Life, Work & Relocation: Your guide to the Spanish city’s digital sector, including tech jobs, salaries and top expat tips
Considering a career in Barcelona? The city, known as the jewel of Spain’s economy, has recently developed as a thriving digital hub. The fast-growing tech sector makes Barcelona the ideal location for ambitious tech professionals. Plus, with the city’s multiculturalism, sunny climate and delicious culinary scene – there are more reasons than ever to move to Barcelona.
Relocating for work is a big decision - you’ll have many questions: what to expect; how much it will cost; and what’s it like to live there. Plus, finding a job in Barcelona before you move requires planning.
At Pentasia, we’ve helped 1,000’s of candidates relocate for work in cities like Barcelona. We’ve supported people like you move to Barcelona from all over Europe and Worldwide. To answer some of the most common questions, our guide features…
01 - Introduction to Barcelona: Work, Leisure & Lifestyle
02 - Cost of Living: Price Guides & City Comparison
03 - Taxes: Rates for Expats in Barcelona
04 - Tech Salary Guide: What You Could Earn
05 - Expats on Living & Working in Barcelona
1 - An Introduction to Barcelona
Barcelona is a Mediterranean and cosmopolitan city that consistently ranks among the most desirable places in Europe to live. With medieval quarters and the most beautiful examples of 20th century modernism - many of which have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO – it’s both a historic and a truly modern city.
The city’s core population is 1.5 million. Residents and tourists enjoy the huge amount Barcelona has to offer, ranging from an abundance of cultural activities - museums, exhibitions, concerts – to live sports, bars, restaurants and nightlife. But for many, it’s the sun-drenched coastlines and buzzing cosmopolitan lifestyle that captures hearts: perhaps that’s why Barcelona is home to ever-increasing numbers of expats from all over Europe and beyond.
Barcelona’s economy is thriving. Within Spain, the city is a clear success story, but Barcelona has also built a truly global reputation. GDP totals €66,952 million, breaking down to an impressive output of €42k per resident.
Why such success? Barcelona’s exceptional infrastructure and great lifestyle attracts multinationals and foreign investors from Europe and Worldwide. The city’s airport is Europe’s 7th largest; foreign investment is higher in Barcelona than anywhere else in Spain (€4,905 million in 2015;) and the city itself has invested in key infrastructure.
“Smart” is the mantra of the moment. Barcelona has positioned itself at the forefront of ‘Smart City’ technological progress – a global race to explore how cities can evolve to better serve their inhabitants. By investing in digital infrastructure – optical fibre, free WiFi, air quality sensors, intelligent parking systems – the city has aspired to both innovation and quality of life for its residents.
“Barcelona voted the 4th leading innovation hub in Europe"
In the style of Silicon Valley, start-ups from the digital world have converged in Barcelona. Boasting major tech brands and events like Mobile World Congress, the sector has brought significant investment and growing numbers of tech job opportunities to Barcelona.
Digital technology – the ‘tech sector’ – forms a significant, and growing part of Barcelona’s economy. New employers set up every month in the city, now numbering 2,500+ tech businesses. Between them, they’ve created over 50,000+ high tech jobs, and put Barcelona on the ‘tech careers map’.
All data sourced from Barcelona Data Sheet 2017, produced by the city council
Working In Barcelona
Getting A Job
What comes first? The chicken or the egg? The job or the move? Whether you’re “looking to move to Barcelona (and get a job)” or “develop your career (and fancy Barcelona)” – there’s no right answer to which comes first.
The good news is that Barcelona’s job market is thriving, and there are thousands of great opportunities in both local businesses and with international companies. The city’s invested heavily in digital industries, so it’s a great place to work in digital particularly.
Our key tips for getting a job in Barcelona as an expat:
Start early: get your CV on the market long before you leave home. Employers are well used to hiring from outside Barcelona, and will be open to interviewing by Skype or phone. Simply show commitment to move [“Moving to Barcelona Jan 20XX”] and be ready to explain your reasons.
