Finally! I am a Language Assistant in Barcelona!
Although our Language Assistant grant is actually more than some Spaniards make working full-time, many applicants are skeptical that one can comfortably live in Barcelona on those earnings. After all, it’s right up there with Madrid as the most expensive city in Spain. While you won’t be dining at Michelin-star restaurants or renting pent-houses on this kind of salary, I’m here to tell you that Barcelona is absolutely affordable on 850 euros a month.
The beauty of Barcelona is that it’s made for everyone and anyone under the sun: the richest tourists, sons of czars, traveling pilgrims and part-time English teachers. Here are five ways to take advantage of the city on the cheap, so you can make the most of those hard-earned Meddeas euros.
1. Catalan Classes
The rumors are true. There is a huge presence of Catalan in Barcelona, and it’s unavoidable. Sure, everyone will also speak Spanish, and more often than not, English as well. But it’s absolutely appreciated when foreigners take the time to learn a little Catalan and use it in the streets.
Nowadays, the city is making a huge effort to spread the language love, and the Consortium for Linguistic Normalization offers free Catalan classes in every neighborhood throughout the city, as well as in many other cities throughout Cataluña. I signed up for the classes, since I was interested in studying a new language and also saw it as an opportunity to meet people.
I didn’t have high hopes about the quality of the classes. Afterall, they’re free. They probably pulled some random person off the street to talk about verb tenses, right? But these classes have turned out to be some of the highest quality language teaching I’ve ever received, and I studied 10 years of Spanish growing up.
Take advantage of the free classes to meet other expats in the city, and learn a bit of the language to make locals proud. All for the cost of a text book. 12 euros for the whole trimester!
2. Park Güell at Night
The powers that be realized they could milk tourists for all they’re worth in this city, so the last great Gaudi attraction, which was free up until just a year ago, now costs a whopping 8 euros to enter. Of course, most tourists are still willing to dish out to see the mosaic masterpiece, but 8 euros on a language assistant budget is fruit and veggies for a week, so we must be wise. Luckily, there are loopholes. The park is still free during the very opening hour (if you’re an early riser!) and the hour before closing. Seeing the city lit up at night from the very top of Park Guell has its own special magic, anyway!
3. La Boquería
The Boquería market is Barcelona’s most famous fresh market, selling everything from decapitated lambs to fine chocolates to the highest quality tapas. Tourists head in flocks to photograph towering piles of dried dates and types of fish you never knew existed. But the Boquería is also very fairly priced for locals who actually intend to do their grocery shopping, and there are also a number of stands offering prepared food for lunch or dinner. For the Ultimate Language Assistant Budget Friendly meal, grab a fresh-squeezed juice and some empanadas or tapas to go from the Boquería, then head to the Parc de la Ciutadella or to Barceloneta beach for a picnic. Because it’s Barcelona, after all, and picnic weather is all but guaranteed year-round.
4. Outdoor Games
Barcelona’s a really active city. There are people jogging, surfing (well, attempting), and skating everywhere you look. Head to any of the city’s beaches to join a pick-up game of volleyball, since many people bring nets and organize rotating games all day long. Also, in most of the city’s parks and squares, there are ping-pong tables set up and ready to use. Bring your own paddles, and you can enjoy tournaments with friends or strangers in the great outdoors.
5. Vermouth Hour
Barcelona may not liberally hand out free tapas the way some Spanish cities do (Granada, I’ll always love you for this), but it still has a wonderful tradition of eating and drinking. We’re still in Spain, after all. So if you’re going to spend your language assistant salary on anything, it needs to be vermouth. Catalans love la hora de vermut, essentially the hour before lunch or dinner when Peace on Earth is achieved with a little glass of vermouth with an olive. If you’re lucky, the bar will throw in some potato chips, olives, or even a bite-sized tapa. But regardless, the spotlight’s on the drink here, not what accompanies it. Vermouth is sacred in Barcelona, and you can partake in the holy tradition for around two euros a glass.
Living in Barcelona on a language assistant budget is about finding creative ways to soak up all the city has to offer. Splurge on rich experiences, not Chanel bags on Passeig de Gracia, and you should have no problem affording the good life in the greatest of cities.