Much of the adventure of a journey comes from immersing to a foreign culture whose traditions and customs may vastly differ from your own culture. Sure, facing the unknown can be very exciting. But too much of it is undesirable. You may say ignorance is bliss. Well, not always, especially if it means blindly stumbling around a different culture like a raging bull in a porcelain shop.
Whether you travel to Barcelona for pleasure or business, offending your host’s sensibilities is not a good thing. At best, your host may dismiss you as an insensitive or uncouth foreigner, which can damage personal relationships. At worst, your business partner may turn you down or, in some countries, even provoke violence if you walk on some respected local customs.
As all cities in the world, it also has its own customs that make it unique. And you will need nuts-and-bolts of information to survive and be accepted in the city. Here are some things that you should know before traveling to Barcelona:
Posters in travel forums on the Internet say that Barcelona people would rather speak English than Spanish to visitors. This is partly true, but not due to the political reasons many of you may think. If you are a foreigner and ask something in English to a person on the streets of Barcelona, and it happens that this person speaks English, then yes, he/she would probably prefer to speak English. In any case, this rule of thumb usually works: be polite and flash a beautiful smile.
There are no special customs in Barcelona regarding dress. With the exception of some places, very warm dresses are usually not necessary. So it is a good idea to check the weather forecast to areas you will visit beforehand.
When in the beaches of Barcelona, do not be scandalized – do no even stare! – to see women going topless as the women in the city are used to it.
Also, because nightlife and partying are a great part of Barcelona culture, you do not need to dress formally when you go to a theater or when having dinner. Its people are laid back and love to have some fun, so you do not have to worry about clothing.
Probably because of the great climate and the very long hours of sunshine in the city, people in Barcelona tend to wake up late in the morning and stay out late at night compared to the rest of their European neighbors.
Lunch and dinner
Lunch and dinner in usually starts later compared in other European cities. Most people usually have their lunch from 2 pm to 4 pm and dinner from 9 pm to 11 pm.
Tipping is a custom in Barcelona that you should not ignore. While virtually all establishments in the city include a service surcharge, it is common to leave a tip. Most of the high-end class restaurants in Barcelona charges 10% tax to the bill; while budget restaurants already incorporate it into the prices in the menu. In some restaurants, this additional fee does not cover the service charge yet. If this is the case, a tip of 5% is acceptable. The Spanish government, however, requires restaurants as well as hotels to already include the service charge – which goes about 15% – to the bill.
When taking the cab, an additional 10% of the fare shown in the meter is the usual tip for the driver.
Legend for Tourists
There is a legend in the city that if you drink water from the fountains close to the top of Las Ramblas, you will get to come back in Barcelona someday (so make sure not to miss this – and drink lots of it!).