Take a stepping-stone job. There are lots of temporary, part-time or short-term jobs, particularly in catering, hospitality and tourism. These can be a great way to earn some cash while you look for the career role.
Ask for help. Use any existing contacts you know in the city; join expat forums or talk to a specialist local recruitment agency [since you ask… try Pentasia Barcelona!]
Bring your digital skills. Realistically, Barcelona has a huge need for digital talent across the tech sector. If you’re able to demonstrate tech skills, knowledge and – ideally – experience, you’ll immediately be at the front of the pack for jobs in gaming, eCommerce, digital media and technology companies.
Take the leap. Ultimately, fortune favours the brave. You won’t be the first to move to Barcelona for work, and it’s proven brilliantly successful for many before you. Dive in and get started!
Spanish and Catalan are both official languages in Barcelona. Catalan – the language of the Catalan region – is widely used in schools and business, though signage frequently features both languages, and most residents speak both.
English is also widely spoken and understood, particularly within the digital and tourism industries. International business is largely conducted in English. There are also thriving expat communities from across the world, and language classes can be taken at groups throughout the city.
Barcelona’s distinctively Mediterranean feel blends elegantly with its inhabitants’ lively approach to life. There’s time for chilling by the waterfront, just as there’s time for late nights on the dancefloor.
The lifestyle is easy to fall in love with. Evenings out can start with alfresco dining in the city, or at the sun-kissed marina, or a local beach bar. Thankfully, with a nightlife culture that starts and ends late, Spain’s often-flexible approach to working hours allow you to experience the best the city has to offer.
This, though, is a wholly modern, undeniably global city. International business investment and operational bases in Barcelona have helped create a multi-cultural community and brought a mix of cultures to the area.
Working in Barcelona
Expats moving to Barcelona from elsewhere in Europe, or further afield, will likely soon feel right at home. Some report that working culture can be slightly different here, but very welcoming. Companies here are usually comfortable for employees to bring their personalities to work; in fact, the line between business and pleasure is less defined than in some cultures.
Barcelona is a great choice for those making a big career move, but is also popular with short term workers looking for contract or temporary work. Thousands of people make the move every year, and whilst many only last a few months, others find there’s really no reason to leave.
The drawbacks? Besides the challenge of keeping your waistline in check, there are few other major irritants in Barcelona. Bureaucracy sometimes tries on expats’ patience, and the Sunday shutdown (a day of rest) can surprise visitors. But overall, nothing a nice spot of tapas and sangria couldn’t resolve.
EU and EEA nationals do not require a work permit. For more information, we recommend you visit www.eures.europa.eu
For all those who don't hold a Spanish passport, the employer must apply for an NIE (Número de Identidad de Extranjero). Work permits are issued for specific periods (normally one year) and for specific purposes, only following a failed attempt to engage a suitable EU/EEA citizen. In reality, these work permits are only accessible to a minority of applicants.
Who needs an NIE in Spain?
Any foreigner who becomes a resident for tax purposes in Spain.
Any non-resident foreigner who buys property in Spain. If a couple buys a property in Spain together and they register the property in both their names, then both of them must obtain an NIE number in Spain.
Anyone who wants to work in Spain, or start a business in Spain.
2 - Costs of Living
In comparison to Europe’s leading tech hubs, Barcelona is one of the least expensive places to live. Accommodation, groceries and travel are all very reasonably priced.
3 - Tax Rates
As an expat working and living in Spain, you’ll need to pay tax on your income. There are many factors which will determine exactly what you pay, and taxes even vary across the country. For further details expatica.com publishes a useful article, or here’s a summary:
Employment income withholding table for 2017 and 2018
4 - Salary Guide
(NB: Additional offers incl. Relocation & Benefit packages depending on industry, location and individual company)
5 - Expats’ Guide
So you want to move to Barcelona. Three expats share their musing reflections on multiple experiences from moving, to finding work and living in Barcelona.
Eoin B. - Ireland to Barcelona: 2016
Job: Tech Recruitment Consultant
I moved to Barcelona with my other half in late 2016. Having lived in Ireland all my life it was a big move, but we loved the city. Having worked in recruitment for 4 years, I looked for a job in that field before moving. After a few skype interviews I landed a role and made all the arrangements to move just two weeks after getting the offer.
