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
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.
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.
Expat is another online platform where you can meet other expats. Just join the Barcelona network on the website, mingle between the forums and you have a great chance to find another expat where you can watch a football match with! You also have the option to filter between nationality, age, status, and gender to find the right person that you are looking for. Expat.com will also help you find useful information about things such as insurance, paperwork, and housing. Very important things that you might want to know when you are moving to Barcelona.
This platform is dedicated to connecting expats in cities all over the world. It will allow you to easily reach out to other expats in Barcelona and get involved with the community to take part in events organized by the platform. If you are looking for a bar to support your favorite soccer team, or if you are looking to buy the right ingredients for food that you miss from home, you can trade information with other expats and find what you are looking for.
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.
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!
It’s natural for expatriates to gravitate towards each other through social media like Facebook. We created a list of 24 useful Facebook groups for expats in Barcelona. Joining these networks prove to be a valuable resource. Some of the groups are more nationality related and some of them focus on leisure activities and personal interests.
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
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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!
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 image on the right!
This platform is dedicated to connecting expats in cities all over the world. It will allow you to easily reach out to other Italians in Barcelona and get involved with the community to take part in events organized by the platform. If you are looking for a bar to support your Italian soccer team, or if you are looking to buy the right ingredients for pasta that you miss from home, you can trade information with other Italians and find what you are looking for.