I have fully immersed myself in the culture here and my experience has taken a 180. I spent my first few weeks hitting all the touristy spots and following guides from people who had studied in Barcelona in previous years. However, lately, I have been living like a local and absolutely loving my experience.
To start your day off as a local, you should give yourself 30 extra minutes in the morning to stop for a cup of coffee and small breakfast. “To go,” orders are not a very common concept in Spain and most places don’t even offer the service. My go to order is a café con leche, which as you can guess, is just espresso with steamed milk.
For breakfast, if you’re looking for eggs, you probably will not have much luck. A traditional Spanish breakfast is very small and can consist of a pastry or a small sub like sandwich with ham. This is definitely something that takes getting used to.
Next, you can get just about anywhere in Barcelona by bus, metro or walking. To fit in and ward off pickpocketers on the metro, keep your bags close and if you are wearing a backpack, swing it around and wear it in front for the ride. It feels ridiculous but all of the locals do it.
Lunch in Spain is later than in the States. People usually eat around 2:00. A traditional meal is served Tapas style where everyone at the table orders one or two dishes and shares. This is such a fun concept because it lets you try everything on the menu and is a very social experience. The more traditional places have a “Menu del Dia” which is a pre-set menu and the server just keeps bringing you items without having to order. Lunch goes until around 4:00.
Lunch kicks off what used to be referred to as “siesta” time, which today is just used as an extremely long lunch break. Most shops close during this time until 5:00, which leaves not much to do other than grab a coffee or drink with friends and sit at a table on the sidewalk. This is a huge part of Spanish culture.
For grocery shopping, there are so many fresh fruit, vegetable and meat markets in Barcelona. One stop shopping is not as big here. There are super markets but the more traditional way of grocery shopping is to either go to an outdoor market with vendors or go to separate shops for your meats, bread, and produce. When I have the time, I personally like to go to the big markets. The most known one is La Boqueria, but our Spanish teacher showed us one that is less touristy called Mercat de Santa Caterina. My roommate and I usually pick up prosciutto and cheese from the meat counter to eat while we cook since dinner is not eaten until 10:00. There are so many delicious Spanish dishes, but my favorite is Paella and it is actually very easy to make.
Living like a local has allowed me to slowdown and enjoy the city from a different perspective. No matter where you are studying abroad, I highly recommend putting down the guides, ditching the crowd and becoming a local.