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Ask HN: What are the Madrid and Barcelona tech scenes like?
244 points by throwaway0110 on May 21, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 155 comments
Hola HN!

I'm a software developer considering moving to Spain for non-career-related reasons. That said, the job opportunities there are a huge factor in whether I'll actually go.

I've narrowed down to Madrid and Barcelona as the two best options, at least regarding jobs. So I'm asking for the opinions and advice of HNers who have lived & worked in both those cities:

What shape is the tech sector in? What types of work are available? What do salaries look like, vs London/Berlin/Paris levels? How limiting is it to not be fluent enough in Spanish for use at work, beyond chit-chat? Is contracting/freelancing possible, without Spanish fluency? Is there is an obvious leader between the two cities, tech-scene wise? Are there any unintuitive factors to consider?


A bit of personal context, if it helps the advice to be a bit more concrete:

* I'd be going for senior developer roles. Most likely at small-mid size companies. Larger ones possibly, for the right job.

* My past jobs have been in the capital cities of Europe's strongest economies. I'm aware that moving to Madrid or Barcelona will likely involve a pay cut in absolute terms. But this is a trade off I'm more than happy to make.

* I'm currently functional in Spanish but I have a long way to go until fluency. That's one of my goals in moving to Spain. So I'm not put off by the language barrier for day to day life. It would be more of a near term concern if non fluency is severely career limiting, for example if it becomes a problem once you are anywhere above entry level positions, as is the case in some countries.

I work as an SDE for Amazon in Madrid since 3 months ago, having relocated from Buenos Aires for the job. If you are cut for the culture, I can't recommend it enough. Everyone is fluent in English, and all work happens in English. I read really bad things about the work environment at Amazon before joining, but I guess that must be in the past or in some other office because I have seen nothing of the sort here; the environment is demanding but reasonably so. They pay is (much) higher than anything else I've heard of in Spain for a developer, and the relocation package was very generous and helpful.

If you are interested, here's a job search: https://www.amazon.jobs/location/madrid-spain?base_query=&lo...

I will echo what others said though: you need to speak Spanish in Madrid in order to survive, more so than in Barcelona. Outside of the more touristy areas English may not be enough in many places.

What salary range are we talking about? Sadly the link you provided does not mention salaries anywhere.


Doing a Numbeo cost of living conversion suggests at least the base salary is roughly comparable to what you'd be making in the US. The total comp numbers seem low to me, however.

I've been using Numbeo for a few years now (traveling plenty for work).

1. Numbeo: add a 10% "against" you to be on the safe side

2. Salary Calculators: whichever "salary calculator" you are using, add a 10% "against" you (taxes-taxes-taxes)

3. To whatever utilities you are calculating, add another 10% "against" you to for "building administration", "council/city tax".

Do 1-2-3 and you will not have any surprised to your cost-of-living calculations.

Can you elaborate on number 1? For instance Numbeo summarizes:

Cost of living in Barcelona is 35.00% lower than in ____

You would figure it is really only 25% cheaper? Are you comparing just some itemized costs you incur on a business trip or are you actually moving to these places as a resident and making that observation? I ask because a 10% margin of error hasn't been my experience.

Jesus the salaries are so low.

> Doing a Numbeo cost of living conversion suggests at least the base salary is roughly comparable to what you'd be making in the US.

Where in the US? Maybe in the boondocks, but those salaries are shit compared to major city salaries in the US. I made more than that working as an intern before graduating nearly 10 years ago during great recession.


Barcelona native here, lived and worked for years in the NY tech scene and now I am in London, although I go back to Barcelona often, and I'm seriously considering moving back. (I don't know the situation in Madrid well enough). Here are my points:

On the one hand, the tech ecosystem is clearly not as strong as Berlin/London or even Paris, and the average engineer salary is _low_. That also might mean there is more room to experiment and make an impact, offset by a general not-so-mature or agile business environment. Barcelona has good universities, and that means many good developers eager to work on cool shit for lower pay than in other places, if you're into starting your own thing.

Barcelona has many peripheral, small offices of large companies, so I'd say you may be able to find some of the jobs you're looking for in that circuit.

Additionally, Barcelona has a wonderful creative scene. Many strong designers, any many studios doing interesting stuff. Not sure if that's a world that interests you, but many small and big agencies have offices in the city.

And I know you're not asking about that, but dude, quality of life is unbeatable: weather, food, culture and pace of life compensate for what you may be missing on the other end, particularly if you have cultivated relationships in the rest of Europe that you may be able to maintain and use to secure business.

It may depend on what you are looking for. If you truly prioritize really good tech jobs, I would say don't do it. Adjusting your expectations in terms of salary and general ecosystem is required. Salaries won't be at London or Berlin level by a pretty big margin, but at the same time you should adjust by a cost of living that is about like 40% of what it would be in London.

If you want something more balanced, and a rich well-rounded human experience (ha), I'd encourage you to consider the full picture and do it.

There was a moment during my wife and I's honeymoon to Mallorca/Barcelona where I was jogging through Gracia and I truly thought that this was where I was meant to live. A really...really beautiful and amazing city. Once my two huge dogs pass(I can't bear the thought of moving them overseas) I will try my darnedest to move to Catalonia.

If you didn't want to wait, and if the problem is the flight, you could take the QE2 ship from New York to Southampton with your dogs. Unless they're particularly huge.

From Portsmouth harbour (30 minutes from Southampton docks) there are ferries to Santander or Bilbao in Spain, which also allow pets.

>you could take the QE2 ship from New York to Southampton

I thought that was a thing of the past!


Omg. Bookmarking this. Had the chance to take a job overseas but had no idea how to transport my animal.

I clearly failed at googling, and the thought of a cruise ship never crossed my mind.

The thing is, BCN is mostly as expensive as Berlin, but salaries seem considerably lower for developers. I love BCN, but prefer to work and live in Berlin and visit BCN once or twice a year. Berlin has a lot to offer as well, certainly no beach and pretty bad winters though.

That is all true. I really love Berlin and I consider it as much an option as Barcelona, or better. The amount of culture and stimulating things happening is incredible, plus the most liberal city and the most interesting tech scene in Europe (sorry London). The weather has the worst of NYC and the worst of London together though.

How long have you been here? I would be very surprised if the weather was considerably worse than NY and especially London. Current 7 day forecast looks pretty comparable :)

Summers here in Berlin are fantastic and probably have London beat. November-April are really depressing though and seems to take a big toll on everyone.

My girlfriend and I are seriously planning on moving to BCN (or a nearby seaside town) within the next 2 years. We're also coming from the NYC scene. We're not EU citizens so I can't just go find work there but I've heard salaries in the EU are lower than the US anyways so I am going to try and work remotely for an American company.

What's the tech meetup scene like there? Are there conferences? You mentioned the creative scene is great there and I'm totally into that. I'm very interested in getting into interactive installation pieces where art and tech converge. Like what Eyebeam does in NYC.

but high pollution in Barcelona and Madrid. They're big cities and a good part of the population relies on scooters on cars. Jogging there may not even be good for your health in such places. Of course, London is even worse, but Paris is better and the Riviera is the top.

I was afraid of air pollution in Barcelona too as my wife is allergic to some pollutants but if you don't take a flat facing the street and go slightly uphill (gracia, sant gervasi, sarria, ...) it is totally fine. She hasn't had any problems.

Barcelona used to be much more polluted but from what I am told they made a major effort to clean up around 2012. https://air.plumelabs.com/en/year/barcelona

The benefits of physical activity far outweigh the increased longterm risk from air pollution. Also the pollution might be high compared to the best cities, but its still far from places like Beijing were the air is downright toxic, and still people live there.

Is a legit concern. This is another advantage of living in smaller cities.

> will likely involve a pay cut in absolute terms.

In absolute terms, but take in mind that life in Spain can be much less expensive than living in Berlin or Paris. It depends on the area and the job.

> I'm currently functional in Spanish but I have a long way to go until fluency. That's one of my goals in moving to Spain

Madrid is the right option then. Has worst climate with more hot in summer and colder in winter, and is as stressful as any other big city, but is a much more easier place to learn spanish, and (probably) an easier place for a foreigner to mix with the locals. Barcelona uses heavily Catalonian language for all: trafic signs, street posters, commerce, casual conversation, television, politics... all.

