Six Ways to Meet New People In the City

You’ve finally worked up the nerve and moved to a new city. Whether you’re in another country or not meeting people and making friends can be really hard. Here are Victoria’s pretty great suggestions:

You’ve just arrived in a new city, you’re staying for longer than a few days, and what you really want is to meet some people who live there. So what do you do?

I’ve been in this situation a number of times – first when I moved to Barcelona for a few months and most recently when I spent five weeks in Buenos Aires. Both of these times I was alone in the city, so making friends was a priority, but I’ve also sought to meet people as a couple or group. These are my favourite ways of going about it.

Victoria and Aldana

1. Living with a Local

If you’re looking to make friends, and you’re sometimes a bit shy (like me), then living alone probably isn’t a good idea. You could live with fellow travellers, ex-pats or foreign students, who are easier to find, but if you really want to meet local people then the best way is to live with some. In Barcelona, I lived with a couple I met through Couchsurfing, and in Buenos Aires I found a shared flat with an Argentinian girl, Aldana, through CompartoDepto. Aldana taught me the intricacies of mate drinking, introduced me to her family and friends and even handmade a pizza for my birthday. She also spoke very little English, which did wonders for my Spanish. Craig’s List is good for finding rooms but tends to lean towards foreign lets. It’s better to seek out the local option like CompartoDepto.

 

2. Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing (CS) is much more than finding a place to stay – it’s a whole community of people who love to share. I always try to find a host for the first few days in the city to make some friends and get some insider knowledge. Beyond that, I look to the groups, events and ‘coffee or a drink’ options of the community. Practically every city has a CS group where members post events or discussions. There are often sub-groups – like ‘rock climbers’ or ‘vegetarians’ – where you can find people with shared interests. I’ve been to museums, picnics, live music and gallery opening nights with people from CS who then went on to become friends. You can also use CS to meet up with individuals. In Spain, I was teaching English so I did a keyword search for English teachers in Barcelona. I found a few and sent them all messages asking if we could meet up, or if they had any tips. Through that, I made some good friends and even found a job. I’ve also used it to simply meet with people I thought looked interesting. I once had a 6 hour lay-over in Madrid so created a shout out to couchsurfers and found some people to hang out with for the duration – we ended up eating chocolate and churros in a late night bar until my bus at 4am.

Guests at Jueves de la Mesa

3. Kitchen parties

Mealtimes are a great time to meet new people. There’s even a social network dedicated to it at Kitchen Party. The premise is simple – people who love food get together and share a meal. Joining Kitchen Party is one way to find such events, and you’ll also find them on Couchsurfing. Many restaurants or individuals host open dinner parties too. In Buenos Aires, there’s an established network of puerta cerrada (closed door) restaurants where someone opens their own home as a restaurant. Some of these have private tables, but most encourage guests to sit together and socialise. In England, there’s also a growing trend towards similar events. I went to a few in London and one in Bristol. They are harder to find as they’re normally small-scale and advertised locally, but keep your eyes open and ask around. You could even initiate your own event. I went to one in Buenos Aires arranged by a guy from Singapore and hosted by an Argentinian girl.

 

4. Hobbies

One of the most obvious times to meet people you’ll get along with is when doing something you love. Instead of practising yoga at home, I like to go to a class and chat with the teacher or other students. Yoga can be replaced with whatever hobby you like – football, painting, knitting – there is likely to be some sort of class or group in the city. Check notice boards in cafés or do a search online.

 

5. Language Exchanges

No matter what level you’re at with the local language, exchanges are a great way to meet people. In some cities there are dedicated language exchange programmes, such as Spanglish in Buenos Aires. Spanglish is based on the same concept as speed dating, but without the dating. You get paired with a Spanish speaker for about 10 minutes and speak for five minutes in English and five in Spanish. It’s a great way to practice and, as the events take place in bars, people tend to stay on afterwards. Other cities have similar programmes or less formalised language exchange events. Individuals are also often looking for people to practise with. The best way to find out about language exchanges is by looking at the notice boards in local language schools or searching online. Sites like Couchsurfing, Craig’s List and Gumtree are good places to start.

