London vs Barcelona: which is the best city for living?

London vs Barcelona: which is the best city for living? Have you ever tried to choose where to live a long period of your life? Choosing is always a big challenge and everybody tries to collect as many information as they can.

Having lived in Barcelona and London for three years each, many people asked me an opinion about which one is the best. There is no unique answer because every city is a complex result of many aspects. The best way is splitting the comparison in many sections.

Employment

Looking for a jobDefinitely London offers more jobs opportunities as I already wrote. But keep in mind that if your English level is not high many well-paid jobs are precluded. Also in both cities the companies will value especially your local work experience. So sometimes you have to restart from a lower level or accept a lower salary.

Depends on the company, the work environment could be better in Barcelona. In London I worked in a company where people almost didn’t speak with each other and the lunch was consumed in front of the computer. A bit alienating.

Many people think that in UK  the technological level in the IT projects is higher. I can say that it is more or less the same in both countries.

Also in London I saw more meritocracy. If you are good you will see how easy is to climb to the top of the pyramid and reach your English dream.

Finally a bit note about the age. Many people are scared to move to another country if they are over 40. If this is your case, I would choose UK. I saw many “older” people re-starting their life in London with great results.

London: 9 – Barcelona: 7

Salary

Salary in London is higher and the Pound is stronger than the Euro. But keep in mind that the expenses in London are higher as well (especially the rent). If you deduct the rent and the transport costs you should  be able to save around the 20% more every month.

The salary depends of course on the type of job. If you work in IT, finance or other high-responsibility/niche job it’s possible that this gap increases even more. I know few people earning more than £100,000 after a year in London.

If your job is in hospitality the salary will be the national minimum wage and probably will be not enough to survive.

London: 9 – Barcelona: 7

Language

Englihs vs SpanishEnglish and Spanish are two of the most widely spoken idioms in the World. If you come from Italy like me probably Spanish will be easier to learn. Even better if you come from South America. But in the rest of Europe (especially North, East and Germany) English is practically the second language so will be easier to live in London.

But even for native English speakers (Australian, Irish, Americans) sometimes will be hard to understand English people. Especially if they use the Cockney, the London dialect.

I would say that Spanish people are intrinsically more oriented to help people who doesn’t speak their language. So if you get lost in the middle of the city (and I did it few times!) it’s easier to find help in Barcelona.

In Barcelona another official language is spoken: Catalan. It’s completely another language from Castellano (Spanish). But the 99% of Catalans speaks both idioms so… no problem, amigo!

London: 8 – Barcelona: 8

Things to do

Both cities are amazing and plenty of things to do. You will never get bored!

In London you can visit many free museums, go to the theatre, gigs, walks and massive parks!

In Barcelona there are many museums as well but not for free. You can join the Movida and go to amazing close places like Sitges. But around four months per year you can also enjoy the beach, swim and play beach volley.

You have only to choose which kind of entertainment is better for you.

London: 10 – Barcelona: 9

Safety

PickpocketBoth cities are quite safe. Of course you should take more care in tourist places such as La Rambla and Piccadilly Circus for pickpockets.

I had motorbikes in both cities but in London two were stolen. The police didn’t investigate deeply and both haven’t been found.

London: 7 – Barcelona: 8

Food

If we think about typical dishes, Barcelona beats London without any doubt. But in London we can find food from wherever in the World.

If we think about the day-by-day food, Barcelona will offer better options and definitely a more healthy diet.

London: 8 – Barcelona: 10

Weather

The weather in Barcelona is amazing. Most of the time is warm. Winters are not so cold. Sometimes the summer is very hot but… hey… the sea is a stone’s throw away!

London is colder but in the last years the temperature wasn’t as colder as I expected. Rains are common and sometimes the summer delays for too long.

London: 7 – Barcelona: 9

Friends/Relationships

It’s probably easier to find friends in Barcelona than in London. Although in both cities people come and go very often. It’s easy to build a group of mates and few months after people move out.

If you are looking for hang outs… probably London is the best city. Tinder and similar dating apps are very common.

London: 8 – Barcelona: 9

Transport

Bus LondonLondon is massive. If you have friends or you work in the opposite part of the city you can travel sometimes for more than an hour.

The public transport is huge but not very well organised and very expensive. Large parts of underground are often closed during the weekends and this affects your plans for your spare time.

Using the motorbike seems a good alternative if you like traffic, rain and cold. It’s almost impossible to use a car in the City. A part of the congestion charge to pay to access the centre (£10 each day), it’s impossible to park. A good alternative is the bicycle. Thousand of Londoners use it for the commuting every day.

