Welcome to a city with two very-much-alive languages, which gives you double the chance to be wrong or… superight!
Please, don’t say “Barca”
“Barcelona” is the city's official name, which, by the way, is the only name. “Barça” is the shortened version of the famous local football club’s name. “Barca” means “boat” in Spanish and nothing else. Things being this way, please, never call Barcelona “Barca”; locals will cringe, and you will blow up your cover as a pretty much uninformed tourist or ex-pat.
Si us plau
This is the most common and natural way of saying “please” in Catalan, a traditionally very polite language. It’s not so much like Japanese, which changes depending on basic hierarchy (this Mediterranean language shifts only in front of institutional authorities typically), but it’s more like Catalan culture is not extremely direct, and it does like politeness and courtesy, so learning saying this phrase will get you a long way, just as “moltes gràcies”, which is “thank you very much”.
Became a local: find your home in Barcelona
Déu n’hi do!
What this sentence literally means is a bit of a riddle: it kind of says “God may provide” in old Catalan. However, “Déu n’hi do!” is like Barcelona's basic white T-shirt of language. People use it to express surprise, amazement, concern, shock, sarcasm, happiness, relief, and basically anything you might feel in the broad spectrum of life. As Owen Wilson would say, it is an excellent translation of the quintessential “wow”.
It’s not payeiyah, not paela, and neither payelah. If we non-Anglo-Saxon people learnt to say Shakespeare or Schwarzenegger, you will definitely be able to order rice without messing it up. Also, never order paella for dinner; locals would never do that.
“Do you speak *insert language name here*?” is a fundamental tool on your travelling first aid kit. People in Barcelona speak English because it’s a multicultural society, we hold many global events here, and it’s a place heavily based on tourism. So do not fear asking if we understand English; you won’t have trouble finding assistance.
Find your place in Barcelona