6. Ask Questions

The final and most important tip is to be open and friendly. There are people everywhere – in cafes, on the street, on the bus. Smile and strike up a conversation. Coming from London, where it isn’t that usual to talk to strangers, I haven’t always been very good at this, but the more I try, the easier it becomes. I find the easiest way is to ask a question. Even just asking the time can lead onto something more.

All of these methods meant that nearly every every night in Barcelona and Buenos Aires, I had the option of meeting up with someone if I didn’t feel like being alone. I hope you find it useful too. Let me know how you get on.

You can find Victoria at http://www.bridgesandballoons.com 

19 thoughts on “Six Ways to Meet New People In the City”

  1. Great article! I use CS for EVERYTHING. Meeting new people around the world is definitely one of the biggest reasons I travel, so thank you for introducing me to new ways to do it 🙂

    1. I’m pleased you found it useful Anthony. CS is definitely my favourite way of meeting people. I’ve met some of my favourite people in the world through surfing/hosting, and we’re continuing to meet more all the time. It’s a brilliant site.

  2. Fabulous suggestions. As long as I’m here, I need to tell you how much I love that apartment with the bright green wall, orange refrigerator and gray cat. I need to live there.

    Thanks for sharing! Making friends in a new place is always a challenge, so it’s nice to have advice from someone who’s gone through the friendship process 🙂

    1. That apartment was amazing. It’s my friend Roberto’s. I met him in Barcelona at a CS meet-up then hosted him in London. A few years later, he hosted Steve and I in Buenos Aires and that’s when the picture was taken. He’s an artist (note the paint all over his legs!) and the apartment really reflects that. I liked the wall covered in book pages, and upstairs is a roof terrace where he does his painting. Such a beautiful place. Pleased you found the article useful 🙂

  3. Great Advice! I’ve never tried couchsurfing but have always wanted to. I hadn’t heard of the Kitchen Party idea but I love it. I’ll definitely check it out. Traveling/living with locals is great. When I was in Ecuador I stayed with a local family and think I got a much richer, authentic experience than if I hadn’t. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Kitchen party is an awesome idea. I’ve had trouble finding any on my travels in Argentina though. They sometimes have them in Buenos Aires but not when I was there. Luckily couchsurfers often organise similar things so I found a few of them along the way. Ecuador sounds awesome. I’m heading there soon.

  4. The kitchen party idea is pretty awesome. I was just browsing the site too and I noticed the disparity between Western Europe and North America. Ha! just goes to show you we’re a little self-involved!

    1. Wow, I hadn’t noticed the disparity before! I would have thought it would be popular in America. The whole open dinner party thing is really taking off in London these days. I went to a few before we left to travel. They are a lot of fun.

  5. Fantastic tips! Moving to Germany in a few days and will definitely look for ways shared here to meet up with new people. Also, I’m taking more action with CS and even got a my first host in NYC! Love this community and the overall travel blogging community you guys are true gems 🙂

  6. You know, this is something I’ve spent plenty of time working on since we are about to go on a long term trip, I also plan to try finding a local church or gym. most church people and people at a gym seem to always be nice.

  7. Another great place to check out if you are in South America is ‘South American Explorers’. There is a clubhouse in Buenos Aires as well as in a few other countries and you can meet lots of other travelers and expats through Spanish classes, meet-ups and volunteer days.

  8. Thank you so much for this article Victoria! I’m a single woman traveling alone to Buenos Aires for 3 weeks in February, so these tips are extremely helpful to me!! If you have any more Buenos Aires-specific advice, I’d love to hear it. I’m definitely going to look into the puerta cerrada restaurants!

  9. Hello,
    I am a newly separated Scottish lady who has been living in Narbonne, France for the past 8 years.
    I am planning on coming to Barcelona for a couple of months. My dates can be flexible but ideally looking at around the end of /February.

    I’d like to find a furnished one bed / studio but more importantly, I’d like to meet up with some like minded people before I come.

    I look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Kind regards,
    Carol

    1. Hi Carol,

      I’m afraid I no longer live in Barcelona. I’m sure you’ll have no problems meeting new people though. I learned a lot of the tips in this article through my time living in Barcelona. Have a great time!

      Victoria

  10. Unfortunately,CS become absolutely different website.
    On couchsurfing meetings usually come just single guys.
    Also I met one local guy in london through CS who was searching just for sex,even he had good reviews and was member for 3 years.

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