How to establish a social life as an expat in Barcelona

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After Covid-19 started impacting our lives this time last year, we now often face the questions, “is it difficult to meet new people in Barcelona, especially during the pandemic?” and “how will I maintain my social life in Barcelona?” 

 

If you’ve plucked up the courage to begin your new life abroad, I’m sure you’ll have realised that it’s not always easy to make friends as soon as you arrive. Finding your new social circle can be the toughest challenge of all. Aside from the language barrier, you’re also a cultural outsider. If you’re naturally introvert, your shyness can lead you to weekends full of Netflix binging rather than going out and making friends. However, have no fear as the Catalan capital offers many opportunities to meet new people and expand your network.

 

If you need some tips and advice on where to start building your social circle, we’ve got you covered!

How to establish a social life as an expat in Barcelona?

Things to keep in mind

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nationalities

According to the latest Municipal Register of Inhabitants, one in five residents in Barcelona is of foreign nationality. With the ever-growing presence of international companies in the city, it’s no surprise that there are 179 different nationalities who come to work and live in the Catalan capital.

 

Barcelona also has great Erasmus connections, with thousands of international students coming to the city every year.

 

It’s also the perfect destination for families wanting to relocate, as there are tonnes of international schools for children and thanks to it’s family-friendly and welcoming atmosphere, Spain is considered to be one of the top-rated countries for expat families.

Life in Barcelona can sometimes feel like a bit of a whirlwind with people constantly coming and going. This can be a disadvantage for those expats trying to establish their new social circle, especially if you’re friends are only here for an internship or a short study period, while you’re here for the long run.

Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try new things. After all, you were willing to move to Barcelona because you wanted a change of scenery and were open to having new experiences. Try cuisines you’ve never tried before, join a sports team or try a new hobby! Check out local events and don’t be afraid to go to them on your own. You’ll be surprised at how many people are in the same position so definitely try and strike up a conversation with a stranger.

Having an active social life is key in Barcelona.


It’s common for locals to go out for lunch/dinner often or have after work drinks with colleagues. It’s also the norm to meet friends out for a coffee or cerveza together, rather than go round to their home. There are so many amazing places to eat and drink out, why would you not want to take advantage of the vibrant social scene in Barcelona?!

Due to its geographical location, Barcelona offers the perfect climate for you to enjoy your new life in Spain. Thanks to the warm summers and semi-cold winters, this makes for the perfect opportunity to get out and socialise. The majority of the time, the weather is amazing so people tend to spend most of their time in the fresh air, especially throughout the pandemic, making it that little bit easier to meet people outside and still keep your distance.

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Best ways to meet new people

Social networking apps

In this day and age, using apps and social media has become increasingly important as people are less likely to go out and strike up conversations with strangers. There are different apps with the idea of connecting people with similar interests, hobbies, people who want to learn, share etc. After signing up, some of the apps will ask you about your interests and will match you to groups and activities in your area that cater to things that you enjoy, from yoga classes to Photography and even day trips from Barcelona.

Country or language related social networks

It’s natural for expatriates to gravitate towards each other through social networking groups, particularly if they’re keen on meeting people who speak the same language and/or share the same nationality. There are many international and English-speaking networks in the city, and these help a newcomer as well as a more established expat to find their social circle. Even if you do speak fluent Spanish, joining these networks prove to be a valuable resource. Some of the networks below are more business related and some of them focus on leisure activities and personal interests. 

Women networks

Feminism and gender equality are both very hot topics in Barcelona and you will find many organisations focusing on Women in Barcelona. Now more than ever, we know that you’ll need the connections, support, advice and network to future proof your business and build new connections. Below are a couple of the most popular women networks in Barcelona to get you started!

Social media

Facebook groups

Here's a tip - join as many Facebook groups as you can. Every day there will be people posting events going on in the city, asking for tips/advice, striking up random conversations or simply looking for new people to hang out with. The possibilities to find friends abroad through Social Media are endless. If you're struggling to find inspiration for groups to search, try searching for your native language (e.g. 'Nederlanders in Barcelona'), general expats groups (e.g. 'Barcelona Expats - International BCN' & 'Girls in Barcelona') or groups for people who share the same hobby as you. Some of these Facebook groups also have Whatsapp groups, which you might find to be a more convenient way of chatting with fellow expats and arranging meet-ups.

