Expats move to Barcelona not only for the lovely weather and sun-soaked beaches, but also to work in what has traditionally been considered an economically-powerful European city.
As one of the first European centres to industrialise, trade and industry have long been a part of the Catalan capital’s makeup. Manufacturing continues to play a major role in the economy of Barcelona, even though it was taken over by the tourism industry prior to the outbreak of Covid-19. Since then, tourism has taken a backseat, and other industries have grown.
The job market in Barcelona
Automobiles and appliance manufacturing are among Barcelona's main industries. Banking is also a major sector, and the city’s logistics industry is fairly large too, given its situation as a port city.
Barcelona has also become a centre for high-tech industry, with the greatest concentration of businesses found at the Parc Tecnològic del Vallès (Science Park of El Vallès) to the northeast of the wider metropolis.
Salaries in Barcelona tend to be relatively low, despite the rising cost of living. One possible exception is the tourism industry, which has in the past attracted record numbers of tourists. While tourism has occupied a large portion of the city's economy, and has also traditionally employed many expats, the coronavirus has put major strain on this industry.
Finding a job in Barcelona
Expats with experience and qualifications in the city’s leading business sectors are more likely to find a job that is able to sustain them, although this is no guarantee. Those who are looking for work in Barcelona should try their best to find a position prior to their arrival, but those who do arrive without a contract are sometimes able to fall back on jobs such as teaching English or working in one of the city’s many call centres.
Being able to speak Spanish or Catalan will give expat applicants an extra advantage since, while the city is accustomed to English-speaking tourists, these are the primary languages in which business is conducted. Expats who are able to speak a third language such as German will be at even more of an advantage since there is a fairly large foreign investment presence in the country.
When it comes to job hunting in Barcelona, though, it is often said that what someone knows is less important than who they know. The best resources for finding a job in Barcelona, for those without the necessary contacts, are through local English language media as well as online job portals.
Work culture in Barcelona
Spain's business culture is strongly rooted in tradition, and some business practices may seem old-fashioned to expats. Nevertheless, once they adjust to this, expats should find it relatively easy and pleasant to do business in Spain.
Hierarchy is paramount to business in the country. Spanish managers are autocrats of a sort, having the authority to make important decisions without consulting their employees. That said, the business culture is evolving, and those of a younger generation may uphold slightly different ideals and subscribe to more egalitarian practices.
Making contacts and networking in Barcelona is also important. The power of connections is not to be underestimated and is a principle ingrained in the Spanish working world. Expats should take advantage of any attempt to interact with decision makers and should make an effort to attend job fairs and group events.
It is also important for foreigners to learn at least some Spanish or Catalan. International business may be conducted in English, but other transactions will most likely occur in Catalan.
►For more on expat jobs and employment, see Working in Spain.
►See and Do in Barcelona gives a list of the city's best attractions.
"Getting a job is not easy, but it’s definitely not impossible. I think you more or less have to accept that at the beginning (if you don’t have any experience yet) you’ll end up doing a job you don’t love. I’ve always had the feeling that Spanish companies pay more attention to your experience than to your education, so it’s important to get that first experience. Now, I can finally say that I’ve been working for some years in a field that I do enjoy. I did have a call centre job which I loathed back in 2015, though." Learn more about Dutch expat Linda and her experience living on the outskirts of Barcelona.
"I would advise signing up with an agency to assist in finding a job. It is usually a bit harder to find a job here than it is in larger cities." Read about Dan, an American expat and his experience living in Barcelona.
Are you an expat living in Barcelona?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Barcelona. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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