On the other hand, if you can find work in any of the other "big/but not so big" province capitals (or can do remote work) maybe you should consider it. Smaller the city, worst pay, but much better life quality. The climate is better around the coast, as usual.

> How limiting is it to not be fluent enough in Spanish for use at work

As long as you speak english and know your stuff, should not be a big problem. English is worshipped (an old national inferiority complex) and in fact could be much more difficult to you to find a job in Spain if you were Spaniard.

Catalan is not going to be a problem. Most people in Barcelona has Spanish as mother tongue. Catalan is more popular in the countryside. The Catalan nationalism is everywhere in the public sphere (public administration, public schools, traffic) because of regional government in hands of Catalan nationalists/separatists. Fortunately, private companies have not that imposition, and commom sense rules: most things are in Spanish and English. Of course, some people -including myself- speak in Catalan with other people, but switch immediately to Spanish or English so no one feels excluded.

If you're thinking about investing in Barcelona, and having fears about the separatist movement: don't worry, it is not going to happen. In that regard Barcelona is pretty much like London: separatists are a minority, being the separatist power in the countryside. So before the Catalan region of Spain becoming independent, Barcelona would remain as part of Spain (in the improbable case of all Spanish citizens agreed about allowing a "Clarity Act" like in Canada, so if Spain could be divided, any separatist region could be divided as well -that would be going "nuclear" against separatists that consider the Catalan region of Spain as "indivisible"-). So independence chance is 0, in my opinion. I hope Catalan nationalism will reduce its influence once their leaders pass through the court (corruption cases), and everything gets back to normal, with bilingüism/trilingüism in the schools and public administration, instead of current de-facto Catalan monolingual stuff in the public sphere. If after that you still have doubts, invest in Madrid first, and think about Barcelona once the political scene gets more rational (I love Barcelona, don't get me wrong).

lol so much bullshit put together it hurt my eyes xD

Quick note: Spaniard here, lived in Berlin for two years and I can assure you that Barcelona is significantly more expensive for a comparable way of life. Berlin is a particularly cheap place to live.

Something interesting is that in Madrid you need Spanish to survive, compared to Barcelona where most people (at least on tech circles) can speak English fluently. So yes, if it's for Spanish fluency, definitely Madrid.

> Barcelona uses heavily Catalonian language for all: trafic signs, street posters, commerce, casual conversation, television, politics... all.

I wouldn't discourage the OP like that. Most of Barcelona's huge immigrant population -- Romanian, Bulgarian, Pakistani, etc. -- never learns Catalan even after two decades living there. They manage perfectly fine without Catalan, and become proficient in Castilian instead. (Of course, their children learn Catalan as they go through the local school system.)

Of course, I think it would be rude for a white collar person like the OP to move to Barcelona and never learn Catalan, but he could certainly move there and get by with Castilian for the first several months.

> Romanian, Bulgarian, Pakistani, etc. -- never learns Catalan even after two decades living there. They manage perfectly fine without Catalan.

What type of jobs is expected for them?

Romanians and Bulgarians work in an enormously broad range of fields from the most unlettered agricultural work to senior IT developers. Pakistanis run a lot of corner shops where you'd think they could easily learn Catalan, but so few ever do.

Regarding the language, I don't think Catalan is much of an issue, to be honest. If you talk in Spanish, you get an answer in Spanish. I would say that the climate and the city are well worth it, but I am of course biased, since I live in Barcelona.

Depends on the Spanish ;) I saw a barista ask a Colombian couple to speak in English because Catalan was his native language and he couldn't understand their accent.

I do get the feeling, at least in Barcelona, that the preference is Catalan > English > Spanish. I've only visited as a tourist though; so I don't know how much of that carries over to the business world.

> I saw a barista ask a Colombian couple to speak in English because Catalan was his native language and he couldn't understand their accent.

I find that very hard to believe, but if it did happen, it's either a joke or a one-off case.

Both Catalan and Spanish are the native language for people born in Catalonia. So most likely he wanted to be polite to them so they didn't feel bad for not being understood.

I can tell you that you are highly misinformed if you think the preference is Catalan > English > Spanish :)

I got the same impression as a tourist too. People had no interest in speaking Spanish with me. Admittedly, my Spanish isn't great, but then people in the service industry in Barcelona don't necessarily speak amazing English either. I got the impression that they'd just rather communicate in English. I think you would have to speak Spanish very confidently and fluently to do things in Spanish without feeling like a bit of a putz.

I'm Catalan, and I can see where you are coming from having worked as a waiter on my young days. Even if you speak broken english -which I did at the time- (a) you are there to serve, so you feel the obligation to be the one making the effort; and (b) you are usually more used to it than the visitor, because its part of your job anyway.

Hence, the usual result is that whenever you get spoken at in "broken" spanish you instinctively switch to english. Hell, I've went on to work on tech circles, and I still feel more comfortable speaking english with people who have a strong accent, even if they are germans/whatever and english is not their native language either!

With catalan it is a different situation. Anyone trying to speak catalan is not just trying to survive (they would do that in spanish!). They are actively trying to learn your native language, and it makes you and your culture feel respected by that person. In such a situation, you do your best to try to understand that person and help him improve further without being pedantic.

For a comparison, I've felt a similar "gratitude/respect reaction" when trying to say a few things in Gaelic while I was visiting northern Ireland.

That's a different reason, there are strong differences in dialect between LATAM regions and the barista probably didn't understand the colombian dialect of Spanish.

> If you talk in Spanish, you get an answer in Spanish.

This is not granted always. It depends on the people.

The problem is that you are trying to learn spanish being inmersed at the same time in another similar language but with different orthographic and grammatical rules. And you see examples of the non-spanish version everywhere in your journey. Should you use a 'B' or a 'V' for that word?. Sounds the same but is often the opposite in the two languages. Lots of people have problems with that without even noticing.

Absolutely right!

Just to clarify, if you tell someone you didn't understand their initial answer, they won't have any problem changing to Spanish.

so, is it "farcelona" in catalan?

Not, is Barcelona (or BCN, or Barna), but there are for example: alcova, almívar, gavardina, avortar, berruga, bivac, automobil, provar, rebentar, berbena, està, Xina, còrrer, etc, etc...

Unless you want to pass for the equivalent of a redneck when doing bussiness in lots of American countries and also in most spanish provinces, you should remember that those words must be written in spanish as: alcoba, almíbar, gabardina, abortar, verruga, vivac, automóvil, probar, reventar, verbena, está, China and correr (with word stress in the e this time), for example.

And would be good to remind also that sometimes the same concept is treated as masculine in Spanish but is feminine in Catalán (or the opposite case). Unlike english we use different articles for masculine and femenine words so this is important. Would be like using "she" when talking about our manager John.

And this is only a small part of the complete bobby trap list.

In my company we aggregate ALL public job listing in Tech companies in Barcelona & Madrid so I have some real data to share:

Barcelona doubles Madrid in number of Tech Companies currently hiring:

- Barcelona -> 299 startups offering 776 jobs

- Madrid -> 157 startups offering 359 jobs

As for language:

- Barcelona -> 90% of the job offers are written in English rest in Spanish. This could mean that English is more or less a required language for all the jobs in Barcelona

- Madrid -> 50% of the offers are written in English, the other half in Spanish.

About salaries, making a quick SQL query in the job offers database shows that Barcelona pays 15% more than Madrid as average. Although I would say that Top companies in Barcelona and Madrid are paying the same.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you need further information, we have lots of data to share.

[Update] data shared comes from https://www.jobfluent.com/jobs-barcelona (Barcelona) and https://www.jobfluent.com/jobs-madrid (Madrid)

That's how you do marketing and provide value.


moved to Barcelona about two years ago (from London). Here's a post I wrote last summer about some of my impressions. http://www.freyfogle.com/post/1466857133/moving-to-barcelona

In short: quality of life is great, and the tech scene, though still small, is growing rapidly.

For the Barcelona I highly recommend you subscribe to this weekly newsletter http://www.barcinno.com

From your post: "I’ve had Catalan people tell me they prefer to speak English with me rather than Spanish"...."My experience is you will have to work very hard to befriend a local"

I think that this summarizes clearly one of the biggest issues: Real integration.

On the other hand, everybody in Madrid is from another part of Spain, and nobody has a problem with spanish language therefore is much easier to integrate and to make friends from different places. As said, the city is a furnace in summer, but is not much different to most places in Spain (including Barcelona). Maybe Madrid is a little hotter, but Valencia's beaches are at 1:35 h of distance in train, and Barcelona and Malaga at 2:45 hours or so from Madrid.

