Work placements in Barcelona: the Golden Rules
A work placement or internship in Barcelona can be a marvellous experience. Here are a few golden rules to follow to fit right in to your new life.
A work placement or internship in Barcelona can be an incredible experience. New city, new language, new colleagues… there are a few rules you should follow if you want to adapt fully to local life.
Golden Rules: at work
Thou shalt adopt the local timetable.
The standard working week in Barcelona is around 40 hours.
Office hours vary depending on the company, but Spanish working times are generally 9am – 2pm and 4pm – 7pm. Obviously, your breaks will correspond to local meal times, so you’ll have to get used to a late lunch.
Thou shalt speak many languages with thy colleagues.
Barcelona is a very cosmopolitan city, and you may find yourself working with English, American, German, French or Italian colleagues in addition to Spanish or Catalan speakers. Conversations often go something like this:
“¿Me puedes ayudar por favor? – Yes, no problem!”
You’ll quickly come to understand that any language can be used to communicate – and if in doubt, add a few hand gestures for good measure! Easy.
Thou shalt say “Jesús” when someone sneezes.
The Spanish version of “bless you” is widely used whenever someone sneezes.
The tradition dates back to the time of the plague epidemics in Europe. Sneezing was seen as a sign that the body was trying to expulse unclean spirits and future illnesses. To combat sickness, Pope Gregory I ordered the faithful to pray and to invoke the name of Jesus every time somebody sneezed.
Since then, saying “Jesús” (hay-ZOOS) has become entrenched in Spanish culture – so don’t hesitate to join in!
Thou shalt get used to Spanish keyboards.
Forget about QWERTY – Spanish keyboards are very different, and more suited to the number of accents used in the written language.
- Tip: try not to confuse the accent and apostrophe keys. The apostrophe is under the question mark, whilst the accent is under the diaeresis: that’s the one with two dots, like the German umlaut (¨).
Thou shalt pay attention to all things Barça.
In Barcelona, football is sacred. Barcelona FC has an immense number of supporters, partly due to the number of Champions’ League victories they have under their belts.
You may well find yourself working alongside a “culé” (coo-lay), a hard-boiled Barça fan. In that case, you’ll have to get used to talking football, and fast. That way, you’ll find it easier to integrate.
Golden rules: outside of work
Thou shalt make tourists jealous.
After you arrive, you’re likely to meet a fair few tourists visiting the city for a short stay. On learning that you’ll be spending several months in Barcelona, they’re sure to be envious and to tell you how lucky you are!
Thou shalt frequent many tapas bars.
In Spain, tapas is a way of life! There’s even a verb for eating tapas: tapear. The singular noun is feminine, “una tapa”, but let’s be realistic here – you’re never going to stop at one. The convention is to go from bar to bar, enjoying delicious morcels with drinks wherever you go.
Take a look at our selection of great tapas bars for inspiration!
Thou shalt avoid Las Ramblas.
After a long day of work, around 6 or 7pm, you won’t want to be fighting your way through the crowds on Las Ramblas, past street performers, living statues and travelling salespeople. It’s far easier to go through the shady little sidestreets of the Gótic and Raval.
Thou shalt write your placement report on time.
Once your placement is over, and the time comes to say adéu to Barcelona, you may well have a report to write concerning your experience. Depending on your programme, you may have to submit anywhere between 10 and 60 pages. Tempting though it is to put these things off, try to avoid doing it all the night before it’s due! If you want to get a good mark, you’ll need to be organised and plan ahead.
So… ready to earn your “best intern” mug?
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About the author
Marianne, "the sporty one", joined our group for a brief but fun-packed two-month stint. Taking a break from her studies in France, she came to Barcelona to help others find out about her favourite spots. Her favourite part of the experience? Visiting new and original places every day and getting right to the heart of Catalan culture.