How to: Make Friends with Spaniards


Dear Paula,

Out and about with two lovely friends.

Out and about with two lovely friends.

This post has been incredibly hard for me to get my head around (in fact, I’ve been thinking about it almost since we started the blog). I am at a point in my life where the majority of the people I see on a regular basis and the people I choose to hang out with in my spare time are Spanish. I have a handful of guiri friends but, contrary to a lot of foreigners I know, I don’t make them the main group of people I get together with.

I have a couple of theories about why it is hard to make friends in Spain*, but the basics hold true all over the world: People who find themselves with a good, solid group of friends, are most likely not really looking to branch out to accept a whole bunch of other people into their circle. On the other hand, if you are new to a city, you are probably looking for friends. What does this mean? That people looking for friends tend to find each other while people who aren’t stay in their pre-made groups.

That being said, we have this impression that Spanish people are super friendly and outgoing (and they usually are) but, at the same time, that making true Spanish friends is not easy. It sort of boils down to this weird experience that almost everyone has had where someone says to you, “hey, let’s grab a coffee/beer/etc.” but they don’t actually say when...or where...or end up meeting you... usually ever. They are being friendly by offering, but can throw you off when they don’t follow through and you end up hanging out with other people who are actually looking to do something.

If you are only here for a short period of time, I believe that these two processes (staying within your ‘group’ and not following through with plans) only intensifies and, in my opinion, for good reason. If you are from a place or are staying there for a long period of time, it is really hard that your friends come and go in a cycle (for example, a school year). I have a friend in Granada who has decided he isn’t interested in making friends with people who are only here for a short period of time because it is a constant hurt when they leave.

However, at the end of the day, we are all on the lookout for people we click with, so don’t give up yet, you just might have to work harder than you previously thought. At the same time, it will probably be worth it.

My main tip would be: make it obvious that your friendship is worth the investment.

An Alhambra outing with a mix of natives and foreigners.

An Alhambra outing with a mix of natives and foreigners.

How can you do this?

1.) When you talk about meeting someone for coffee, follow through on it. Try and set up a date, write them to remind them, make an effort. I don’t know how many times I have told someone ‘let’s have a coffee’ and not met up with them, but half of that is my fault. If you are persistent, and they actually want to meet you, they will. And it is wonderful to meet up with a new friend and learn about them one-on-one.

2.) Invite them to things too. Don’t just expect to be invited automatically to join in with all your new friends’ plans, and don’t take the lack of invitation to mean you’re not friends. Be proactive in your situation and put together a tapas night at your house or try to organize a walk/picnic to your favorite spot in the city. Get together different friends and make it a group outing! When you have fun with you, they will be more likely to remember you the next time they are planning something.

3.) Join general social activities. If the people in your class are meeting up to go drinking, step out of your comfort zone and go along with them! This is a great environment to practice your Spanish as well as show your classmates that you are happy to spend time with them! I know this sounds bizarre but I have had the experience several times where classmates were under the impression that a) the foreigners in the class didn’t speak Spanish and b) didn’t want to hang out with them.

At the end of the day, like with all friendships, you are going to have to prove that it is worth it to invest in you as a friend. And sometimes it might not work (which is normal—are you friends with everyone you meet back home?), but it is definitely worth the effort and you will probably learn a lot about yourself while you’re at it.

So give it a go and let us know how it works for you!


*I know I have friends that don’t agree with this and can ‘make friends’ anywhere, but I am pretty hesitant to say we are friends if we haven’t actually hung out one-on-one at least once (coffee, beer, run, etc.).