If you want a super-nice summer climate go to the Cantabrian coast, when it rains all day long each four days and you can sleep all night long :-). Irish climate.

Hi, do you know if there's anything like barcinno for Madrid?

Personally, I receive a Startup Digest newsletter tailored for Madrid and BCN, curated by Alex Barrera, who I think is famous in the startup scene, and Maria Encinar. They cover jobs, rounds, events and talks...the usual. That might be interesting for you.

I don't follow the Madrid scene at all, so no idea if such a thing exists. Sorry

I'm a founder in Barcelona.

Barcelona is great and it's difficult to find tech people, demand is skyrocketing. Most of them already have a great job.

Salaries range between 20k€ for entry positions to 45k-50k for top senior positions. Cost of life is adjusted accordingly. Tech people are well paid in Spain and have non trouble living an affluent life.

Language is not an issue. I do all my interviews in English/Spanish. 99% of people in Catalonia do speak Spanish [1]. You'll definitely need to learn Spanish for life outside your workplace: shopping, taxes, etc.

Barcelona is very tourist friendly, hipper and has better weather than Madrid. Madrid has better top level positions (director of big telco, top public servants, etc) and better "quality culture": cinema, theater, etc. That being said both cities are great both in work & leisure. You'll feel comfortable in both. The only thing that makes a real difference is the sea: if you're used to being near the coast, Madrid can be a bit stifling.

Spanish tech is pretty hot but you won't find any unicorns. You can make a great career but we don't have any Googles, Apples or Facebooks. However some big companies have offices in Barcelona: King, Social Point...

The catalan area is undergoing a political process where they want independence from Spain. Nobody knows what's going to happen. In any case that hypothetical independence would affect both cities more or less equally -- if only by different reasons.

TL;DR: Both cities are great. Barcelona has the sea and Madrid is the capital. Tech jobs are paid well w.r.t. cost of life. Spanish people like to argue about politics but that shouldn't be a deal breaker either way. Reply or PM me if you want more details.

[1]: http://www.elperiodico.com/es/noticias/sociedad/conocimiento...

You can work in English in most tech companies in Madrid and Barcelona. In fact, if some company discard you because of that, it would be a good thing for you. I know people working for more than 10 years in Madrid and Barcelona with just English, without speaking Spanish (most people is not nationalist, so you'll not feel strong social push for learning the local language/s). In fact, most people will appreciate it, so they can improve their English (coffee breaks, lunch time, etc.).

Available jobs:

- Pharma industry - Car manufacturers (industrial software, automation, etc.) - Misc manufacturing (again, automation, robotics, plant/line planification) - Finance, insurance. - IT consulting, logistics, start ups, etc.

Pretty similar to everywhere, plus industrial stuff.

Best paying jobs: finance, Pharma industry, car design-related (3D, materials, aerodynamics, etc.), SAP consulting, import/export logistics.

Before getting too much depressed with salary figures, note that "before taxes" salary is not the full salary. E.g. someone making 40.000€ "before taxes" means the company puts additional 13,000€ for retirement and Social Security, being like making near 50,000 USD in the US (plus with 100% medical coverage, no matter how expensive is, e.g. a cancer treatment, or any other expensive treatment).

Of course, if you come from making 130,000-200,000 USD / year, you'll feel "poor" in comparison. For better salaries, New Zealand and Australia may be better options.

Absolute number wise, it's probably hard to beat the united states. Life quality wise, probably that changes.

I make well above the ranges you were mentioning in the US, and still feel poor in comparison :)

If your end game is to come back to USA after 2-3 years, it might be ok. But if you want to come back after 20-30 years, you might be losing on quite a lot of income.

That assumes, you know, you want to work as an employee for that time. All bets are off if you want to start your own company.

Also, universal medical coverage in Spain covers you and all your family members, without additional cost. E.g. if you're married and having 4 kids, all 6 people would be 100% covered by the public health insurance. E.g. If you have a child with problems requiring medical treatments costing 2 millions of USD (e.g. unlimited surgeries, unlimited hospital time, unlimited treatment), it would be covered.

My question: what happens if you lose your job as a foreign worker (say, too sick to keep working)? The family scenarios are all also covered by my US employee-based coverage, with a small-compared-to-the-salary-numbers out-of-pocket annual max, but in the US where you can get screwed is if you get too sick to work.

If you're salaried, and get too sick to work, that would be covered. I.e. you're not going to be kicked out of the country like it could happen in the USA. Think of Spain like soft-socialism capitalism (pretty much like most countries in the European Union), with massive worker protection. In case of not being able to work at all, you'll get a for-life pension and full health-care coverage until you die, even if it takes e.g. 50 years.

If you're a Eurozone citizen (not necessarily an E.U. member), you can enjoy that exactly like being a Spanish citizen. For corner cases, e.g. a Briton in the post-Brexit scenario (or someone from countries outside the EU, so you would also require a work visa), working with visa would have same protection as local citizens. In that regard, Spain is quite humanist. So please, talented people from the UK, USA, and from everywhere in the World, you're very welcome to come to Spain and help making this place better! :-)

Up to 4 days (sickness paid leave): your employer pays your full salary.

Between 4 days and 1.5-2 years (temporary disability / incapacidad temporal): the state pays you 60 to 75% of your salary (depending on some specific conditions, whether it was a work-related issue or not, etc.). You and your entire family keep all social benefits, including healthcare.

More than 2 years (permanent disability / incapacidad permanente): I don't really know, but I suspect it depends even more on the specifics. These are always hairy cases, even for natives.

After you become a permanent resident in a EU country, you are no longer legally a "foreign worker" but rather state services treat you the same as any native-born person.

So googling says this is available to apply for after 5 years for Spain. Which suggests that the health care benefits may not be substantially better for quite some time after moving. Especially if moving from the US and giving up several tens of thousands of dollars per year in salary.

The last part of this sentence makes thing increasingly unclear-sounding:

> You have to prove that you have adequate financial resources to provide for you and your family (if applicable) – such as pension, scholarship or salary – and proof of public or private health insurance with a company authorised to operate in Spain.

Why would you need health insurance of your own if you'd end up on a state plan?

You can't just take the first plane to Spain and say, "please treat my cancer for free because my country refuses to spend any money on me". This do not work like this.

Spain has health agreements with many countries concerning its citizens. Sometimes they are symmetric, other not so. If Spain will be billed if a Spaniard needs to use the public health care system in the country X, then the country X will be billed in return also if one of their citizens needs to receive public health care in Spain. As foreigner turist either your country or your insurance will pay for you, but you are guaranteed to be treated by fine physicians if you really need it.

You could need a health insurance if you are a retired citizen of other country living as expat in Spain but that never worked there, (therefore never contributed to support the public health-care system).

Because you can apply for permanent residency while being retired and living your elder days under the spanish sun, in which case you don't get health coverage because you are not (and never were) a spanish worker.

If you have been working in spain, you are covered by the spanish public health system which is your proof of public health insurance right there. Also, so long as you keep being an "active worker" (that means either actually working or inscribed in the public job-seeking people registry INEM) you will maintain your health coverage whether you are a permanent resident or not.

If you work legally (EU Shengen area, or having a work visa) with salary, for a company, you have full public health coverage for you and your family, just like every Spanish citizen (Spanish citizens have public universal health-care coverage even being unemployed).

but they probably have different ideas of problems that require medical treatment.

> salary is not the full salary...

And a month or so each year of paid holidays, by contract, if you work in the same company for some time. This does not apply for freelancers or small temporal jobs, of course.

Yes, right. Contractors/freelancers, despite having universal health-care coverage like salaried people, don't have paid holidays. Anyway, you can make lots of money as contractor working in Madrid or Barcelona (six figure income, before taxes). E.g. doing the exactly same work you can make 2-3x as contractor.

(born in Barcelona, lived on both cities): these two are really different places. Tech scene is also clearly different. As I see it, Barcelona is smaller and cozier, tech scene might be hotter, but that might be from my own bias. Madrid is big, active and noisy. There are plenty of jobs on Madrid, compared to Barcelona, although I still think the hot stuff is on the latter.

