5 Things Barcelonians Really Like & It’s Not Paella

A list of some things Barcelonians really love.

barcelona spain
PHOTO DESIREE CONSTANCE CHOY

Before arriving in Barcelona, I had my ideas about what Spain would have in store. Beaches, paella, long naps called siestas, sultry flamenco, and bullfighting were all on my list. While Spain is known generally for all these things, the past four months in Barcelona have revealed to me a different and much more tailored list. As the capital of Catalonia, a historically autonomous region of Spain, Barcelona has its own distinct language and history; just ask the natives, who will almost always identify themselves as Catalans, not Spaniards. With a mix of its deeply rooted Catalan culture and the broader traces of the Spanish lifestyle, Barcelona has become celebrated for its unique people and customs. With the help of my outgoing language exchange partner and Barcelona native, David, I have compiled a list of some things Barcelonians really like.

1. Wearing winter clothes when it’s nice outside

There’s an old saying here that goes “hasta el cuarenta de mayo, no te quites el sayo,” and it means that you shouldn’t put your coat away until May 40th. Puffy jackets, boots, and scarves are worn by natives well into spring, when temperatures range from 60-70 degrees. While this is t-shirt and jeans climate for most foreigners, Barcelonians seem to feel cold even in what many consider pleasant weather. David confirms my observation, adding that the Catalans are notorious for exaggerating their responses to unfavorable weather. Don’t be surprised when your neighbor exclaims that a flood is coming in the midst of infrequent Barcelona rain, which, in most cases, is no more than a drizzle. Since good weather here means upward 80s, it’s no wonder that Barcelonians keep their jackets on for a little longer.

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PHOTO DESIREE CONSTANCE CHOY

2. Bocadillos

Contrary to popular belief, not everyone is chowing down tapas and paella in Spain. According to David, natives of Barcelona almost never go out for tapas. More commonplace to the Barcelona diet is the bocadillo, a sandwich made with baguette – never sliced! – bread (sliced bread sandwiches, much less common, are called “bikinis”). Take a walk outside at lunchtime and you’ll be amazed to see the number of people munching on these simple sammies. Unlike those in the States, these sandwiches are minimalistic, with usually only filling. You can expect one thin layer of jamon (Spanish ham) or cheese between your hearty baguette, and rarely will you find both together. What makes bocadillos, enjoyed by the entirety of Spain, truly Catalan is the “tomate,” or tomato. To achieve the tomato element, you simply rub tomato halves along the soft sides of the baguette, until the juices have transferred onto the pillowy bread. Bocadillos are to the Catalans what PB&Js are to Americans, and David recalls having one every day alongside all his classmates during his elementary school years.

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PHOTO DESIREE CONSTANCE CHOY

3. FC Barcelona

How could you not love your home team, one that also happens to be one of the best in the world? Barcelonians absolutely adore FC Barca, and a game at the renowned Camp Nou will not only stun you with Lionel Messi’s godly talents but also charm you with the palpable devotion of fans from toddlers to seniors. Even more incredible is the passion they exude through their cheers and chants, most of which are in Catalan, not Spanish. There’s nothing like seeing otherwise serious men in work suits singing loudly and proudly and shedding tears for their team. Red and blue claim the streets of Barcelona, and the possession of Real Madrid memorabilia is not likely to end well for anybody.

barcelona spain
PHOTO DESIREE CONSTANCE CHOY

4. Enjoying life

And though sparing with money, Barcelonians are extraordinarily generous with their time. Barcelonians are not the hasty type, and nothing is so pressing that it can’t be addressed tomorrow. Though this mentality can put a damper on efficiency at times, it stands as a refreshing contrast to the often hurried, fast-paced American life I’m accustomed to. Here there is always time for hour long chats over coffee or a beer, and meals are slow and savored. Natives know how to make every hour count, and the infamous Barcelona nightlife serves as a prime example. It is custom to revel in every minute of the night, so don’t expect to go home until the crack of dawn. Despite his busy schedule, David manages to take the time to meet with me to teach me Spanish and divulge in week’s news and happenings. His ability to immerse himself in the moment at hand, without a single urge to check for texts or look at the time, makes this last aspect one of the most enviable traits of the Barcelonians.

barcelona spain
PHOTO DESIREE CONSTANCE CHOY

5. Being [extremely] frugal

When asked to name a distinctively Catalan quality, David replies, “being very cheap.” He explains to me that if given the choice between an exciting club that guarantees a good time and one that is less attractive and dingy, a Catalan will choose the latter, for the sake of saving a euro or two. Of course not everyone exhibits this frugality, but the tendency is notorious, noted even by my Spanish language workbook. Barcelonians are all for going Dutch, so come prepared to split the bill to the last dime.

Desiree Constance Choy

Desiree is from San Francisco, California. She is an actress, known for 13 Reasons Why (2017), I Won't Give Up (2014) and Dreality (2016).

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