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Leisure and Culture

What are the catalans like?

Written by Adriana

Spain, a country of contrasts

If you’ve traveled a bit through Spain, you´ve probably realized that the differences between the regions are remarkable, and make this country a nation full of contrasts. This is true for its landscapes and geography; with arid areas in the south, particularly lush vegetation within the northern coastal and mountain climate, and a subtropical climate in the Canary Islands; as well as its culture and economy, with “Comunidad Autónoma” (region) under the influence of its own characteristics. This is due to its strategic location within the European geography and the fact of being a peninsula surrounded by water, with an old trading history.

Related article: The current state of Catalan politics

  • rental apartments in Barcelona


The Catalan character

Focusing on the “Comunidad Autónoma” where Barcelona is located, Catalonia’s economy, which is the European entry into Spain, is based on tourism, so we are used to welcoming foreigners visiting the capital for leisure, work or studies. The Catalans are used to accommodating people of all cultures throughout the year, making them an open and friendly population. Still, we must not forget that foreigners are, historically, a “source of income” and the Catalans are traders used to deal in favorable trades, so as a tourist if you go into a store their kindness may depend on the money you are willing to spend on. Anyway, if you are staying long-term in Barcelona, you have to interact with more people than just traders, and it will be very useful to have some knowledge beforehand about the Catalan character and their way of socializing with other people.

Related article: Where can I learn Catalan?

A Catalan friend is forever

First of all, you should know is not easy to “enter” the heart of a Catalan person. We are a bit distrustful and shy at first, but once you have a Catalan friend, this is forever. Despite what is said, you don’t need to speak Catalan to live, work or study in Catalonia. All inhabitants speak perfect Spanish and even English, but you must respect the Catalan language and understand that for many Catalans, is how they communicate more comfortably with each other. It is said that the English sense of humor is similar to Catalan sense of humor; ironic, intelligent, and sort of eschatological. It´s true, we like to laugh, but not to “give away” our smiles, we prefer to be discreet and polite in public, and let us go in the privacy of our homes or when we feel safe in our group of close friends.

The Catalan character is closer to the French by geographical proximity than to the Spanish, but we also like to go out, have good food and have some beers after work and enjoy the Spanish quality of life. A Catalan person is usually a hard worker, and an honest, fair, timely and respectful person, and expects the same from the people around him or her. Maybe that’s why they say that we are stingy – by that sense of justice and honesty, we don’t like to pay more if we don’t think we should. Due to the European influence, we have a taste for aesthetics, design, art and culture of all styles. We love to dress well, go to exhibitions, be well informed, to read, to learn about what happens in the world, to express our opinions about it, to speak languages and absorb knowledge from those who visit us without being invasive.

Related article: The “castellers”, a Catalan tradition

Shall we get into politics?

Politically Catalonia has always been a boiling pot due to the independence claim. The media and politicians have enlarged the myth of “Catalans hate Spain” and they are not interested in reaching an agreement. But if you come to Barcelona or Catalonia you will realize that this is a false stereotype. A large majority of Catalans have parents or grandparents who come from all parts of Spain, who would like politicians to devote to solving the problems, not to creating them.

Being Catalan is much more than those things listed in this article, but from ShBarcelona we wanted to sketch some of them. To know all sides of the multifaced Catalan character you would have to live in this wonderful part of Spain that has so much to offer.

About the author



Adriana is a writer, content & community manager, web designer, media analyst and tireless traveler.


  • I am not sure where my mothers father came from? I am sorry I did not pay attention. I remember hearing Barcelona and speaking Catalan.His name was Juan Pedrero.
    Would love to visit and research my family history.

  • hmmmmm. Beg to differ on many of the writer’s observations, hard for a Catalan to see themselves clearly. I’m an American and lived in BCN 9 years. Generally, find Catalans close minded and disinterested in foreigners. Have twice as many friends from other parts of Spain. And the Catalan independentistas need to accept that they’ve killed the good convivencia of the city. It’s sad and diminishing what was an amazing quality of life.

