting and dynamic food scenes in all of Europe with chefs like Ferran Adrià and Marc Vidal. But the truth is, good food isn’t even expensive in Barcelona. From local cheeses and olives to cured meats and crispy, fluffy bread, I could throw together a great meal for less than €15. I even could find deals like €1 tapas at happy hour and outdoor markets that would give me free samples of crema catalana, sheep cheese, bread and olive oil.
8. I now ask to get things gratis.
Nobody likes to spend money in general, but in Barcelona, I actually got away with it and still had a great time. It’s all about who you know, so the simple approach of being kind and friendly there attracts the good karma of free drinks and patatas bravas. I even attended restaurant openings I would never have known about if it wasn’t for my social butterfly friend and went to concerts without spending a single Euro. Barcelona had me rethinking the value of and necessity for money.
9. I bump into people on the street because I’m too busy looking at architecture.
Never have I ever lived in such an architecturally exciting city as Barcelona. From homeboy Gaudí’s La Pedrera to the Moorish ruins and Modernista buildings, buildings are such a feast for the eye. Strolling through L’Eixample on a late summer afternoon makes me feel posh as hell, pretending I’m back in Modernista times.
10. I can navigate confusing areas like a pro.
Trying to find my way through the Gothic Quarter felt like being a cat, desperately trying to unravel a ball of yarn. Every narrow street looked the same at first and I felt utterly lost until it hit me — don’t look at the map as going up and down, use the sea as a point of orientation and go sideways. Once I figured that out, I pinpointed a few integral spots like Plaça Reial, the Picasso Museum, and Catedral de la Santa Cruz and used them as my guiding points. I use the same approach wherever I go now and never need to use Google Maps.
11. I’ve developed a whole new way of job hunting.
Unlike the United States — where I’d get an e-mail a week after applying to a position — I had to wait 11 days in Barcelona for a reply from a company, and that was just to schedule an interview. Their e-mail read “Sorry, we weren’t checking our inbox that week :)))” Once I even showed up for an interview only to find out that the position had been filled, but the CEO wanted to have a backup in case the new employee didn’t work out. What I learned from the whole experience is that if I really want a job, I have to network rather than apply and you always show up in person with a CV in hand.
12. I splurge on sugary goodies early in the morning now…
Churros, croissants stuffed with Nutella and magdalenas accompanied my café con leche oh, so well. The city’s pastelerias have me bouncing off the wall every morning, trying to decide what homemade pastry to indulge in and sometimes choosing way too many. My new nutritional philosophy is “screw protein and veggies, pastries in the morning are good for the soul.”
13. …and don’t understand why no one else drinks caña before noon.
Having a small beer early in the morning is totally acceptable in Barcelona. After all, isn’t a little refreshment just the right way to get the morning going before disappearing into an office for eight hours? I now preach this idea wherever I go and believe it should be socially acceptable everywhere in the world.
14. Summer to me is one giant festival.
Summer in Barcelona is pretty much one never-ending celebration. From Sónar to Pride, Sant Joan, Barcelona Rock Fest and Festival del Grec, there’s never a boring day in the city. Besides, 28 out of 30 days are sunny, with not a single cloud in the sky, which makes outdoor music shows that much better. I could never imagine spending the warm months somewhere rainy where people don’t carry huge floats around the street and toast with cava.
15. I try to negotiate the prices of food and drink.
The law in Barcelona prohibits stores from selling alcohol after 11pm, so my best bet was to hit up Plaça Reial with friends and buy a six-pack of Estrella from the vendors, always trying to bring the price down. Bargaining is not uncommon in Barcelona, where saying the magic words cinco por seis automatically buys an extra beer, water or samosa. I don’t ever settle for the asked price now because I know I can do better.