Ditch the Solo Blues: 7 Ways to Meet People in Madrid
By: Alexis HarrisBeing an expat can be lonely. You’re out of your element, trying your best to learn the language and keep from committing any major cultural faux pas while your friends and family back home email and call with we-miss-you´s and when-are-you-coming-home´s. Without a decent social network, it can sometimes be tempting to just pack up and return from whence you came. Before you start looking for flights home, STOP! There are plenty of places to meet people, both expats and locals, you just have to know where to look.
You may be familiar with Couchsurfing as a way of finding a place to crash in a new city but its really so much more than that. Couchsurfers maintain a community in their cities, hosting potlucks, parties and excursions attended by both travellers and residents. Couchsurfers are some of the friendliest folks out there (they have to be to open their homes to complete strangers!) so newcomers are always welcome.
- Language Exchange Events
If you came to Madrid to improve your Spanish, you're in luck as many language exchange events take place throughout the city each week. These events are very popular and get packed with locals and expats. If you're the type who can walk into a room and start up a conversation at the drop of a hat, you'll thrive here. If you're not, never fear! Most events have hosts that will introduce you to other attendees so you'll avoid that initial awkwardness. One of the coolest events is Spanglish Exchange´s Beerlingual Pub Quiz where groups are formed and trivia questions are presented in both English and Spanish.
- International & Erasmus Events
Thanks to Europe´s Erasmus exchange program, thousands of students from all over Europe come to Madrid each year. Though it obviously isn't the best way to meet locals, there are tons of events (mostly wild parties) throughout the city that cater to this demographic. If you´re college aged (or feel like you are), these events can be a great way of meeting tons of people in the same boat as you are. Madrid Babel is one organization that holds not only international events but trips as well. If you really feel like diving in, what better way to get to know new people than to travel with a group to Cadiz for Carnaval or France for Semana Santa? For more events, check out the flier area of any English bookstore or Irish Pub and you're sure to find some.
Don´t care for the crowds? Perhaps one-on-one intercambios are more your style. Sites like Lingo Bongo and Tus Clases Particulares serve as a great way to meet up with people for a coffee or caña and practice speaking the other person´s tongue in a low stress environment. Intercambios go beyond just chatting. They're a great way to form friendships as you're able to move past the ¨getting to know you¨ banter and talk about more interesting things after a few sessions.
- Social Networking
Though some blame social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter for a breakdown in communication skills, I think they can be a wonderful way of meeting folks when you´re new in town. Groups have popped up around Facebook, Twitter and Meet Up to bring people together for a variety of purposes, whether it be finding friends or learning a new skill. Joining a group via social media is perfect for those of us who don't want to just walk into a room without knowing who or what to expect. One fun example is the Madrid Menú del Día Martes Madness group that meets every week for lunch in a new restaurant.
Madrid English Teachers on Facebook
Madrid New In Town on Meet Up
MAD Photography on Meet Up
- Take a Class
Taking a class in any field you are interested in is another way of not just meeting anyone, but meeting someone you know you'll have something in common with. The most obvious class to try is Spanish, but if you’re already plenty fluent there’s plenty of other classes to try. Yoga, theater, drawing and pretty much any other physical or artistic endeavour are represented somewhere in the city though you might have to search a little to find your niche. Try taking classes around town at places like Espiritu 23 and La Tabacalera, multiuse spaces that attract a wide variety of folks from all backgrounds so you don’t get stuck in an Expats Only bubble.
- Get Out of Sol
Don't forget! There´s more to Madrid than what’s going on in el centro. Though many people new to town congregate in the center, its a pretty transient place where you're more likely to find tourists than expats. Most people don't want to invest their time in forming relationships with people who they think might only be in town for a short time so try mixing it up by hanging out in other neighborhoods!
Out Loud English´s Hello Lola!
Carmencita Bar´s Cañas and Conversation
J&J Books and Coffee´s Intercambio Night
If you’ve tried everything and still aren’t finding the right crowd, hang in there! Finding a new social circle can take time but eventually it’ll fall into place. Sometimes, it just takes a little patience... and perhaps a cooking class or two.
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