Being both cities relatively near, why don't you take a week to visit them both? Register to some meetups, visit tech hubs, incubators, etc, and see for yourself which one feels like the place you want to be in. Now is a good time to visit, as the weather is calm. I would stay away from Madrid on august.

As for freelancing, I wouldn't recommend unless you are going to work for foreign clients.

Irish/Aussie in Madrid here. I moved from Sydney a few years to take up a gig at Cabify. As has been mentioned here, you'll take a pay cut compared to the big European capitals, but cost of living probably balances it out.

Foreigners will probably be more familiar with Barcelona, but I find that Madrid is generally more welcoming. Most people who live in Madrid, although they may be Spanish, are not from in Madrid and so you'll find that most people are in a situation not too different from your own. The food is great, nightlife and culture some of the best you'll find in the world and you're well connected with budget airlines and high speed trains.

If you're at one of the more well known tech companies in Madrid you'll have no problem getting by with limited Spanish. Most work and all documentation is of course in English. You might just find the after-work/socialising sessions are where you'll most suffer not being a native speaker - but of course it's only a matter of time before you'll improve. Outside of work, with basic Spanish you'll get by, but it will be much easier and more enjoyable when you're comfortable cracking jokes in Spanish over a few "cañas".

The sector is definitely growing due to a few recent success stories and although the sector is not huge, there seems to be a solid amount of available venture funding, appetite for risk and I think it will only continue to grow as companies like ours put the city on the "tech" map.

We're hiring if you're interested :-) https://cabify.com/jobs

Cool that you are hiring. I once applied. Did an interview and a code challenge and after that no one told me anything. No feedback on the challenge. Nothing.

:-( Sorry about that. We were going through a pretty crazy growth period so our recruiting and HR practices were not where they should be. I'd like to think we've improved quite a bit now with a bigger team and a dedicated recruiting/HR person for our team. If you want to reach out (@davepsmyth) I can give you some feedback and an update on the team/roles.

It's interesting to see so many posts telling "costs of living are low". I live in south of France and while Barcelona is slightly cheaper, the salaries are significantly lower. I know lots of Spaniards and Italians who moved here due to that.

Having said that, exciting career opportunities in south of France are kinda limited.

BTW: If you want a place that is indeed very cheap, look at Portugal (I don't know how's the job market there, but several of my colleagues moved to Lisbon recently and I think they're doing well).

One of the things you'll miss coming from countries like the US or the UK is proper houses for a reasonable price and at a reasonable commute time to the city center.

I'm a Spaniard living in the UK since 7 years ago and last year I considered moving back for personal reasons... When people say that housing in London is more expensive than in Madrid, check for actual two-story houses, with a private garden and garage, less than an hour away to anywhere in zone 1 by public transport... There are almost none, and the few are actually more expensive than in the UK.

Also, most of my Spanish friends get home around 8pm, since they work until 7. I'm so glad that I can be home with the kids at 5:45pm, and work remotely a couple days a week. That's very very rare in Spain, so beware.

A lot of people have commented on the cost of living to salary balance, but the part they're missing out (which I think is crucial and the main reason I won't go back to Spain) is that it's quite inconvenient if you travel regularly to more expensive countries. Yes, 3k/month will do wonders in Spain but if you want to spend a few weeks in NYC and then some in London, your savings aren't gonna take you very far (first hand experience).

My suggestion is get a remote job that pays close to what you'd earn on SF or NYC and then spend your time wherever you want. Barcelona is a great city. Don't believe the scaremongering expats with their "oh they spoke to me in Catalan" horror stories because it's mostly bullshit or very rare. I'm mixed race and grew up in Spain (which means the often assume I'm a foreigner and they default to English) so trust me when I tell you that you won't have any problems whatsoever. I can speak Catalan and Castellano as well but I've never had any issues speaking whichever I preferred. Trust me, 99.999% of people in Barcelona (city) speak perfect Castellano and if you hear stories of bartenders speaking Catalan or Russian, be suspicious simply call their bullshit. Everybody loves having an interesting story to tell, but they're just stories.

¡Bienvenido! I've lived a few years in Madrid and in several parts of Spain. As I expected, most people here would have a bias towards Barcelona. Barcelona is a great city, but don't underestimate Madrid. It is less turistic, vibrant, and there is a lot of cultural activity with many options in ways you can live. Barcelona does a much better job at promoting as a city, but to me, the real advantage over Madrid is the sea. Madrid takes time to understand, but people fall in love with the city. Regarding tech, what happens is the the job market here is less "efficient" than say, the SV, where salaries tend to be determined by the market. Here you can find very good options, and very bad options.

The city is good but I can't get how people live there with such low salaries (20K-45K). This is in tech. I don't want to think about what people make in other areas (humanities?)...

Of course it is all relative to you cost of living, but this is slightly better where you are part of the solution, and not part of the problem, meaning: if you are on a tech company, and you bring in the money, you will command a higher wage; whereas if you are working in a bank / telco / doing ERP software in a "carnica" (cheap sweatshop outsourcing company), and the executives think you are a "necessary evil", just a cost center, you will be paid less. This happens in every place; but Spain doesn't have a lot of Google/Apple/Facebook/Amazon/Microsoft kind of companies to push the talent demand upwards (so talented people try to leave the country).

The salaries job figures do not include medical insurance and unemployement insurance, which is paid directly by the employer and normally a value in the range on 10-15K.

Not sure why these costs are sort of concealed to employees n Spain and disclosed as gross salary in other cointries.

Perhaps Spanish Government wants to give the sense they are doing a lot for people in terms of Healthcare and unemployement without them knowing where the money really comes from and overall how much money they are paying for these benefits.

But from those 20K-45K you also pay income tax 30% (or 40%?), right?

As for healthcare, at least in Barcelona, if it is not really urgent, you have to wait a month to actually gat that free visit to a doctor. Because of this, people go to paid/private doctor anyway.

For seeing your dermatologist, private is a lot more convenient and quick to get rid of that itch.

If you have cancer or a serious disease, you go to the public one, even if you pay private. Not because of costs, but because there are better doctors in public than there are in private (strange but true).

In fact can be even the same doctors, but the public healthcare system has more money and better resources: better machines, more complete operating theaters, more blood bags available, more physicians... (you need two surgeons at least present by law in case one gets suddenly ill for example, so insurance companies hire senior physicians from the public system all the time for filling the quota)

The main goal of private companies is earning money, so they will try to cut costs. If a patient gets worse or the operation finds a problem or do not went as expected the patient will be quickly derived to the nearest public hospital (the insurance will be billed later for this).

At 20K you still need to pay around 10-15% of average income tax. At 40K probaby average income is around 20%. Not to be confused with marginal income tax, which is higher (probably around 25% and 30% respectively).

Me neither. And cost-of-living doesn't seem that low all together. House prices are almost comparable with northern europe.

This might interest you: https://www.jobfluent.com/jobs-barcelona/

From what I see, wages are considerably lower than in the rest of Europe and the US.

On the other hand, some offices I have been in have spectacular views of the sea :)

There's not much of an ecosystem, but rather good companies in both places: - madrid: cartodb, ontruck, jobandtalent, cabify,... - bcn: typeform, wallapop,... Some of those previous companies have English as the working language, so that shouldn't be a problem. But in some companies, even the senior leadership might struggle with English. You will need to test that during the recruiting process :) Freelancing might be more challenging, because of the smaller pool of opportunities. Salaries are 20-30% lower than in London, but as a foreigner relocating to Spain, you have a tax break that makes the net salary closer.

Salaries in Madrid or Barcelona are more or less the same. Typical ranges are 18-28K for a junior, 36-52 for a senior and 42-70 for a lead. A CTO on a startup will depend a lot on the startup but 80-150k would not be uncommon for small ones.

As you can see on this article, people from Barcelona are sometimes a little chauvinist with their loved city so I want to clear some things said. Specifically on my 20 years of experience with engineers of both cities (and working in Barcelona sometimes, even tough I'm from Madrid) I've seen more or less the same ranges of English capabilities from engineers of both cities. It's true that people in Barcelona are more fluent in general in English, but with engineers and young people the level is about the same.

Engineers in startups and normal companies in Madrid doesn't wear suits. Only consultants, bank workers and similar do in my experience (also in Barcelona). Currently school and high school in Madrid is bilingual.

Somebody said that you can get a flat in downtown Barcelona for 800€. Thats pretty unrealized, only for very small or really crappy flats. 1200-1500 is more realistic. Madrid is about the same.