Barcelona life is fantastic - it’s a fully multi-cultural working environment, with people of all nationalities from across Europe and beyond. Best of all, the beach is just 10 minutes away from our place. You can’t fault all the beach-side bars for Friday night drinks! Oh, and extra bank holidays too – always welcome.
300 days of sun – I definitely don’t miss the heavy rain in Ireland that’s for sure
Outdoor lifestyle - There’s something for everyone, from bars, to museums to architecture, and you can even skiing up in the mountains
It’s the ‘city that never sleeps’ – You could have dinner at half 11 – street corners are open 24/7 – and the party goes on into the early hours
Check Your Paperwork - There’s no visa required for Europeans, although some paperwork for is required, many employers do explain all the legalities.
English is OK - English is a widely-spoken language in the city-centre so no worries about language barrier if you don’t speak Spanish
Sort Your Pad - If your employer assists you with your move – great. If not, you may need to consider some reliable housing agencies, when considering to buy or rent.
Hilmi M. - Bulgaria to Barcelona: 2017
Job: Back End Developer, Fintech (Financial Technology)
I’m a software developer from Bulgaria and I moved to Barcelona almost one year ago. After graduating from a Masters in Programming Languages I started searching for job opportunities abroad. I knew it would be hard living miles away from home, but thought it would be great experience and good for career progression.
Barcelona appealed as a European, multinational city with lots of jobs in IT and tech. It feels familiar, and you don’t need to take much extra effort to adapt. I’ve met some colleagues from my country, which seems quite common. The working culture’s been friendly and relaxed (you can dress formal one day and wear your favourite black metal band t-shirt the next!)
Informal Culture - One of the things I am constantly amazed about is how people tend to be informal in general. These people will hug you when they meet you for the first time - this says a lot about their attitude to life.
Great Lifestyle - The warm weather, the coastline, the beautiful language, the tasty food, the vivid nightlife, inclusive culture and inviting atmosphere.
Learn Some Spanish - It would be nice to have some basic Spanish prior moving to Barcelona. Not not a must, but it will make your stay much smoother, especially in the beginning when you would need to take care of some administrative tasks.
Dominik S. - Switzerland to Barcelona
Job: Software Engineer, Cloud Based Start-up
I’m a software engineer who works with cloud-based software, managing teams of developers to design complex systems, data structures and algorithms. Having spent most of my life in Switzerland, I made the decision to base myself elsewhere – and looked at other locations which would accommodate my tech career.
Barcelona was my No.1 destination, both for its tech sector and the sunny climate. First I moved temporarily, before finding a permanent apartment. It didn’t take long to settle in, taking little more than a month, and I was able to start my job in a great spot right amidst the beaches.
Working in Barcelona
Imagine working in an environment where active prevention of stress is part of the corporate culture! That’s the norm here in Barcelona, and makes a great difference. Within IT there’s an abundance of opportunity – developers, engineers, designers – I work with them all! And as specialists we’re well-rewarded here, with with benefits and perks, plus higher pay, happy hour and gym memberships.
Party Culture - The Spaniards love a great party, there’s always something to celebrate – there’s festivals all year round. There’s no shortage of drinks and nights out.
…Not That Much - For me, it was a smooth transition. English the predominant spoken language, and being fluent in some Spanish, it took little time to find my way round. Everything you need is only ever a walk away.
Immerse yourself in the culture – Take a summer trip beforehand, see if you enjoy the atmosphere
Relocating made easy – Thinking of moving before landing yourself a job? Don’t worry there’s an abundance of opportunities available – especially if you’re a tech specialist.
Ready To Apply? Start Today!
Barcelona’s tech industry is growing strength to strength. As an attractive, convenient metropolitan city, it’s already provided a popular choice amongst tech talent.
If this guide has inspired you to take the leap, why not register with Pentasia Recruitment today or check out our latest jobs in Barcelona?
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