So, one of the biggest complaints I have heard from Americans living in Madrid is how difficult it is to make Spanish friends. Honestly, this statement surprised me the first time I heard it. I would say people in Madrid are some of the friendliest, open and generous people I have ever met.
But, it is true, if you don’t know where to look and your network only consists of other Americans, it can be difficult to make friends with españoles! So here are some tips to help you make some amigos:
One of the best ways to truly immerse yourself in the culture is to live with Spanish people. With apartment apps such as roomgo and Idealista, this is easy.Typically in Madrid, it is more common for people to rent out rooms rather than whole pisos (apartments), therefore, it is a lot easier to find Spanish flatmates. I know a lot of Americans living in Madrid who have Spanish roommates and this adds something special to their immersion experience here. It’s also a great way to get exposure to the culture.
2. Intercambios, Intercambios, Intercambios!
I cannot emphasize these enough, but you have to make sure that you intercambio the right way (yes, I just used that as a verb – no pasa nada). Almost every Spanish friend that I have here is very interested in learning and practicing English.
Intercambios are great places to meet people with this interest. It’s not enough to just show up though, think of it like “networking”. Move around the room, talk to different people, jump into conversations and most importantly walk away with some phone numbers. It’s best to get a small group’s numbers (usually better if they are co-ed so there are no other expectations). Make a point to get at least five phone numbers at every intercambio. Go to the same ones over and over again, this way the regulars become your friends and you feel more comfortable because you are in a familiar environment.
3. Hobbies Abroad
Take a second to think about what you did in your free time in the States/your home country. Was it church groups, dance lessons or cooking classes? Why can’t you do that here in Spain? Yes, it may require you to go out of your comfort zone a bit, but did you really move to a foreign country to be comfortable? NO! Grab a friend and go to something, even if you don’t like it or don’t understand it, I’m telling you it will be worth it if you walk away with one new friend. And there, right off the bat, you have something in common for times when there might be a lull in conversation.
4. Meet-up Groups
I personally haven’t used Meetup here yet, but did these all the time when I lived in Chicago. My friends here swear by it,they are part of running groups, cooking groups or Japanese food fanatic groups (they literally have a Meetup group for everything). Sign up for something you like and are comfortable with. It will make meeting people that much easier.
5. Your School/Job
This is an excellent way to meet Spanish people and make great work friends! At work, try your best to connect with all the teachers, talk to them during a break, and get to know them on a personal level. Another great thing you can do is give private lessons to the students in your school. This allows you to not only make a little extra cash but to get to know families. The Spanish are so warm and welcoming, pretty soon you will feel like you are part of the fam. It’s a little awkward and uncomfortable at first, but put yourself out there. I promise you it is worth it in the end.
Like all good things, I promise you this is not always easy. Americans living in Madrid don’t have it easy. You need to put in some effort. See new friends on a weekly basis so that you don’t lose touch with them. It’s easy to stick with what you know (humongous groups of Americans, American food and speaking English all the time), but if you do, I promise you will miss the magic that Spain has to offer. So this week, get out there, use some of that Spanish you’ve been learning and go ask someone “¿quieres ser mi amigo?” They just might say, “sí.”