Most catalans won't have any problem speaking Spanish with a foreigner. Some will avoid speaking spanish with a Spaniard (not urban legend, happened to me more than once) as a way to assert their nationalism. But there are assholes everywhere on any city.

People in Barcelona is probably more warm and open and given to small talk. People in Madrid have this castillian character that is something between laconic/shy/cool that could sound like unfriendly but it really isn't.

The best climate for you will depend a lot on your preference to humid/dry climates. Barcelona is humid (not Florida level but almost) and Madrid is VERY dry. The temperatures are more extreme in Madrid (-5/40C are usually the extreme ranges in winter/summer) and Barcelona is could be 8/35 but being humid Barcelona 35 feel hotter than Madrid 40 since your body will transpire worse on an humid climate, but all working places and public transportation will have AC om both cities, so it really depends on what your body is accustomed to.

The startup scene is very healthy in both cities, specially on the latest years where investors are moving money outside of the broken housing market (In working on a startup in Madrid right now).

Other than that both are great cities with a lot of culture and night life and surely you'll enjoy both.

You may like to check out the Slack group: https://madrid-devs.slack.com/

Generally good opportunities but expect pay to be a lot lower than London etc. Cost of living is pretty cheap though so it evens out :)

Qué tal! ThoughtWorks recently opened an office in BCN. Feel free to reach out for more details.


I moved to Berlin after living in BCN for many years.

In Berlin there are beaches but of course they are not comparable to south (actually they have a different taste) But at least now I can afford a couple of times per year going to BCN and enjoy the city more than I used to. Barcelona was like honeymoon for me. In the beginning it was so good but once I was there for a couple of years everything lost its taste.

I was fluent in Catalan and Spanish from day 0 (well Catalan came a bit later) and have never been in expat bubble. I know that expat community enjoys more. But when you are involved in the local community you see that in Spain economical and political issues make people unhappy there. They won't say you that because even they can't recognize how much they are complaining about their life. This sucked my energy. Yes, weather is nice and all those mediterrean stuff looks so interesting but you can't eat sun and sand. I was personally looking for being productive but unfortunately Spain was not somewhere you can build stuff like you can do in the north. When I realized that I was wasting one of my most productive years, I simply moved on. If not I would have regretted 30 years later.

I think until you are 30 you should have lived there, definetely one of the best places to be young but if you want to have a good future, good career etc. you'll need to spend the rest of your life in a more developed economy of Europe, of course then you can come and buy your house in Costa Brava and die there once you are retired,

I moved to Madrid this past December, and have thought about this question quite a bit. TL;DR: if you can work remotely and live in Spain you'll have a great life. Cost of living is 1/3-1/2 of SF or NYC, but incomes in tech are also 1/3 to 1/2.

More specifically: 1. Language in tech is not a big issue if you speak English. The work and the documentation will largely be in English and most of your young co-workers will speak English. 2. Remote work in Madrid is easy: there are lots of co-working places, rents are cheap, high-speed internet is relatively ubiquitous, and transportation to the U.S. and other parts of Europe is accessible. 3. Expect Madrid's infrastructure and startup scene to be about 5 years behind New York's in most ways. (Except access to capital - Madrid's way behind on that front). 4. In terms of local opportunities in Madrid: There are both Google and Amazon offices here, most of the big bank headquarters, and lots of freelance opportunities for local companies. Startups exist, but there aren't as many as you'd find in larger tech-hubs - founders don't tend to be very sophisticated, but there are lots of exceptions. 5. Job security is much more important and more expected for the Spanish - and it's a philosophy that's a bit rough for the startup community. It's harder to get a job because people don't quit and companies don't fire them as quickly AND it's harder to start something because each hire becomes a potentially crippling liability if you run into cash-flow problems. 6. The Spanish value work/life-balance. Siestas aren't as ubiquitous as they used to be, but there are lots ways that the Spanish still find to enjoy life - younger people with full-time jobs seem to have time and resources for hobbies, courses, and travel as well as plenty of time for family.

Bienvenido! I do not think that the language is going to be a barrier for the kind of companies you are looking for. Also, you can always look for a remote job.

If I was you I'll double check other cities like Valencia, Málaga and Mallorca.

Bear in mind that the cost of life in Spain can vary a lot from one city to the other.

Go to job sites, search positions matching your skills and evaluate their quality and quantity

People might expect you to talk Catala in Barcelona but you should be able to get around with English and Spanish

Learning a language can be daunting at first but it gets there eventually


Madrid native here.

The scene is growing and it's exciting. I work at carto.com, and there are plenty other like it (growing startups). If you want to visit our offices, hit me up at @gfioravantti and I'll give you a tour!

Salaries are low but quality of life is top notch

I'd be really interested in taking up your offer, thanks.

I don't think I can send you a DM on twitter without you following me first. If you'd be so kind, and would like to arrange something, would you mind shooting an email to throwawayhn0110@gmail.com with a way to get in touch? Using a throwaway for obvious reasons, sorry for the hoops!

Tech salaries in Spain are not higher than for other sectors, as the tech sector is still very small, and most jobs are inside "cost centers" of other companies (banks, telcos, etc.). A typical (good!) staring salary would be 25k for Madrid or 20k for Barcelona. In contrast you'd see 40k in Paris or Berlin for a similar job. It's typical to have 14 monthly payments (with extra payment in July/August and Christmas), so that ends up being around 1200 euros net per month.

Quality of life is great, though, and not so expensive. The Lancet recently [1] put Spain's healthcare as 8th in the world, food is great, the social scene is very open to foreigners, climate is better than in northern europe, etc.

The worse part of your expenses in either Madrid or Barcelona will be renting an apartment, as prices are rising quickly (after the financial crisis, housing plummeted, so construction stopped. But now everyone with some extra cash is buying apartments for renting them, and there's extra pressure to make them a worthwhile investment).

Spain's economy is divided in tiny companies (PYMES), and huge companies. We lack a lot of medium sized companies such as the german mittelstands, and it shows on job mobility and opportunities. Compounding this with a small tech scene, it might be hard to find a job opportunity. But tech is growing quickly, as others have mentioned.

If you are functional in spanish, it shouldn't be a problem, but mind that spaniards are not so used to working with other nationalities, so you will be somewhat "exotic" and you will get a mild joke from time to time. You might find some "inferiority complex", particularly if you are german/french/american, as Spain has traditionally looked abroad for innovation and modernity references (famously pictured by Unamuno and his "Que inventen ellos" quote [2]).

The contracting area is dismal. Most of autonomos are either micropymes or false autonomos, actually working for one huge company, with total dependence and a huge risk, without the normal employee rights and securities. Spain is not accustomed to paying fair prices for contract work. And outside the tech scene, there will be often requests for working for free (typical for design or copy work), or without paying taxes ("cobrar en B").

On the Madrid vs. Barcelona topic I'm of course biased, being from Madrid, but I find that foreigners are initially much more familiar with Barcelona, and they overlook Madrid. Madrid is great! And more objectively: it is bigger, with more opportunities, without language problems (catalan might be an issue from time to time, mostly if you are still learning spanish, but you will also find people from time to time that refuse to speak spanish for political reasons), and with less tourists yet more foreigners (you will not be treated so much as a cash-cow tourist, as some of my friends have suffered a couple of times in Barcelona).

Overall, I'd say you can live very well in Spain, but it is not the place if you seek big career opportunities. Of course all of this is a HUGE simplification, and you can find excellent opportunities in Spain, and shitty opportunities elsewhere. I personally have a lot of french friends working in Madrid with excellent jobs and adamant on staying for the rest of their lives. And all of what I said is improving quickly; Spain got a really big economic push when entering the euro, and although the crisis stuck VERY hard, we are recovering and accelerating a lot!

[1] http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-67... [2] (spanish) https://blogs.iadb.org/puntossobrelai/2016/06/06/que-invente...

Thank you for writing such a well considered summary, particularly addressing both sides of issues like language and the unusual economic split of large & small companies. In these HN discussions about the tech industry in various cities there have been too many comments that are entirely one-sided pro or con.

You're welcome! I have gotten so much value and entertainment from HN over the year that I'm very happy to give back when I have the opportunity, so please ask if you need me to expand on anything :)

If you want to see the tech Barcelona community, I would join to the slack group of the bcneng community http://bcneng.net/

Kinda related: What about Portugal? What is the tech scene like in Porto?