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Instagram

People tend to follow others on Instagram and social media who they can really relate to. The best way to find new friends on Instagram is to search hashtags for Barcelona that are related to areas of interest, or things relevant to your work/hobbies. Some other tips for meeting friends on Instagram are: Be interactive, follow what they do, give their photo a like and a comment. Send them a private message to connect, but keep it light and friendly. The reality is, you're following these people as you have a passion and interest in the same thing whether it’s travel, photography, food or fashion so why not reach out and see if they would be interested in going for a coffee/drink to get to know each other better.

Find out what is going on in Barcelona

Curious as to what’s going on in the city? There are plenty of platforms which can point you in the right direction of current & upcoming events in Barcelona.

Barcelona International Welcome

This is Barcelona City Council’s official website for recent arrivals, where you can find, in English, all the information you need for beginning your new life in the city.  Barcelona International Welcome website can also be a gateway for building your own network of contacts and friends in the city. In the Activities section you’ll find a list of events, ranging from informative sessions and conferences on specific subjects, to workshops on cultural networking or business matters.

Free-time activities

Sports & Hobbies

Whether you like playing football or going for a run, you’re into the skate scene or you enjoy dancing, whatever your interests are you’ll definitely be able to find a team or group to join in Barcelona. If you’re able to take part in activities that you would have before you relocated, it’ll make you feel much more at home and you can start to build friendships around your new group. You will find that a lot of activities are offered in English and even in your own language. If sports is your thing, joining a new team is a great way to make friends. Barcelona is the city of sports, with something to do for everyone. You only have to walk down the street to see running clubs, skaters, people working out in the local green spaces, yoga classes on the beach and much more! Why not participate in a group sport? You'll meet new people, gain new skills and it's good for your physical and mental health. Not only are there plenty of possibilities to join a club or team in English, you'll probably be able to find your sport of choice in your native language too.

Volunteering

If you find yourself with some spare time on your hands, why not consider helping others by volunteering in an area of interest. Volunteering is a great way to connect with people from the local community. It may also be worth checking if your employer has a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program that you participate in. Through volunteering you’ll be working alongside others who share similar values, and you’ll have plenty to talk about between activities.

Dogs

Dog's are always a good ice-breaker when meeting new people and Barcelona is a very dog friendly city. Going for walks with your dog is a brilliant way to make friends or even just have a conversation with friendly strangers. There might even be regular dog meetups in your neighbourhood. It's definitely worth checking online or enquiring at your local vet and in pet supply shops to find a group that best suits you.

Work & business

It’s inevitable that you’ll make new friends at work, and you never know, you might even be lucky enough to make friends for life. Pre-Covid, lunches with colleagues and after-work networking events in Barcelona are great opportunities to mingle, do business and catch up on office gossip. Company parties or after-work happy hours can also be a great opportunity to unwind and get to your know colleagues on a deeper level. Some people are completely different outside of the office and you might realise you have more in common with your co-workers than you previously thought.

Even if you work from home, there are plenty of cool, modern co-working spaces in Barcelona where professionals have the opportunity to network and meet new people whilst working.

 

Barcelona - City of entrepreneurs

The Barcelona startup scene is made up of a rapidly growing and constantly evolving community of talented, international professionals and forward-thinking organisations. It has all the elements of entrepreneur-focused hub that should pave the way for innovative new companies for generations to come.

 

This being said, business networking is the perfect opportunity to mix both your work and social life. Below we’ve listed a few of the most popular networks for professionals in Barcelona. Why not foster your career development through networking, and meet prospective clients, colleagues and friends.

Students

The Erasmus community in Barcelona is pretty big, and there are dozens of Facebook groups and expat forums that promote events every single day. So, if you are here on Erasmus or you’re an international exchange student, you should definitely try some of the Erasmus events – they don’t disappoint! It’s not just the nightlife on offer, there are day trips to other parts of Spain, international dinners, brunches and even games nights. What better way to mix with people from all over the world and find your new squad!

Internships in Barcelona

Learn all about being an intern in Barcelona! Use our expertise to find the best internship program or work placement for you. Check out BCN internships here!

