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8 differences between the USA and Barcelona

map of the world with pins in it

Map of the world | Photo by Andrew Stutesman on Unsplash

As you probably know, both the USA and Spain have a western culture, but there are still some interesting differences. Barcelona is located in Spain, more specifically in the region Catalonia. This amazing area of Spain comes with its own culture, demographics, history and lifestyle. The USA has its own culture as well, formed by history and several immigration waves. If you are planning to visit the fantastic city of Barcelona it can come in handy if you are familiar with some of these fascinating differences between the USA and Barcelona.

Food & restaurants

You might be used to getting your food at drive through places and so eating a lot of fast food. In Barcelona you will notice quickly that people like to sit down in restaurants and really enjoy having dinner together with their friends and family. Tapas, a lot of different small Spanish dishes combined, is a typical Spanish way of shared dining. A lot of restaurants in Barcelona offer a lunch menu of the day, ‘menu del dia’, which often contains a starter, main course, dessert or coffee and a drink. At most restaurants this menu will cost you only between €10 and €15! Be aware that the Spanish people have dinner at about 10:00 PM, so many restaurants will open around 08:00 PM. There might be some ingredients you will be surprised by when you open the menu in a Spanish restaurant. In some paellas there will be rabbit meat, or you can even find snails on the menu. These odd ingredients might be explained by the fact that “the word” ‘Spain’ means ‘land of the rabbits’.
The average restaurant bill can be lower than you are used to because food and drinks are less expensive in Spain than in America. For example, a coffee in the US costs around $6, while in Barcelona you can grab a great coffee for around €2. Tipping is less common in Spain, but if you leave a tip this will be very appreciated of course. You might notice that at an average restaurant, the service might be less attentive than what you are used to, but this can be explained by the fact that the waiting staff in Barcelona mostly do not rely on tips.

plates of tapas food on a table

Tapas | Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

Walking/public transportation instead of cars

You are probably used to taking your car almost everyday. In Barcelona the distances are more walkable so prepare well and bring shoes that are comfortable for this higher amount of walking you will do. The metro, bus and tram are great ways to get around the city. Almost all the main important sights that Barcelona has to offer are reachable within zone 1 of the public transportation system in the city. Public transportation in Barcelona is reliable, however, if you would like the comfort of a car, there are several options such as Uber, Cabify or taxi. Renting a bike is also a fun way of exploring the city.


While in the US in a lot of areas your personal belongings are pretty safe, this is slightly different in Barcelona. You might be used to walking around with your phone and wallet in your hands or pockets. At crowded places in Barcelona, such as the main tourist attractions and the subway, you should be very aware of your surroundings to prevent your personal belongings from getting stolen. The pickpockets in Barcelona use techniques such as distractions or bumping into you to steal wallets, phones and other valuable stuff.

Street sellers

One more thing you are probably not used to is people trying to sell you stuff on the streets and at the beaches. In popular tourist areas like La Rambla and the Gothic Quarter, the street sellers often try to sell souvenirs, sunglasses or fake bags, sneakers and soccer jerseys. Bargaining with these street sellers is common in Barcelona, especially in flea markets and areas where the amount of tourists is high.


While in the USA a lot of different sports are very popular, in Barcelona the citizens are mainly focussed on soccer. The world famous soccer club FC Barcelona, has a huge fanbase. Fans in Barcelona are mainly focussed on La Liga while iIn the US there are big fan bases for professional teams in different sports. A sport that’s specifically popular in Spain is padel, and the popularity of this sport is spreading over Europe in the last few years. Roller skating is not common in the US, but in Barcelona it is a very popular way to get around the city. Barcelona is also very suitable if you are a fan of running, because of its beautiful boulevards around the beach and nice parks.

The camp nou soccer stadium of FC Barcelona full of FC Barcelona fans

Camp Nou filled with FC Barcelona fans | Photo by Shai Pal on Unsplash


Obviously, in Barcelona the main language is not English. But it’s also not Spanish, it’s actually Catalan. The locals do speak Spanish though, but a lot of them speak only very little or no English. So, being able to communicate in English is not guaranteed in Barcelona. This might be different from what you are used to, so it can really benefit you if you know some basic sentences. More importantly, the local people will appreciate you trying to greet them in their own language. For example, try to greet people in Catalan with ‘bon dia’ in the morning, and ‘bona nit’ in the evening.

Affection in public

People are showing way more affection in public places like the metro and the park than you might be used to in the USA. Holding hands and kissing in public is considered normal and is not criticized in Barcelona. In Spanish culture the attitude towards public affection is more relaxed because this public affection is seen as an expression of close bonds with family and friends. A great example of this is that people greet each other with kisses all the time, also when you meet them for the first time.

Houses/going out

In your life in the USA you are likely to be used to hanging out at home. You might be very focussed on your house, making it comfortable and having all the facilities you need. In Barcelona people go to bars instead of inviting friends to their home. This habit is also caused by the houses here being very tiny and noisy. That’s why the citizens of Barcelona would rather go out to a nice bar than invite a lot of people into our small living spaces. When you go out, be aware of the fact that the people get dressed up more than in the USA. For example, you won’t see Spanish people walking outside in sports clothes often.

a person preparing a cocktail on the bar

Cocktailbar in Barcelona | Picture by LicorBeirao on Pixabay

While both cultures share common Western roots, the small differences and unique traits of Barcelona make it an exciting experience to explore this city and its rich culture. Understanding and embracing these differences will help you to make the most out of your visit to the amazing city. From dining habits and transportation choices to popular sports and social behaviors, after reading this blog you have gained these valuable insights for your trip to Barcelona. For more cultural facts and things to do in Barcelona, follow us on Instagram and Facebook!