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12 reasons to live and work in Barcelona (for the average techie expat)

Barcelona

(I wrote the post 12 reasons to Live and Work in Barcelona originally for the BCNGit)

Barcelona is one of the most popular cities in the world, a tourist destination that has for at least 20 years – since the Olympics – enjoyed the reputation of a mediterranean urban utopia of sorts. It boasts sunny beaches, world class infrastructure and a relaxed, healthy and cultured lifestyle. Rooted in the catalan mindset, the city is just on a difference pace compared to the more hectic and stressful international capitals. Barcelona is also an infamous party destination, perhaps the number one in Europe. The city can be mentioned in the same breath as Rio, Ibiza, Amsterdam or Las Vegas, people come here for bachelorette and bachelor parties. A career minded tech professional might feel tempted to look into relocating to Barcelona. But just how feasible and productive is that exactly? As a dot-com guy who moved here from Amsterdam, choosing to pursue opportunities in Barcelona in spite of the economic downturns in the country, I think it there are a lot of opportunities to be productive and to advance professionally. Here’s 12 reasons why tech professionals should live and work in this amazing city.

 1) Olympic infrastructure

Port Olimpic - Barcelona

Barcelona is the last bastion of the Olympic City ideal, literally the last one. Since the catalonian capital was changed forever by the sporting event in 1992, no other city has experienced the same level of impact from hosting the games. A lot of today’s professionals that choose to live in Barcelona first became fascinated with the local “vision, mission and values” perceived when they were still children and watched the Olympics on television. It helps that the massive public and private investments were leveraged to offer local residents a permanent infrastructure that empowers the city to this day. A stretch of beach was built, thousands of permanent jobs were created, sports facilities are public and abundant, landscaped public spaces are plentiful.

 2) Everyone meets in Barcelona

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Barcelona hosts several important world class meetups, from must-attend international business and technology events like MWC, to music festivals like Sonar and Primavera and anything in between. The Sitges Film Festival is one of the coolest in the world, and sports events attract global attention. You will meet people in Barcelona, and people you know elsewhere will be coming here. In addition to the busy event calendar, there’s always the beaches, the city, the football matches and countless other attractions perennially inviting visitors. It’s an amazing city for networking internationally, because people all over the world have reasons to come here often.

3) Schools

Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya

There are a number of technology and business schools in Barcelona offering high level international programs that attract top notch international students, which in their turn help to bring in companies and investments. These include IESE Business School, home of the first 2-year MBA program in Europe (now running for almost 5 decades). There are many other excellent schools offering excellent programs including Business (like EADA Business School), Design (such as the Istituto Europeo di Design), and Engineering (with many respected courses at UPC/BarcelonaTech). These institutions attract amazing professionals and promising students, and in particular those that are interested in the other aspects of Barcelona like the Mediterranean lifestyle and the progressive culture. They have helped to foment a local expat culture that is larger and more interesting than what you see in many other international business cities.

4) Business Incubators

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Starting with our own Creative HotHouse here in the amazing Poble Nou district, Barcelona boasts a number of very successful business incubators, and there are huge opportunities for meeting mentors, coaches and investors. Backed by major interests that include global companies, the local government, the European Union and large Spanish corporations like Telefonica, there are several groups and spaces working to make Barcelona a staple of the tech industry. And many of the leaders fomenting this bustling local scene come straight for the Silicon Valley, so the experience and know-how to develop a productive startup culture are already here.  Some of the top initiatives include Barcelonactiva, E3 Union, and Startup Spain.

5) Affordable living

 

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Life in Barcelona is inexpensive, while still being luxurious enough. A lot of what makes live here so attractive is absolutely free of charge (the city itself offers world-class public facilities, for starters). The icing on the cake, newcomers learn quickly, is that things like quality restaurants, getaway weekends, shopping sprees and other activities that can cost a lot of money in a city like London are actually quite cheap in Barcelona. Rent prices are still sane – relocating from Amsterdam, my housing costs were cut by some 35% and never bounced back to what I used to spend in Holland. You also don’t need a car, in fact you don’t even need to own your own bike considering that Bicing (bike sharing) cards cost less than 50 EUR a year.

It’s true that salaries are lower in Spain, but then again so are your tax burden and cost of living. These lower salaries end up attracting investment and allowing companies to hire more often, so in the end of the day the lower pay works to everyone’s advantage. And it’s also true that both salaries and cost of living tend to rise in the future as the city becomes more and more established as a business hub, but that’s just more reason to relocate here sooner than later.