Only here as a nomad, but I find Lisbon and Porto to be way nicer than Barcelona. Way more green space, way less pollution. People are incredibly nice and speak English and French way better than in Spain (they sub instead of dub their tv/movies). Same focus on tourism and more nascent tech scene but there are a decent number of cafes to work from. Definitely on its way up, the city is big on supporting tech (eg Web Summit moving to Lisbon)

Why is this thread flagged?

Disclaimer: I'm from Madrid and I live in Madrid right now. I've created 3 startups. I've spent monts or weeks working from San Francisco, New York, London and Barcelona. My companies have been invested by Atomico, Idinvest, PointNine, 500 Startups

Many people ask me why I haven't moved permanently elsewhere. The answer is simple: quality of live. It's really hard to get the quality of life that we have in Spain (free health care, awesome food, awesome weather, lots and lots of places to visit on the weekends, awesome hiking places, beaches, mountains to sky, etc). Specially if you have a high salary like us in tech do.

About Madrid and Barcelona. I think both are good choices, but let me summarize some thoughts: - Barcelona. It has a beach and the sea; if you are really into it, it's a great choice. It's near France, so it's great to rent a car and travel to Europe (France, Italy). The city is lovely although there are way too many tourists now (you will avoid many areas). It had an ecosystem much bigger than Madrid, but right now it's not anymore. The design community is bigger there. There are more international people living there for 1-2 years, but they usually leave. - Madrid. The bigger companies are here (Amazon has tons of good paying jobs, Google, Facebook). If you avoid Puerta del Sol, the rest of areas are very calm. It has high-speed trains with all over Spain, it's the best spot if you want to travel. The startup ecosystem has grown a lot, Google opened a Campus there (like in London). There are many accelerators in Madrid. And many of us who sold previous companies are already into our 2-3 companies. Wages are higher and the cost is kind of similar now (what they told me in Barcelona two weeks ago). Madrid has more events than in Barcelona.

About the work. If you work in Tech, Spanish won't be a problem neither in Madrid nor Barcelona. In both places you may want to learn some Spanish & Catalan words to communicate better, but the situation is improving a lot (there are thousands of American & British teachers in our schools).

Salaries? Lower than in UK and Germany. But the top companies are paying much more than traditional companies. Let's say that the idea is that you save the same money. A Senior dev can get paid between 40 and 60k in Madrid in one of the top startups + stock options.

Don't do freelancing with local clients. If you are into remote, that's the best way to save money. Remote for a US client and work from Spain.

If you are searching for a startup and Madrid is finally a good option for you, check ours https://ontruck.com/work-with-us/. We are around 40 employees, we have grown a lot (€) in one year and we have just been invested by Atomico and Idinvest https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/11/ontruck/. Our focus is Europe.

Just a small side note: saying health care is free is unrealistic.

I pay 378 euros a month as an automono and I don't have paro.

4.5k a year for health insurance it better be a damn good one.

This is for health insurance, your taxes and also for your retirement pension. Being autonomo is a handicap, this is true, but you are your own boss, choose your working hours, clothes etc as you want, stop working "when you want" and are supposedly paid for extra hours, so not all is bad after all.

He's paying for a retirement pension, but not __his__ retirement pension.

Your final pension depends on what you have paid in your worker's life. So he's paying "for a promise of having a better retirement pension".

Which taxes?

I am a Spanish "autonomo" living in Germany: healthcare is way more expensive here in Germany (and in many ways lower quality). I see Spanish freelancers complain a lot about how expensive healthcare is for them, but when you compare it with the rest of Europe/USA, it is quite cheap I'd say.

Those 378 euros are not just for health care, but also for retirement.

As a Spanish newbie developer, past my 30's, learning on my own for a career change and without any degree (not even a non-tech degree), how are my chances of finding an entry level position in Barcelona or Madrid? What can I do to increase my chances?

I see that most developer jobs ask for tech-related degrees and at least 1-3 years of professional experience.

I'd be very grateful if someone is willing to give me some advice.

PS: I'm following a full-stack curriculum focused on Ruby (not the most popular language in Spain, I know) and JavaScript.

Average tech salary for Barcelona is $45k/yearly

and for Madrid is around $60k/yearly:


Barcelona is really nice place to live and many developers live there and works remotely for UK or US startups where salaries are higher.

that map looks good for USA but certainly looks wrong and lopsided for some places in Europe. 100K in Romania? I don't think so. In Madrid the average is definitely not 61K, more like 32 or so. Looks like they really don't have enough data for many locations, and maybe they just once had a job posted for that amount.

I remember having read a forum post of a highly (!) gifted spanish programmer and engineer over at diyaudio.com, maybe ten years back. She was seeking for a job in her home and complained, that there is no place one with her talents could go, if interested in research. Admittedly, that was ten years ago, she was a hardware person (switching PSU design, etc.) and a systems, not a business, programmer.

> Admittedly, that was ten years ago

The tech scene in Spain has changed a lot in 10 years. 10 years ago all money was used in the housing marked, tech was low priority for investors. That has changed, nowadays the tech industry in Spain is getting healthier and starts to compete in global markets.

Check out these reviews of what it's like to work at tech companies in Barcelona: https://www.reddit.com/r/Barcelona/comments/6bopoj/software_...

Do you have a work permit?

Hola! :)

I was in a very similar situation to yourself almost 5 years ago so I'll try and list some of my thoughts and experiences.

I was working as a backend developer in the UK, my girlfriend was off doing her masters and told me I should do something interesting with myself as I felt stagnant in the job I had at the time.

I'd always loved Spain and Catalunya so took the plunge to move out here, my girlfriend joined me and we've now spent almost 5 happy years about here in Barcelona.

Getting a job:

- I found interviews to be similar to interviews in the UK.

- Companies are much slower in getting back to you and moving you through their pipelines. One company came back to me 3 months after having offered me a job and wondering why I'd had to look for other options.

Working/Work environment:

- I joined a company of around 60 people, don't fool yourself that the work environment will be in English just because the interview was. I personally wanted to learn Spanish but it was still much tougher starting a job, a new life and a new language(s).

- While quality of life is better I'd say the work environment is tougher, people work hard and long hours here, at neither company I worked at did we do a standard 9-5. 9-7 was much more common with an hour for lunch.

- Management feels quite old school, they can be more rigid and traditional than say in the UK. Developers on the other hand feel ahead of the curve, there is more interest in side projects, new tech and trying out different skills.

- Salary is quite a lot lower, I took a 30% pay cut when I moved. I managed to get a couple of pay raises but the ceiling and cadence of raises is much lower. I'd attribute that to the more traditional management treating workers as equal resources and also that back then there were a lot of talented developers around (and less larger companies like King were in the area).

- Both companies I worked at worked in English official but in reality it was mainly Spanish, switching to English if there were non Spanish speakers present. I'd say having fluency is a huge huge boost to your career potential (and ability to make friends) :).

Quality of life:

Quality of life is great, a slower more family focused culture and a plethora of fun things to do within the city and surrounding areas. It really makes such a difference having nicer weather for both your mood but also ability to get out and do more sport or taking long Sunday walks (a great pastime here).

I think most people responding to you will rave about the quality of life (I'm one of them) but let me gave you some things that are tougher.

- If you want to learn and live in Spanish then you are best off in Madrid. Significantly less tourists and the use of just Spanish means immersion will be much quicker. Barcelona is great but due to having two official languages, a ton of tourists and foreigners means that a lot of people will fall into just speaking their native language anyway. You really need to make an effort to take classes, not switch to English and persevere. As my partner is also British we've had to make an extra effort as we speak English with each other.

- Making local friends is quite tough, all our friend are Spanish speakers from outside of Catalunya or South America. Locals are very friendly but they tend to have grown up with their friendship groups and it can be harder to integrate (doubly so as their are two languages and learning both to a good standard is tricky).

- Do not live anywhere near the center in Barcelona, tourists invade the city and really make it quite unpleasant. House prices are also rocketing for renting at the moment.

I now work remotely for a US company as it seems the best of both worlds, I love living here, the people,culture,food and weather all combine to make me happier. If you are serious about taking the plunge I'd look ASAP for a Spanish teacher, it'll be the best investment you'll make! Best of luck!

