As a visitor to any foreign city, high on everyone's list is to be able to blend in with the locals and pass an enjoyable time in your destination. However, it's not always easy to know how not to offend the locals and you can sometimes put your foot in it without realising. Here are some tips for Barcelona in Spain.
The Mediterranean city of Barcelona is a popular choice as a holiday destination. Great food, great architecture, stretches of beaches, and a cosmopolitan feel ensure the Catalan Capital receives millions of visitors annually. However, while it's important to let loose and enjoy yourselves, it's equally important to respect local traditions and customs. Here are a few things to consider.
1. Barcelona is the capital of the autonomous region of Catalonia, and considers itself a country unto its own. Natives speak Catalan, one of two official languages in Catalonia, the other being Castillian Spanish. The Catalans are a proud nation, and while the influx of immigrants in Spain means it's likely you'll hear many languages in the city centre, everything is still officially Catalan fist and Spanish second. Many shops and restaurants in the city remind visitors of this fact, with posters in shop windows declaring that "Catalonia is not Spain" and the first tip is to embrace the language. Many modern guide books come equipped with glossaries of basic translations with phonetic pronunciation for basic day to day conversations. If you have little or no knowledge of Spanish, you would be wise to attempt a little Catalan when venturing out, as this is certainly appreciated. Even a simple please and thank you can go a long way for your manners in Barcelona.
2. Many people associate Spain with Sun, Sea and Sangria, but the truth is that the Spanish drink is more common in other parts of Spain. This doesn't mean that you can't fill your glass with sangria in Barcelona, and many of the tourists restaurants jump on the ignorance of tourists and sell over-priced red-wine Sangria to any willing passer by. However, Catalan Sangria is made with locally produced "cava" from the nearby Penedes region, and is similar to champagne. Impress your friends and hosts by ordering a jug of Catalan Sangria and you'll win plaudits.
3. Another seemingly universal assumption when visiting Spain is to go and see a bullfight. Bullfighting in Spain is definitely frowned upon, and proceedings have been taken to the government to have the process banned completely from the city. Where there used to be two bull rings in Barcelona, now there is only one - monumental - with the other "Las Arenas" falling victim to an ambitious Real Estate venture of transforming the structure into a shopping mall. Work has been paralysed for more than a year, and the remaining meetings at monumental are heavily protested against with interviews of sickened tourists even making their way onto youtube, for example. Bullfighting is a southern Spanish tradition, and Catalonia wants nothing to do with it.
4. A pet hate of the locals is to see the bachelor parties up and down the famous Las Ramblas boulevard donning the enormous Mexican sombreros. There is nothing remotely Catalan (or Spanish for that matter) about the huge Mexican hats and it's a souvenir shop owner's dream to find a group of males wandering into their shops. While we're on the subject, another symbol of Spain likely to rile the locals is the typical Spanish t-shirt with the silhouette of a bull emblazoned across the front. In case you don't need reminding about the bullfighting above, the Bull is a typical example of Spain and everything Spanish - the Catalans have their own animal emblem to poke fun at the testosterone fuelled Toro bravo - the donkey!
5. Finally, this is not too much of a peeve to the locals as the other points suggested here, but those tourists looking to enjoy an evening of Flamenco dancing would be advised to save that for its birthplace, Andalusia. Northern Spain does not have a Flamenco heritage, and while there are sufficient establishments to quench the thirst of the eager tourist, don't expect an authentic experience - rather an over-priced event full of other tourists. The local dance in Catalonia is the sardana - make your way down to the cathedral square on a Sunday morning to watch some real Catalan dance moves!
Following these little tips before embarking on your Barcelona holiday will ensure you get to enjoy yourself and soak up the culture, but not at the expense of the locals!