Barcelona is smaller and the underground is almost always working. The price is cheaper.

The number of motorbikes is incredible and drivers are used about it. It makes its use safer. Bicycle is a good alternative there as well but still not very common for the habitants of Barcelona. As in London, I wouldn’t suggest you to buy a car. The traffic is crazy and parking is very complicated.

London: 8 – Barcelona: 9

Rent a house\room

Rent prices in London are incredible high. You can rent a room for the same price of a whole big flat in Barcelona. Just to help you to imagine: the rent of my room in London is around £500. In Barcelona for €500 (around £350) I rented a whole flat.

London: 7 – Barcelona: 9

Prices

Pound vs EuroFood and clothes prices are more or less the same. Probably food is a bit more expensive in London and clothes are a bit more expensive in Barcelona. But I would consider them more or less at the same level.

London: 8 – Barcelona: 8

Quality of life

The quality of life in London is not very high. People are often stressed and running. Like every city in South Europe, Barcelona is more relaxed. I think this is related with the size of the city, the weather and because London is a work-oriented city.

At the same time better salary means that Londoners go generally for holidays to recharge their battery and get rid of the stress.

London: 7 – Barcelona: 9

 

Results

London: 96 – Barcelona: 102

 

Summarising

London is a great city for a short period. You can have a better job but you will pay it with a worse quality of life. Probably can be the right city for the first abroad experience.

Barcelona can offer less work opportunities but life is less stressful so it’s a better city for a long life project.

 

And you? Which city do you prefer?

 

  8 comments for “London vs Barcelona: which is the best city for living?

  1. Damian
    03/07/2015 at 00:57

    Hi. Very interesting. Congratulations!
    I’m agree with you almost in everything. About the job aspects, could be that you are exagerating a little bit about the salary in the hospitality service in Uk. I work in that field and I don’t have any problems to live as a normal person. Even paying rent and transport I can save money. And talking about life cuality, you forget to mention that in Uk the bank give you interest for your saving when in barcelona they don’t. This way, the range of posibilities and life proyects are much better in london. Barcelona could be a better place to live for many reasons but not to make money. Barcelona is a nice place to retire. Thats why a lot of old english people go to live to the mediterranean cost for healthy reasons. One place could better than other depending on the person.

    • 07/07/2015 at 15:55

      This is exactly what I wanted to point out. One place can be better for a person but worse for another.
      Thanks 🙂

  2. Frank
    03/07/2015 at 06:10

    Thanks!

    It is a good comparison. I would like to know how are related in terms of family: when you have a family, specially with children going to school, how is it? Which amusement offer do we have for example? Thanks!

    • 07/07/2015 at 15:59

      Hi Frank,

      I don’t have any children so I can’t tell you many info. Sorry.
      The best can be to search for people in the same situation and ask directly to them.

      Alessio

  3. Christian
    16/02/2016 at 22:49

    Ciao Alessio,

    Sono un Italiano che vive a Londra da ormai quasi 5 anni. Da un po’ di tempo mi frulla l’idea di mollare tutto e ricominciare a Barcelona. Sto facendo un po’ di ricerche per capire a quale salario aspirare. Considerando che lavoro nell’IT, sai dirmi quanto dovrebbe guadagnare una persona con esperienza per non gettare al vento gli anni di lavoro passati? Quello che non vorrei e’ trovarmi tra qualche anno a dover cercare di nuovo lavoro a Londra per una scelta sbagliata ora. So che fare carriera’ la’ non e’ facile come qui..

    P.S.
    Scusa se scrivo in italiano, se vuoi te lo richiedo in inglese 🙂

    • 17/02/2016 at 09:42

      Ciao Christian,

      Ovviamente dipende in che settore dell’IT lavori, ma in generale gli stipendi sono più bassi. Diciamo che puoi considerare nel settore dello sviluppo software un rapporto di 1:1 (uno stipendio da 20.000 euro l’anno a Londra magari lo pagherebbero 20.000 sterline l’anno).
      Se magari mi indichi il settore esatto e l’esperienza posso dare un’occhiata 🙂

      Ci sono molte aziende informatiche a Barcellona. Vai sul sicuro 😉

      Alessio

      • Christian
        17/02/2016 at 20:45

        Grazie per la risposta, velocissima! Sono un Senior Software Engineer con 5/6 anni di esperienza. Ho qualche contatto a Barcelona ma volevo capire un po’ per non farmi fregare 😀

        • 18/02/2016 at 10:10

          Non avrai problemi a trovare un buon lavoro, soprattutto se hai un alto livello d’inglese. Poi dipende dove vuoi arrivare, ma guadagni di gran lunga in qualità di vita 😉

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