6) Cosmopolitan and friendly

 

The mix of cultures present in Catalonia is diverse enough to make anyone feel like they can belong. Sure, there are mild tensions with Catalan nationalism, but these aren’t violent as what you might see in other cities like Amsterdam or Berlin. Catalans are welcoming, and their nationalistic beef is with the Spanish, rather than with immigrants. It’s telling that in Barcelona you will see children of all races – European, African, Asian, American – speaking Catalan and growing up to be fully Catalan, while being racially diverse. You also see gay bars located right next door to mosques, and no one seems to have a problem. The division between immigrants (blue collar, working class) and expats (white collar, yuppies) is less marked here, and the atmosphere encourages integration.

7) Culture and Arts

 

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The holy trinity of modern Catalan painters – Miró, Dali and Picasso – is celebrated everywhere in Barcelona. But it doesn’t stop there, Catalonia in general and Barcelona in Particular continue to produce and attract some of the most interesting artists in the world. From a tech professional perspective, this boosts your quality of life, and the quality of your life experiences. It’s sure helpful to always have so many museums and fresh exhibitions to see, as well as public spaces with amazing art, rather than having to take your children to the mall for entertainment. Then there are the film and music festivals (Sonar, Primavera, Sitges, etc.), the Opera House, the theatre and the many venues that bring in some of the top performers and artists in the world.

8) Neighborhoods and Transports

 

Barcelona has a variety of attractive neighborhoods, in very different locations and at varied distances from the main touristic hubs and the city centre. An incoming tech professional looking for a suitable area to live in will find that many diverse ones will have everything they need, and personalities of their own. That aspect of Barcelona also help to keep rent affordable, as there isn’t a particular “hot” neighborhood where you have to compete for prices. The historic center itself with quarters like Gothic, Raval and Eixample, the booming beach-side startup realm of Poble Nou, the expat chic of Gracia, are just a few of the most famous options.

Getting from one neighborhood to another is refreshingly simple. Barcelona is blessed with sunshine and good weather most of the year, and the network of bike lanes is extensive and inviting. You’ll never really need a car, residents get around by bike, shared bike, bus, subway, inexpensive taxi rides, train, tram, skateboard, scooters, there’s even people on rollerblades.

9) FOOD!

Here you will enjoy daily grocery runs for fresh food (and also fresh seafood), maybe use the service of some cool food startups focusing on healthy and convenient food, finally switch to 100% organic food (it’s cheap and widely available here), drink the almost salty local fizzy water Vichy, commit carbicide at  Baluard Bakery, and just generally eat well and eat a lot. You won’t necessarily gain weight (moving between the United States, Brazil and Spain, I for one always get leaner in Spain).

The city is big on foodie culture, and the options here go well beyond jamon and paella. You can always find great food in the Mediterranean – what makes Barcelona special is that, unlike other Mediterranean cities, it offers a lot of excellent international cuisine (from burgers to vietnamese classics) as well as the local staples.

10) The Sheer Architectural Beauty

 

It’s not uncommon for architects to fall in love with Barcelona, a city that boats architectural works by greats like Frank Gehry and Van der Roe, and of course Gaudi. The modern city built on top of the Olympic dream has a symbiotic relationship with the 2,000 years of Catalonian history, and you will be strolling from a modern beach side complex into the winding medieval alleys of Gotic and the old center.

11) It’s easy to get here

 

Barcelona is one of the top destinations for low cost airlines, and there are plenty of routes to all major cities in Europe and beyond. Wether your roots are in the US, Africa far Asia and Oceania or in the southern cone of Latin America, there are enough routes and airlines coming to Barcelona for you to be able to arrange excellent deals most of the time.

12) The Weather

 

The sunny, almost perennially inviting weather in Barcelona is what ends up attracting most people that move here from abroad. Sure, there are minor tornados here and there, but I was on the beach sunbathing on January 1st this year, smack in the middle of wintertime! Try doing anything like that in Berlin or London.

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Thought Catalog

Old Hollywood: where men were manlier, the women were womanlier.

1. The Original Bad Boy: Marlon Brando

5 Old Hollywood Men We Need 2013 Versions Of

Sometimes categorized as ‘eccentric’, Brando was known for his crazy antics that were way outside of Hollywood norms. The man was probably certifiably insane. He was expelled from high school for riding a motorcycle through the halls, owned a private island off the Pacific coast, developed a weird obsession with congas, and used his Oscar as a doorstop.

It was as if he didn’t want to be famous — sort of like the Kristen Stewart conundrum — except Brando was actually wildly talented.

Brando was the perfect male specimen. For many women at that time, with his hunky roles in A Streetcar Named Desire and On The Waterfront, became the fetishized burly working-man who 2013 just hasn’t supplied us with.

2. The Original Cowboy: Paul Newman

5 Old Hollywood Men We Need 2013 Versions Of

Along with being ridiculously good looking, he was also…

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