Barcelona great for quality of life, but losing edge for doing business

Barcelona quality of life in Sarria

Central Barcelona

A new survey of foreign business people in the city confirms that Barcelona’s a great place to live, but falls down as a place to do business.

A wonderful city to live in, tolerante, family-friendly, well connected, with agreeable public spaces and a fantastic climate, but not a great place to develop a career, earn a good salary, or start a new business. That’s the conclusion of a new survey of foreign business people living in Barcelona carried out by Barcelona Global – an organisation dedicated to improving Barcelona’s international standing.

On a scale of 1 to 10, Barcelona scored particularly badly on taxes, salaries, finance, and the command of English in the public sector. For obtaining business activity licences Barcelona got a dire rating of 2.8/10.

Housing in Barcelona was also rated as a problem by foreigners, who don’t think the quality matches the sales and rental prices. Barcelona has a lot of charm, but the housing stock is nowhere near the levels of other European cities.

Degraded housing in Sarria

Even in upmarket districts like Sarrià the housing stock can be poor quality

Nationalism and the constitutional a tug of war with the Spanish state is also making foreign business types nervous. Catalan nationalists are agitating for an independent state, with uncertain economic consequences.

On the plus side, health, education, and the climate all scored 9/10, contributing to the high quality of life.

Most respondents confessed that their social life tends to revolve around other foreigners, rather than locals. Catalans aren’t famous for being outgoing, though when you get to know them they are very good eggs (I should know – I’m married to one).

But in the end 70pc of respondents would recommend Barcelona as a place to live and work to a friend, which is what really counts. There’s nothing like word of mouth for getting a message across.

Barcelona is an increasingly hot tourist destination, which creates a false sense of security. “We must avoid being complacent thanks to the success of tourism, which brings us visitors without having to do anything,” says Gonzalo Rodés, VP of Barcelona Global. Barcelona Global are pushing for changes to realise Barcelona’s potential. “Barcelona has the potential to be an international business city,” says Rodés.

As a foreigner who has lived in Barcelona for fifteen years I’m dismayed by many things, especially the small-mindedness of the local political discourse. But having lived all my life as an expat, I’ve never found a better city to live in.

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One thought on “Barcelona great for quality of life, but losing edge for doing business”

  1. Mark Lugo

    Moved here recently…your article is pretty accurate. Once we get our feet wet in the business area, we will get back with you. As of right now, still trying to get NIE, which is a bit of an unclear process, although the form is really short… Weird.

    Thanks for the blog post.

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