  • I do not agree very much The Catalan character is not French. Catalan culture is a Spanish and Mediterranean culture. I am French and Spanish and I can assure you that what some Catalans say is not real. More than 80% of Catalans have parents or grandparents from other regions, is not consistent with that idea. Catalonia has contributed much to the Spanish character as other Spanish cultures. What I can assure you is that the Catalan character is more closed than open, jealous of his own. Of course, Catalan culture has as many good things as other regions in Spain. A very rich Mediterranean culture but different from the rest as some politicians would have us believe

  • U can’t generalize, but..

    Here for over 15 years. Catalans are nice and respectful people (expect for when they are your neighbors and run the washing machine, or sing out loud at 7am, or the occasional party until the AM on weekdays).

    I personally don’t see much difference when comparing them to a “Spanish” person, other than the communication style (more shy and unfriendly than in other parts of the country), and on how much they care about money. They all share the laziness, and the politicians the corruption that is typical in Spain: don’t get me wrong, I love Catalunya and Spain, partly because of the relaxed lifestyle, but it’s really a different country in that sense.. therefore the economy is how it is since so many years.

    Catalan culture is interesting, love the sardanes music, castellers, cagatio etc, and allioli can’t be beat, so delicious. They also make some good embutido!

    Do not expect decent service in here, it very rare despite tourism being a huge income, they treat the customer soo poorly, but this I would say extends to some parts of Spain also; it’s better in the South

    Friendship: I do know lovely Catalans. In all these years I had just one Catalan real friend, inexplicably, most of my friends and people who have tried to be my friend have been foreigners or from outside of Catalunya. I have studied and worked with Catalans, and speak catalá, and spanish, so no language barriers.

    My friend dropped me as a hot potato because of a work related/saving very little money? real silly situation.. so I don’t know what to say now.. maybe in 15 more years I’ll have a real Catalan friend again?

    They do care a lot about money, which is a good thing, but real friendship has a lot more value.. Just my experience

    Separation? difficult, and unfortunately there are many Catalan politic corruption scandals, would things change much and for the better? I doubt it.. BUT more economic autonomy would be nice for Catalunya IMO

    Catalunya cosmopolita t’estimo. Visca Catalunya i el allioli!

  • Lol sorry but I do not find people polite here for the most part! I have lived here for 4 years. People have no self-awareness, walk in front of you, ignore you in restaurants etc. Everything is so slow, the companies I have worked for try to cut corners, don’t do things properly or listen. The only Catalan friends I’ve had are those who are well-travelled and open-minded. I have, funnily enough, found myself a Catalan man! His family have accepted me but I do find them difficult and they can’t grasp that cultural differences exist and it doesn’t necessarily mean that your way is the right way, nor is mine. We are just different! Brought up differently! Don’t get me started on the Catalan mum 😉 Also, I just got back from a trip to Tokyo and it is literally the opposite to here where people are super friendly, polite and respectful in public.

    • Hi Sarah,
      Thank you for sharing your view on the subject!
      I agree with you 100%, that if you find it hard to let go of your own culture and do not welcome differences, you can have a hard time in a new country.
      It’s all about managing expectations I guess 😉

  • The Catalans have travelled the world over for generations. In South East Asia they have stolen land and been key players in the heroin trade. In fact they are the main players in the heroin trade worldwide, in Europe, Russia, America< South America, Asia and Africa have all been supplied heroin by the Catalan network of criminals listed as Satanists in Asia for their sexual abuse of children.

  • Lived in Catalunya for 2 years. I speak català and come from a catalan family that migrated to South America later. I don’t have a single Catalan friend. Most I’ve met are rude and conceited. I’ve been told I can only make friends once I “win them over” but they are 100% uninterested in different people and experiences and in being polite and friendly to you. Why would I want to “win over” people that rude?
    I’m sure thta if you’re born in Catalunya it must be a wonderful place to live, most Catalans I’ve met are very close with their families and lifelong friends … but it’s not a friendly culture, sorry. It’s hard for Catalans to really judge themselves.

  • “A Catalan person is usually a hard worker, and an honest, fair, timely and respectful person”

    Haha seriously?

    Lazy and rude is what I’ve experienced… Well my Catalan friends are nice, but neighbours, restaurants, banks and “customer service” people… it’s like they try to be as unhelpful and inconsiderate as possible.

    Customer service doesn’t matter… coming up with solutions doesn’t matter… all that matters is being as arrogant as possible.

    Absolute kafkaesque society.

    I hope new generations will try and improve things after seeing the shambles of a response to the pandemic.

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