Making friends in Spain as a poor introvert
June 20, 2015 3:50 PM   Subscribe

How do I make friends while living abroad in Spain as an introvert with very limited funds?

I have been living in Madrid, Spain for almost a year know and still do not have many friends. I share an apartment with some Americans but we all lead quite independent lives so there is not much socialising with them. They sometimes do socialise together but often I cant afford it and have to stay home event though I want to go. I do socialise with people from work but again I can only afford it occasionally and as my Spanish isn't perfect I find it hard to get into really meaningful conversations. Also as wages are quite low in Spain I do not really have the funds to be joining groups or things like that. Another factor is that I am primarily interested in making Spanish friends but I feel like cultural differences sometimes come into play - I am quite introverted although not shy, and being introverted is quite negatively viewed in Spain.
posted by iamsuper to Human Relations (9 answers total)
If fluency is a problem, start there. Improve your Spanish. It's the limiting factor.
posted by BadgerDoctor at 5:24 PM on June 20, 2015

I lived in Madrid for several months recently, I'm an introvert, and I'm looking forward to going back there. There are a TON of Meetup groups, including ones specifically designed to bring foreigners and Spaniards together. Many of them cost nothing or just the price of a cup of tea or a beer.

I've had some good, introvert-style conversations at meetups designed to foster conversation, such as coffee or tea-drinking meetups or ones that discuss philosophy.

In my experience, if the event is publicized in both Spanish and English, the conversation is likely to bounce back and forth between the languages, so most people get a chance to spend some time in the language that's strongest for them. The bilingual groups I tried were predominantly Spaniards who were happy (or eager) to speak English if there were foreigners who couldn't quite manage Spanish.

The Spanish-language groups I visited were 98% Spaniards, but I felt completely welcome even as an obvious foreigner with not-quite-fluent Spanish.

I agree that Spaniards can seem to not "get" introversion, but once you corner a person, you can quickly dive into a deep conversation. The trick for me is to focus intently on them and tune out the talking that's inevitably going on around us. There's even a Meetup group for "highly sensitive" people that apparently tries to meet in quiet places (look for "personas altamente sensibles"). For me, one-on-one conversation with a Spaniard I just met can be surprisingly deep, more so than in the US or UK, and it's common for people to meet for coffee and have real conversations instead of empty chatter.

Don't wait for your Spanish to be perfect. No one cares but you. And if you want a less language-intensive way to meet people, try some of the hiking or dancing meetups. There's also free, easy folk dancing for the public on the first and second Sundays of each month from about noon to 1400 at the templete de música near the Templo de Debod (walk to the end of the temple, go down the stairs toward the park, and veer right to a bandstand kind of thing). If you sign up to their list, you'll find out about weekly dance classes and special events. Of course everyone speaks Spanish there but no one needs perfect grammar when they're dancing with happy people.
posted by ceiba at 5:38 PM on June 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Organize a MeFi Madrid meet-up?
posted by slater at 6:53 PM on June 20, 2015

BoardGameGeek has a forum for organizing board game groups in Spain. I see a couple of postings for Madrid in recent months. It's fairly normal for someone in a hobby board game group to contribute no funds or games themselves--there's usually a collector in the group who can't stop buying new options. Also, if you ask in advance about what games people might be playing, you can usually find rules explanations online in English, either at BoardGameGeek or on YouTube, so you'd have not only a nicely constrained interaction in the game itself but also one you could familiarize yourself with beforehand. Modern hobby board games are pretty fantastic ways for introverts to get small doses of socialization, even with folks they don't know very well.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:17 PM on June 20, 2015

I would suggest joining, even if you're not interested in hosting travelers. Groups of couchsurfers host language exchange meetings where you can practice your Spanish and make local friends at the same time. They're free to go to, usually they take place in bars, but with a bunch of other people buying drinks and snacks the staff won't care if you order only one beer, or nothing at all.
posted by Promethea at 7:32 PM on June 20, 2015

Meetup is a wonderful thing. I've used it heavily to meet friends in Hong Kong. I've said it before, but activity-based groups like hiking and running groups are low cost and the shared interest is generally enough to cross most cultural divides. Even if that doesn't interest you, then choose a hobby you can really geek out on and find others with the same passion.
posted by frumiousb at 8:11 PM on June 20, 2015

If you want to socialize with your American flatmates but don't want to spend money, you're in luck because it's summertime in the city! There's nothing nicer than taking a blanket, a few bottles of beer/lemonade, a bag of chips, some guacamole and maybe a tortilla (if you've got a near-by takeaway place) to Retiro and lying under a tree all day. Picnics are practically free. I have spent many hundreds of hours of my life this way.

As for meeting other people, especially other Spanish people, I think intercambios are your friend. Are you in the English-teaching buisness? If you work for an agency or did your certification at a local academy, they should be able to give you some leads. Otherwise check out, or Meetup, as others have suggested, as well as any Irish bar in your neighborhood. Intercambios are generally held at bars, true, but you only need to buy a caña and then nurse it.

Last, check your memail.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 4:27 AM on June 21, 2015

How's your Spanish? Whatever level it's at, why not look for some language exchanges with some locals (i.e. meeting in a cafe, and spending half of the time talking Spanish, and half English to improve both of your language skills)? I don't know specific websites for Madrid, but I'm sure if you look around small ads sections, or post your own ad you'll be in high demand as an English speaker, and you'll get to meet people and practice socialising in Spanish.
posted by Ned G at 9:28 AM on June 21, 2015

I live in Madrid too - but only for another month or I'd offer to be your friend!

I agree with lollymccatburglar (wonderful name btw), intercambios are generally free and therefore are your friend. Why do other people go there? To make new friends, same as you. They're putting themselves out there, just as you will have to.

What are your interests? I have met great friends through attending yoga events and open mic nights. In relation to learning the language, you should try posting on the official Facebook group to see if anyone is interested in doing a language exchange.

ps. unless you are learning less than 800 euros per month you should be able to live a reasonable lifestyle with a good amount of socialising. I think Madrid is quite reasonable, compared to some it's not a very expensive city.
posted by Kat_Dubs at 1:02 PM on June 23, 2015

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