Barcelona Field Studies Centre

Student Survival Guide: Spanish and Catalan Culture

Their infrequent use is aimed at thoughtless and selfish motorists where everyone joins in to make their point. Regard this as a much more acceptable form of road rage!

The people of Barcelona are generally very friendly, non-aggressive, calm, helpful and generous, particularly with their time. To most, maintaining enduring relationships is more important than the desire for more and more material wealth. Outside the tourist heart of the city, which many Barcelonans prefer to avoid, you can expect people to come up to you in the street offering help if you are looking lost. In the tourist areas, however, be on your guard with such approaches - which are unlikely to come from the Spanish themselves. Barcelona is one of the safest European cities in terms of serious crime. However, muggings of tourists involving little or no physical contact are a problem, one fortunately not experienced by our groups to date. It is safer to avoid any unnecessary contact with strangers in the tourist zones if you wish to avoid the risk of losing your money and possessions. For male students the approach may be a friendly discussion about the merits of Manchester United, followed by a mock tackle in which balance is lost and money taken from the back pocket. Leave all except essential spending money in your hotel room safe. Carry a photocopy of your passport, not the real thing. The hotel will stamp the back of the photocopy. Do not use pavement cash dispensers. Do not buy flowers from wandering street sellers; be particularly wary if they try to insert a flower into your lapel. Walk away immediately. Don't worry about appearing to be rude in such circumstances. If people come up to you pointing to a stain on your clothing, ignore them and walk away. Do not participate in the card and dice games which you will see on the streets. Do not walk down deserted or badly lit streets after dark. Other specific advice will be given upon arrival at the hotel. Forewarned is forearmed - enabling you and your group to avoid being cheated and return home safely without incident.

See Barcelona Street Scams website - something of an overreaction to what is in reality a wonderful city.

The Spanish, on the whole, wait until the green pedestrian light indicates it is safe to cross the road. Please follow the same behaviour. When the green light flashes, you have only a few seconds in which to reach safety and this is the signal for the motorcycles to move. Be warned! Please remember that traffic drives on the 'wrong side' of the road. This involves you looking to your left, not your right.

People in Barcelona are particularly well dressed. Try and fit in by not, for example, wearing items in the city more suited to the beach.

Spanish males maintain eye contact for what seems an uncomfortably long period, particularly for female visitors. This is normal.

In the smaller souvenir shops, there are often two prices - a tourist and 'local' price for items. You will need to bargain in a friendly manner to achieve the lower of the two. Music CDs are one of the bargains to be had. Try FNAC in Placa Catalunya.

Try and use a little Catalan or Spanish during your stay. Barcelonans usually have an excellent command of English, will understand what you are saying, but will not use it when talking to you. Their view is that when they are in England, they are required to speak English - the reverse should apply when the English are in Spain.

Queue-jumping for purchases is treated with great indignation. Queue jumping for information is frustratingly normal.

Apart from in supermarkets and and large department stores, self-service in Spain is not normal. Please ask before opening, for example, the ice cream or cold drink cabinet. Failure to do so is regarded as rude at best and attempted theft at worst.

During the working week, expect most shops and businesses to shut down between 13.30 and 17.00. Many close on Saturday afternoon. All businesses are shut on Sundays.

The Barcelona leisure and shopping 'walk' is slow, usually involving animated conversations between two or more people. They are unlikely to be aware of your presence, and pedestrian collisions are frequent. Look ahead.