When preparing for a move abroad, several things come to mind. You may first think about where exactly you’ll live, how much it’ll cost, what your commute to work/school will be like, so on so fourth. Eventually, you’ll happen to realize one important – yet easily overlooked – truth: living abroad is about meeting people as much as it is about exploring the world. It’s easy to think you won’t have any problems figuring out who to hang out with, but it usually takes a little time to figure it out. Some people come abroad with friends from home, but I think that’s cheating. The adventurous dive in the dark, right?
This may be too honest, too blunt, too harsh, but here it is: for the first 2 months of my time in Madrid, I felt like I wasted my time with people I couldn’t relate to. Still, here’s the thing – moving to a new city means getting to know some people you’ll have little desire to see again. Sometimes, the things they struggle with will make you feel as though you’ve stepped back into high school, but it’s all a part of the experience. In the end, I did get to meet many more people whose company I enjoyed, and not simply in the “living abroad friends” kind of way.
Well, as much as it seems like an obvious truth, sometimes we don’t even realize that our interpersonal relationships at a certain destination can make or break it. This is one of the main reasons why Cuba remains to be my favourite country I’ve traveled to, and why Paris disappointed me slightly. In any case, here are some tips to meeting like-minded people in Madrid:
1 – Research Facebook Groups.
This one may seem a little ridiculous to the anti-Facebook travelers, but there are plenty of Facebook groups dedicated to English assistants (and foreigners in general) living in Madrid. If you search “Auxiliares Madrid”, you will find several different groups that are helpful, encouraging, and even (sometimes unintentionally) funny. It’s easy to find postings on social gatherings as well as members looking for roommates, which brings me to my next point…
2 – Research Idealista.
Idealista.com is a website designed for those looking for flatmates to advertise bedrooms, and for potential flatmates to find their ideal apartment. The site is a wonderful way to get a head start on apartment hunting, as long as you have the WhatsApp application on your phone! Most Spaniards use the app to text, thus most phone numbers listed by personal (as opposed to private/business) flatmate hunters are easily reached on there. It goes without saying that having great flatmates – who can open you up to a world of new buddies – can also be a deciding factor on how you feel about your time in your foreign city. Therefore, being able to filter through your own preferences makes things a lot easier.
3 – Get Active.
Though in Madrid it helps to be madly passionate about football, being active about any interest of yours can help you meet people. Those interested in hiking are at an advantage, too – thanks to Madrid’s close proximity to the perfect hiking grounds, there are plenty of groups that organize trips to Madrid’s mountainous north every weekend. For anyone who likes to go out, things are made even easier. Music lovers have a good niche here, too, as do most people. Madrid’s a cosmopolitan Spanish city with a lot to offer, particularly to those who know what they like.
4 – Be Open to Spaniards.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – of course you’ll be open to Spanish people. That is the point of being here, isn’t it? Well, that and living abroad, practicing Spanish, traveling, and all that other good stuff. However, if you’re an English speaker – specifically an English teacher in Madrid – it’s very easy to get caught up in your own circle of English speakers. There are an unbelievable amount of native English speakers in Madrid, a lot of whom are doing exactly what you’re doing. While you’re busy meeting friends of friends, you’ll maybe even forget you’re in Spain. This is one of the downsides to teaching in Madrid rather than one of the smaller Spanish cities: you could easily have many friends and have none of them be Spanish. The best way to remedy this, in my humble opinion, is live with a Spaniard (and others, too, but at least one Spaniard). I currently live with a few people, none of whom are Spanish, and it often makes me feel disconnected from the reality of Spain. This, of course, is connected to what I have to say next…
5 – Get to Know Your Coworkers.
For those of us with several coworkers who are also English assistants, it’s even easier to get to know different people of different backgrounds. However, never let that rule the Spanish staff out: it’s important to get a feel for them, too. Sometimes, this can be a little difficult. For example, at my first placement last year, the staff pretended us English speakers didn’t exist (unless they needed us to take over their class). At my subsequent ones, it’s been the opposite. It’s also important to realize there should maybe be a more professional relationship with the people you work with rather than those you meet on your downtime. Though, I’ve personally been extra professional (and a little less like my actual self) out of fear of being inappropriate at times, and it’s mostly seemed like all for naught – Spaniards are quite laid back compared to North American standards, so don’t forget to loosen up if need be.
To sum up what feels like a formulaic, but ultimately necessary post, there’s one last thing to remember when meeting people in Madrid: be open. That, of course, is to simply be open to hanging out with new faces maybe multiple times a week, to reserve judgment a little, and to have fun. If you’re as comfortable with this as I was when I arrived to the Spanish capital, it may mean going to a new event every night. If you need a little time to get used to the city or your situation, take it slower. Your end goal is the same: to say “hi, my name is (insert name), and I’m from (insert country)” as many times as you can!
And on that note, it’s time for me to go meet some new faces in Germany! Until I come back – happy holidays!