I could not be a bigger advocate for moving abroad and experiencing a different way of life. It is very fulfilling and makes you grow in confidence immensely as well as having many other positive aspects. Having said that, I can’t deny, that there is always a settling in period when arriving in a new country. The few weeks at the beginning of your move when you know no one and you realise how far away your friends and loved ones seem to be, can be a very lonely moment. It is so important in these moments, to get out the house, get active so that you can meet people and make friends. Creating a community for yourself within your new surroundings is probably the most important step to adjusting to your new home. Here are a few tips to help you crack into new social circles in no time.
Get online and search for the closest expat community in your area, there will always be one, especially in cities. This may seem like a cop out, but whilst you are still learning the language, it is really pleasant to have activities put on by people who speak your language and whom you can communicate with at ease. Check out www.internations.org to check out the expat circle in your area. A lot of bars and cafés will als offer Intercambio evenings, where they invite Spanish people and foreigners alike, to participate in a fun activity (be it drinks or a quiz night) so that everyone can mix and practice their respective languages. It can be a little bit awkward when you go to an event for the first time and do not know anyone but remember other people will be in the same boat as you, so sometimes you just have to swallow the embarrassment and make that extra effort to approach someone new.
No man (or woman) is an island, for how does one 'cheers', if one is on one's own...Discuss
Join a Club
If going to an organized mixer meeting seems to cringe worthy to you, joining a club is another option. Pick something you were interested in before or have always wanted to try and look for it in your new city, whether it be a sport, a band or a language class. The population of English speakers (or those who want to learn English) is so big in Spain that you can usually find sports classes and clubs that are in English also, if you feel your Spanish is not quite up to it yet. I joined everything from yoga to Zumba in Spanish (weird at first but really fun in the end). After trying out a plethora of different clubs, I think finally the most useful one was the most obvious one also: Spanish Evening Classes. Also when I first arrived, I joined an Intensive Spanish class in the mornings for a couple of weeks which I could not recommend more. It gives you time to adjust to the new language with the added bonus of getting to know lots of new people from around the world who you will be forced to speak in Spanish too. For me, these language classes were a lovely way of discovering a new place and language with the added benefit of getting to know so many other interesting people.
As my Aunt Mildred's vomititious Fridge Magnet clearly states "Every stranger is a friend you haven't met yet"
A language exchange is also a good way to meet a more local crowd whilst at the same time practicing your Spanish. The idea is to meet with a Spaniard (or whoever) who wants to practice their English, and so the conversation will be split half the time in Spanish and half the time in English. The cool thing about the Intercambio, is that you can do it anywhere, you can go for a drink, or a walk or visit a museum with your intercambio partner, as long as you are both chatting. Lingobongo is a website with lots of Intercambio postings in Madrid and Barcelona, but you can find plenty more of these posting in languguage schools all over Spain. You wont have troubles finding an Intercambio partner so try and be picky who you choose, someone with your interests etc and beware of people using it as an alternative to Tinder…unless that is what you want also- no judgement here!
If you pick well, an intercambio partner can be a good way to practice Spanish but also to make friends
Don’t be shy
Making friends in foreign country is the same as making friend anywhere, you just have to meet one friendly person that you click with, who will introduce you to their friends and then suddenly you have so many friends you will have to start knocking back invitations. At the begining though, you have to say yes to any valuable (and safe, of course) opportunity that you are confronted with- embody Jim Carey's 'Yes Man'. Chat to as many people as you can, from the people in your gym class to your bar tender. You will feel a very icky feeling in your chest before starting a conversation with an unknown person in a langugae which is not your own, this feeling is normal, you just have to push past it in my experience. Being shy about your Spanish is pointless and will get you nowhere. Don't worry about the errors you make at first, no human being worth their salt will ever judge you on that.
Happy friend hunting