Just a comment on the Spanish in Spain. They don't speak "Spanish" there, but a number of languages instead. Unless you want to learn Catalan, choose Madrid. Sure they understand Castellano but will prefer the local language.

(BTW, this boggled the mind of my younger backpacker self from California who grew up on Mexican Spanish.)

I strongly disagree, you can work in Barcelona without knowing Catalan if you don't have a public facing job, like most tech-related duties are.

Spanish and Catalan are both official languages in Catalonia and everyone there understands and is able to speak Spanish (even more so than Catalan, given the amount of immigrants in Barcelona).

I'm from Spain and have lived in Barcelona without speaking Catalan at all, so don't spread misinformation.

> I'm from Spain and have lived in Barcelona without speaking Catalan at all.

Ok, but this advice is not useful to the second-language learner. To become fluent one needs immersion, and learning two similar languages at once is going to slow that down a lot. Not to mention a business trip to Mexico City or Lima, not helpful.

Similar to advising a Chinese person to study English in Edinburgh or the Netherlands, while it's technically possible, hardly optimal.

This is an exact metaphor. Should I go to Scotland if my main goal were to learn english? Is a beautiful place, no doubt about it, and totally worth it to pay a visit, but there are easier ways.

You'll get a cool accent though.

You do know they speak in English in Scotland, right?

But is a different english, tainted with local mannerisms and variants that are not useful out of Scotland.

Indeed, I needed subtitles on my first few viewings of Trainspotting.

I'd be quite careful with this of comment as it has the potential to upset people. The people in Spain do speak Spanish yes but in many regions they speak their own languages that are not dialects but distinct languages. In fact on top of Spanish there are 4 other officially recognised languages:

Catalan Galician Basque Aranese

And still there are more languages that are not recognised, pretty cool :)

Catalan is not a local dialect—its a distinct language just like French, Italian, or Portuguese. There as many differences between Catalan and Castellano (which is literally "Spanish", no need for quotes there) as there are between Swedish and Norwegian, or Spanish and Portuguese.

Ever the more reason to choose ahead of time.

I am also very interested in finding out more about the tech scene in Spain. Questions:

- Are there many opportunities for technical QA -- folks who know SQL, Jmeter, and other technical tools? What would salary ranges be for those types of positions?

- Are there tech scenes in smaller cities like Bilbao, Valencia, Seville?

- What is the culture like at Spanish tech companies?

Muchísimas gracias.

Not much to add to the wide variety of insightful comments here, but if you'd like an American comparison, Madrid would be more NYC (busy, finance, big co's HQs, cultural offer) and Barcelona would be California (sea, weather, hotter startup scene, more laid back).

Both are awesome and whatever you choose you can't go wrong.

Hi there,

Native from Catalonia here. Specifically, from Barcelona.

First of all, let's talk about the language because I see many concerning posts in this thread. Anyone that tells you that you won't be able to speak Spanish in Barcelona is highly misinformed to say the least. I've worked with people from around the Spain without any issue, either for them or for me. No issue either when you visit the city, go to restaurants or anything like that.

What is more, my parents are from southern Spain and I can tell you that my mother still does not speak Catalan after 30 years, just because she does not want given that she feels more comfortable speaking Spanish.

Obviously, as with any other bilingual nation, people here feels more comfortable speaking either Spanish or Catalan, or both. In my case, being raised in Spanish and talking with about 80% of my friends in Catalan I feel comfortable with both. I've seen native people having trouble both with Catalan and Spanish, but you, as a foreign, most probably won't be able to realize that. Funny thing, I'm from a town 20 miles from Barcelona, and when I moved to Barcelona I was surprised how much people defaulted to Spanish.

What's not debatable is that when people speak one to another, they might do so using Catalan, so in those cases you might not be able to understand it - at least for the first half year, given that if you understand Spanish you will only need some time to train you ear to understand Catalan too.

Another point, answering other posts. In some cases, Spanish accent is really complicated. Depending where do you go, sometimes not even a native Spanish speaker will be able to fully understand everything (e.g. you go to Cadiz). The same might happen with Catalan if you go to Mallorca ;)


Regarding the tech/jobs scene. Right now, Barcelona is living a bubble in the tech field. People saying that the salaries are low or tied to the cost of life are people who might have been living abroad for some years being unaware of this fact, at least in Barcelona's case.

What's happening in Barcelona is that many foreign companies are opening branches here because it's easy to attract talent from around Europe (good weather, great lifestyle, safety, beach, mountains/forests, etc) and college here are quite good too. As someone has stated, senior salaries for developers go around €50K, which is a LOT taking into account the cost of life (e.g. nice flat in Barcelona's downtown might be €800, daily lunch menus are €10 - first, second dish, desert). In general, educated people not in the tech field here might do about €30/40K and have a very good lifestyle.

There's a lot of foreign cybersecurity companies operating here, many dev startups too, big consultancy companies and, as I said, many other companies coming from abroad which make the salaries go higher and contributing to the bubble.


Lifestyle is unbeatable here. I was in San Diego, CA for more than a year, so I know what I'm talking about :)

What most people coming from abroad miss is the opportunity to get the best from two worlds. Being able to work and experience Barcelona while living in a suburb where you can walk to the beach and bike/walk through the forests. That's something Madrid cannot give you.

One last thing, whoever tells you it's perfectly OK to go around with English only is highly misinformed too. Not everyone speaks English here. If you go around the streets trying to talk with people it's quite likely you might find people who don't talk English. Another story is in your workplace. Most likely people will ""talk"" English if you work in a tech job. But bear in mind, when I say talk I mean babble. You'll have trouble understanding them in the beginning, but I guess they will improve over time as you will with Spanish.

The cost of flat rental has risen enormously here in the past 18 months. €800 will not get you a nice flat in the centre any more. If you're lucky, you may get something OK for about €950. Lunch menus at 10 euros are not that common anymore either. €12-14 is more usual.

That said, it's the only city in the world I want to live in. I came here for a month in 2002 and never wanted to leave.

I can agree with that! It's been about two years since I looked for a flat in downtown, the same goes for lunch menus. I guess it will also depend on the area someone's looking for. But I can agree with those numbers.

Barcelona local here. I don't think that you need Spanish fluency to get into most of the tech jobs. There are many startups whose founders or most of the team aren't locals.

> considering moving to Spain for non-career-related reasons

Which are? Genuinely interested why someone would consider taking a huge cut in salary.

Instead of moving now. Why not slash your current expenses to the bone? Save like crazy for a year, then move with a nice bank balance and ease yourself into the country without the stresses of quickly learning the language, making good friends, networking, etc.

Even better, with a healthy bank balance. You could find out what is missing from the tech scene and create a start-up to fill it.

> Genuinely interested why someone would consider taking a huge cut in salary.

Friendly people; easier life; excelent food; nobody shooting you at the shool; Wyoming winters; no coyotes, alligators or snapping turtles trying to dinner on you or your pet, swimming at the sea in april...

Oh, and there is the universal, excelent and almost free healthcare also. I forgot it.

Free as in paid with your high taxes (30% income tax on a 80k salary and 21% value added tax when you spend your after-tax money).

Of course, but think that if you need for example a new and very expensive titanium hip, this is gracefully paid for all the spaniards, not only by your taxes. Good luck trying to pay the same operation in USA with your resources only.

The 21% VAT is just a huge error that does much more harm than good IMHO

How do you suggest the state gets the money to pay for titanium hips instead? (note as well the average wait of 4 months for a hip implant)

The money came from taxes, but taxes must be progressive. To tax the same to all people regardless of their income is unfair (and to punish people when they purchase goods and services is clearly stupid).

Take in mind also that you need to advance the VAT to the government each three months. Including money that could be still unpaid to you (or worse, that will never be paid because some big clients can blackmail small companies easily in that sense). This is a problem for a small company that is thus forced to eat the loses and lend a money to the government, even if they do not really have this money. Is bassically sucking money from the people that create and maintain jobs.

Ok, but they get almost as much from VAT as from income tax (78/67) so I let you calculate how much would your tax rate increase if the VAT was to be supressed (given that you want more progressivity you [#] would probably end up paying well above 50% in income tax).

Anyway, the VAT is more likely to go up than down, given that it is not high relative to other European countries.

[#] edit: assuming "you" have relatively high income, of course, which I think would be the case for the OP (median salary is below 20k).