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Language learning and language exchange

If you’re keen to learn Spanish or Catalan while you’re in Barcelona, there are a large variety of professional institutions to choose from. You can choose from a selection of different courses, for beginners through to experts, and from private through to classroom tuition. If you opt for the group classes, it’s a great way to meet new people and open up your social circle! Some of the top language schools in Barcelona are: Linguaschools, Speakeasy, Olé Languages Barcelona and the Universidad de Barcelona.

 

Language exchanges are a free way to learn a new language and meet people from all over the world. They’re a definite win-win, as you can improve your own language skills, help others learn and of course, build new friendships at the same time.

Experiences from other expats

We’ve interviewed some fellow expats and asked the key question “How did you meet your main community of friends?” – Want to know what they said? Click on the link below!

Expat stories

Read the stories of fellow expats, gain invaluable tips and insight into life in Barcelona on our website. Help others by sharing your story too!

Read More »

How to stay up to date on Covid-19 developments

Coronavirus restrictions will remain in place across Spain for the foreseeable future. Even though some of these restrictions may start to ease, it’s still wise to stay up to date on the rules of the area/city you’re living in. We would suggest checking the City Council website, following the news and also any official channels to avoid breaking the rules and receiving a heavy penalty.

Geographical areas in Spain

Besides country-wide rules across the whole of Spain, certain parts of the country may be adapting other restrictions in addition. Below is a list of the types of geographical areas in Spain which you will need to be familiar with in case the regulations change based on a City level/Provincial level/Comarca level etc.

In Spain, an autonomous community (comunidad autónoma) is a political and administrative resolution, created in accordance with the Spanish constitution of 1978, with the aim of guaranteeing limited autonomy of the nationalities and regions that make up Spain.

 

The country has granted certain power to the communities, which allows them to exercise their right to self-government. 

 

The autonomous community of Catalunya was established by the statute of autonomy on 18 December, 1979. The government consists of the Generalitat (an executive council headed by a president) and a unicameral parliament. Its capital is Barcelona.

 

The Veguerías are defined as specific areas for the purpose of the territorial organisation of services for the Generalitat de Catalunya. 
There are 8 Veguerías in Catalunya:
  1. Veguería de Barcelona
  2. Veguería de l’Alt Pirineu
  3. Veguería of Central Catalonia
  4. Veguería of Girona
  5. Veguería of Lleida
  6. Veguería of Camp de Tarragona
  7. Veguería of Camp de l’Ebre
  8. Veguería of Penedes

Spain is divided into 50 individual provinces (provincias) and each province belongs to one of the 17 autonomous communities. 

 

Catalunya consists of four provinces: BarcelonaGironaLleida, and Tarragona

Some autonomous communities have additional second level subdivisions, known as ‘Comarcas’ (‘districts’ in English). These are entities which are created by the municipalities to oversee their responsibilities and services.

 

Catalonia is divided into 42 comarques. These all exist as local governement areas and have a respresentative commercal council. 

 

A Comarca is a group of municipalities, roughly equivalent to a “county” in the USA or the UK. 

Each municipality (municipio) forms part of a province, which in turn forms part or the whole of an autonomous community.

 

There are, at present, 948 different municipalities in Catalonia. Each municipality is run by a council (Ayuntamiento) which is elected every four years by the residents in local elections.

 

In general, municipalities enjoy a large degree of autonomy in their local affairs.

Catalan officials have pushed for health regions as an alternative to provincial divides where Covid regulations are concerned. 

 

While provinces still stand for any purpose in Spain, services in the Catalan administration have organised their territory in a way they thought was more in line with reality, using the ‘Veguerías’ system as a reference. 

 

So, the Catalan public health system is organised in regions made “taking into account geographical, socioeconomic, and demographic” criteria. And each of them is divided into basic health areas. 

 

Therefore, phase changes in the de-escalation process should be decided separately for each of the nine health regions: 

  1. Alt Pirineu i Aran
  2. Lleida
  3. Camp de Tarragona
  4. Terres de l’Ebre
  5. Catalunya Central
  6. Girona
  7. Barcelona
  8. Metro area (north)
  9. Metro area (south)
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Do you have tips on any of the above? Leave a comment and we will add it to the blog!

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