Just over a year ago, we published this article with our top tip and three tricks for making friends with Spaniards. We honestly believe that Spain is like most countries and you will have to make a concerted effort if you really want to create connections with people here. That is not to say that they are hard to make friends with or are closed minded, but that in general people have established relationships and don’t necessarily “need” to add a new person to their friend group.
This week we want to take what we talked about in that article and give it a bit of a twist—the food and drink element. Today we will dive into how you can adapt and use the food and drink culture in Spain to your advantage when trying to make local friends. And later this week we will get into how you can use this information to thrive when making friends. As always, please note that these are our experiences and you might have an easier/more difficult time when it comes to developing relationships while abroad.
So, let’s review. Our top tip for making friends with local was (and still is): Make sure others know your friendship is worth the investment.
Now, this might seem easy and you might think that “duh, of course I am worth the investment, I am awesome,” but it is often hard for someone from a different culture and life experience to see that. In addition, oftentimes in Spain, locals are reluctant to develop friendships with foreigners because it is hard to know how good their language skills are, how long they will stay, etc. In addition, the way that Spanish people talk about and make plans is often difficult to understand for people from other cultures. Therefore, we also shared our top three tricks for developing friendships:
Follow through on your plans.
Invite people to do things too.
Join general social activities.
These three tips, while they could essentially apply to anything, easily apply to the culture that revolves around food and drink in Spain. Let’s dig a bit deeper.
1.) Follow through on your plans: Plans with individuals
Initially we even said “when you talk about meeting someone for coffee,” however, it doesn’t have to be just for coffee! And while the coffee culture is pretty strong in Spain (see this video where we talk about it), other food cultures are too! That is, as easy as it is to plan to go for a coffee, you could also go for a quick beer or a snack.
The important thing here is to speak to people about doing things and then following through with them (it is all too easy to say you will meet and then never “find the time”). However, if you actually want to meet with that person and work towards developing a friendship with him or her, you will probably have to put in a little extra effort to make that happen. That is to say that, culturally speaking, while Spanish people are often up for a quick meeting, they will tell many more people that they want to catch up than they actually meet with.
Therefore, when you speak to someone about meeting up for a coffee or a drink, try to make a concrete plan. It might seem difficult or awkward, but most Spaniards are willing to meet with someone at least once to get a feeling about the (potential) friendship. Ask them to show you their favorite place—you are new after all—and you will get a bit of local insight out of the deal as well.
Note: As we rightly talked about in this article, sometimes being friends with the opposite sex is hard to define in different cultures. Therefore, be aware that you might be unintentionally asking someone out on a date if (although this can happen same-sex people as well).
2.) Invite people to do things too: Plans with groups that you organize
It is funny how we often wait for other people to invite us to do things (especially if you are slightly socially awkward like we talked about here), but inviting people to do foodie things is a great way to develop relationships. We have previously about how things like celebrating the holidays that are important to you with people who are in your local community is a great way to connect with them. In fact, when it comes to things like Thanksgiving—that Spanish people don’t understand at all—, it is a great way to develop new meaning in your friendship. (See how we have celebrated Thanksgiving in the past here.)
However, you don’t have to wait for the holidays either! Take advantage of things like inviting people to join a Sunday brunch activity or to eat a traditional meal one day. Most of this time, by sharing some of your culture with them, people will share some of theirs back with you.
At the same time, please know that Spaniards often have vergüenza (they are embarrassed) and it may be emotionally hard for them to join in these kinds of activities alone. Therefore, if you invite two or three people who you know are friends and that you are interested in getting to know better, this is a great way to ensure that they are comfortable and you get the opportunity to extend your friend group.
3.) Join general social activities: Plans with groups that others organize
In the same way that it may be difficult for Spaniards to join in with things you are organizing, we can understand that going to other people’s events can be terrifying as well. However, generally organized events are a great way to meet people who are already socializing and enjoying meeting people.
In the original article we mentioned joining your class for a coffee or beer at the end of the week, but here we would like to extend this section to include events such as intercambios or meetups, events that, in Spain, also revolve around food and drink. They will probably take place in a bar or a coffee shop and run for a couple of hours. At these kinds of events, you will find people who are looking to meet people or who have a specific interest (such as practice their language skills). This is awesome for meeting (potential) new friends because you already have one thing in common—you are all there.
Now, it is obvious that just meeting people (even if you do have something in common with them), is not necessarily conducive to creating friendships with Spaniards. However, probabilistically speaking, the more Spanish people you know, the more likely you are to find someone who you feel is worth developing the relationship with. All-in-all, if you are out there meeting people, you are more likely to make new friends than if you just stay within your set group.
So there you have it, how food and drink can help you make better friends in Spain (no seriously, if you are someone who doesn’t think that the food and drink culture is important, you will miss out on some Spanish interaction). What do you think? How have you bonded over food and drink with Spaniards?