They have raised the VAT before. The result was that the consume sank, a lot of commerces closed, and the government collected less money from VAT than before (21% of zero is zero). People 1) think that is an abuse and are very upset or 2) just can't afford it and start lowering its expectatives (i.e buying chinese cheaper products, instead made in germany) or 3) are forced to start doing all business out of the law just to survive. In the end the harvest is that populism and nationalism is growing in Europe; governments need to spend more resources to fight against the fraud, european companies need to spend a lot time in unproductive bureaucracy instead to focus in selling its products, and nobody is happy.

Europe can raise the VAT as many as they want. They are only shooting themselves in the foot, damaging the growth expectatives of the european companies and carefully nurturing the anti-european parties.

>"To tax the same to all people regardless of their income is unfair ..."

Is the income tax not progressive in Spain then? Everyone pays the same marginal tax rate?

VAT is a tax of different nature. Is a trick from governments to be able to tax children and elders for example. Everybody pays the same VAT for the same product.

> Is a trick from governments to be able to tax children and elders for example.

I'm not sure what kind of virtue signalling is that, but I highly doubt that the problem they try to solve with VAT is "how can we tax children and elder people?" and more like "how can we collect more tax to build a fairer society based on our social democratic point of view? So we can cover also services for people not paying income tax."

I would really urge you to refrain from being that cynical :) it will only make you sour.

Oh I see the part of the comment I quoted was referring to VAT and not an income tax.

Not sure why you are being down-voted with a legitimate question.

Maybe the down voters can explain why it's a bad idea to move to another country and create a startup?

As somebody who has been hiring engineers in Barcelona for 2+ years now as founder of NoviCap I can tell you more from an employer POV. (if interested more info about us: https://gist.github.com/noverloop/ec033c20c02cf9e219d2fc9739...)

On Madrid vs. Barcelona, the level of english spoken in Madrid is much lower among engineers and I suppose in general. It's also noted that working culture in Madrid is more 'formal' (dress, manners) than Barcelona. An example from Spanish culture is that Madrid refers to catalans as hippies and Catalans to people working in Madrid as 'suits'.

As for economic differences Madrid has more headquarters, especially of companies active across LATAM while Barcelona has manufacturing (automotive, industrial,..), tourism (a lot) and about 75% of the countries' startup scene. cfr. https://novobrief.com/barcelona-madrid-startup-ecosystem/

The tech sector in Barcelona is booming with new investments and new funds entering. VC funding used to be relatively inaccessible but all major EU VC's invest in Spain now and it has two great homegrown funds too. There are many bootstrapped companies and some big tech companies have opened engineering offices here.

There are plenty of english-speaking conferences and meetups going on and it's easy to meet other engineers.

You won't have much problems mixing in as most meetups are in English and engineering teams are often a mix of foreigners and Spaniards. I don't think not speaking spanish will hold you back professionally. In fact, our team is majority British :)

In terms of outdoor activities you can do both are not really comparable since Barcelona is near the sea-side but also a 2-hour train ride away from a ski-resort in Andorra.

In terms of weather both cities get really warm during the summer, but Madrid is located within a group of hills and traps the heat more. Barcelona on the other side has some shade from the mountain and its proximity to the sea makes it more humid which makes it tolerable except in July/August. Catalans tend to take long holidays in these periods. The winters are milder though, I have been wearing t-shirts in January ever since I got here.

In terms of absolute salary the amounts are lower than London but in terms of quality of living I find you get more value for money.

For startups the salary levels are about:

Juniors get around 25k€

2y+ work experience gets you around 35k€

Senior usually gets you around 50k€

It also depends on your stack as PHP, .net and Java pay less.

However, there are big companies here that have put engineering offices here such as Xing or Typeform that can be negotiated to Berlin levels. They will always try to pay you Spanish levels first but they are happy to pay Berlin levels when pressed. Their offer range is from 55k€ to 75k€

As for contracting, there is almost none of that here. The ones I know that do it contract remotely for London.

Is the pay cut equivalent to the difference between London/S.F tech salaries and Berlin or would it be even more drastic?

Definitely look into 100% remote tech companies as well.

hi. i work in BCN in one of those companies some people mentioned. some notes:

1. if your company is big and international you won't need to be super fluent in spanish. the city has plenty of expats so you spanish/catalan is as needed in barcelona as german is in munich (i lived in munich as well). you say you're functional, that's enough for now, you'll figure it out once you're here. if the company is "a startup" then it's a lottery, but most likely more than half of the people will be spanish speakers with some english fluency. they will all speak it but they'll often speak to each other. this is something that happens in my company on a daily basis. 2. salaries are an odd topic. i can't compare to the US because i have no idea what people do with money there, but in terms of an average techie lifestyle i can say that barcelona and london aren't very different on a net level. you might get (unlikely) 90k in london for a senior dev position, and this is factually not much different from 60k in barcelona since most of the fixed costs (rent, public transport) are half the price. 55-60k for a senior dev position is possible (trust me) but not in a startup, unless you manage to snitch a lead position, which might happen. i've seen people moving out of normal position (not entry, not senior) and becoming leads in startups. 3. the comparison was just with london but the same applies to paris. it probably doesn't apply to berlin since berlin has high-ish salaries (comparatively) and low rents, but it has its disadvantages. 4. even if 2. and 3. don't apply i.e. you still are worse off on a net scale (after rent, tax, etc.), barcelona has its perks over london and, for my experience, munich. these are entirely subjective but if having a terrace with a hammock you can float in december with a hoodie drinking cocktails sounds like a nice idea to you, then surely you can't do that in paris or london. food is also a plus, and – not great to say that out loud but – since the expat scene is a bit of a bubble and the locals have slightly different lifestyles you might easily find yourself in authentic gems (restaurants, bars) you don't need to queue for hours to get in.

having said that, here's a few cons: * the tech scene isn't great. if you hate your new job you might have to relocate or search for something which is "alright" but not great. things are getting way better than even just 3 years ago but barcelona ain't no london. * if you're looking for 100k barcelona isn't for you * if you end up in an old-style spanish company (god forbid) you'll find out that the traditional mediterranean working culture is madness (compared to, say, germany or sweden). if you come from "strict schedules", "insane hierarchies", "little meritocracy" etc. then it's probably comparable. newer companies (spanish/catalan too) are much better so it's not a matter of genetics (obviously, just in case somebody thinks i'm a huge racist), rather, inefficient traditions * there are virtually no parks compared to even paris * house prices are very random and estate agents are a laugh. i found a very nice loft which was very close to a club. i told the guy "well i'd like to figure out how noisy this gets" and i'm pretty sure his idea of "figuring out" was renting it and spinning the wheel. if you come at the right moment you might find an 80sqm flat for 1200€. if you're unlucky you might pay 1900€.

i hope this is clear enough :)

There's tech in Barcelona and Madrid?`?

No, in Barcelona we get Internet access by snatching Wi-Fi from the border across Andorra. No idea how they manage in Madrid though, maybe Portuguese Wi-Fi gets that far in a clear day.

Salaries are lower than 20k euros a year.

I work as a Junior Javascript Developer (Nodejs / Angular2) in Bilbao and I earn 18k. I do believe this is only for entry-level work.

Do you mind sharing realistic cost of living in bilbao specifically? i.e. rent, utilities, public transportation, food and whatnot

Bilbao is relatively expensive. In fact the most expensive city to live in Spain is San Sebastian that is also in the vasque country. Barcelona is the second (or the first capital more expensive) and Madrid is the third but this is just an average. It depends heavily on the street and zone and how expensive is to reach your working place from your home.

Cáceres, Lugo and Palencia are the cheapest (but the tech scene should be close to unexistent in those places).

Strongly turistic areas closer to the sea are more expensive to rent a place in general terms, specially in summer, but can be cheaper in winter and off-season

Do you have any data to back this up? This doesn't seem to make sense as, for instance, if the situation you've described is true, the salaries after tax are even lower than in, for instance, Lithuania?

For anything but a low paying entry level job, this is not generally true, for neither Madrid nor Barcelona at least (developer jobs).

Why did this get flagged? It seems like a legit HN questions, relates to tech careers and has a lot of really good, well though out responses.


That's really offensive and stupid. As someone who has hired many Spanish people (in Ireland) all I can say is that this person is not typical in outlook or manners.

The message might be legitimate, but your phrasing needs work.

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