GBN expat secrets - Spain: 'It's more relaxing and the lifestyle is healthier here - but living space is limited'

Barcelona stock image and Harry Woodward headshot

Harry has enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere in his new home

Solen Le Net

By Solen Le Net

Published: 27/05/2024

- 20:15

Updated: 28/05/2024

- 09:49

GB News is talking to expats about their experience settling in foreign lands. This week, a young Briton has opened up about the best elements of life in Spain, and the pitfalls to avoid.

Harry Woodward relocated to Barcelona in 2023 after his boss gave him the green light to work from abroad, and he hasn't looked back since.

During a conversation with GB News, the 26-year-old opened up about the move and the challenges it entailed.

Barcelona lures many travellers with its passion for good wine and food, relaxing lifestyle and balmy climate. Millions go for the bustling nightlife, dance scene, and unparalleled atmosphere.

As one of Europe's most attractive city breaks, it's clear that Barcelona has something to offer all generations. in Harry's case, the major appeal was the slower pace of life.


Barcelona has scores of historical sites to explore


“It’s a bit different but it was amazing - one of the best decisions I made," Harry said. "I basically packed up in a month and came over with two suitcases.

“I was fortunate enough that my company let me work remotely when I said I’d be moving to Barcelona, which helped smooth the transition.

“Barcelona is a lively city - there’s a lot of nightlife and subgroups, with a lot of yoga and outdoor sports and these people often host events with people who also share your interests.

“I was fortunate enough to meet my boyfriend early on and so I’ve got to meet his friends and they are all lovely.”

Cost of living

Another major appeal for expats is Spain's lower living costs, with Barcelona offering lower rates for basic goods including accommodation, food, transport and utilities.

Employment opportunities in Spain are notoriously scarce, however, so Harry recommends preparing accordingly.

“My best advice to anyone moving here would be to come with a job - or six months savings if you can," he said. "Also, have somewhere decent to live sorted."

Relocation experts at Coming To Spain confirm that finding accommodation in the city is a challenge at the best of times.

During peak rental seasons, properties are in high demand and the competition for good quality, affordable apartments becomes fierce.

“Living space here is more limited than you might think," Harry confirmed. "I know people who moved and have been stuck somewhere mediocre while looking for ‘something better’."

When asked about the cost of living, Harry confirmed that it “is generally cheaper” than in the United Kingdom.

“But you can often find London-type rates for restaurants and cafes.”

Business prospects

Without thorough preparation, setting up a business can also become a long-winded and bureaucratic process.

European citizens setting up a business as sole traders in Barcelona may find they can jump through hoops at a quick pace. Britons, however, may have to endure a longer procedure.

“I launched a wellness business out here ‘Health Lovers’ producing cold-pressed juices, shots and blends with adaptogens and nootropics (no sugars, preservatives either) a couple of months after being here," Harry shared.

"This has been for sure the hardest feat. It’s a lot harder to set up a company here than in the UK - to anyone who’s planning this - do your research (extensively)."

Language barrier

Although learning a new language is a challenge, it is also a crucial component of integrating into a new culture.

Not only will it encourage locals to approach you and strike up a conversation; but it's also a mark of respect, according to Harry.

“I’d always advocate learning the local language, I was fortunate enough to speak it already after studying it for a few years at school," he said.

“The other thing specific to Barcelona is that it’s in Catalonia where they speak Catalan. I’d recommend anyone who comes here to learn a few words - they really appreciate it.

“And I think most countries or communities would - it’s a sign of respect and appreciation.”

Moving to Barcelona: What you need to know

Spain is considered one of Europe’s most prominent expat destinations, with six per cent of the population consisting of immigrants.

With so many Britons looking to move to the Spanish city, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has compiled a list of tasks to complete beforehand.


Barcelona in Spain

Barcelona is a popular destination for international expats


The Government urges everyone considering the move to apply for the appropriate visa from the Spanish consulates in the UK.

“Expats must also apply for their residence documents as soon as they arrive in Spain,” authorities added.

“You must tell the UK government offices that deal with your benefits, pension and tax if you are moving or retiring abroad.

“For residents of Spain, that card is the TIE. The Entry-Exit System EES will be introduced by the EU in Autumn 2024."

Under the new regulations, visitors will be required to provide additional information to cross borders external borders within the Schengen area, including Spain.

The new EES and European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) will hold this data from October onwards.

“It will require third-country nationals, including UK nationals, visiting the EU to create a digital record and provide their biometric data (fingerprint and facial image) at the border when they enter the EU’s Schengen Zone," according to the Government.

“It is expected that Green Certificate holders may face significant delays and difficulties at borders if they do not have a TIE.

“Contact the Spanish Government’s ‘Extranjaria’ offices for information on how to apply for the new TIE."

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