One of the biggest challenges of moving to a new city is having to find a new social network. Or perhaps you’ve lived in Berlin for a while but the friends you made are moving back to their home countries and you’re all alone again. Whatever the reason, meeting new people in a new city can be intimidating. The great thing about Berlin is that it’s filled with so many different people, so it’s safe to say that your people are out there. It’s just a matter of how to find them.
Move into a WG (Shared Flat)
I like to call this the intensive socialization approach. If your new roommates are forced to live with you, surely they’ll see how cool you are and friendship will soon blossom, right? Well, not always. When searching from your new home, you may come across the phrase Purpose WG or Zweck-WG, which means that the flat-share is for practical reasons only, and your future flatmates aren’t interested in spending quality time together. Practical, yes, but not if you’re looking for friends! If you’re hoping to bond with your flatmates, be sure to look for a more social WG with people you can see yourself hanging out with. Sure, finding a WG at all can be challenging, but a person can dream!
This might sound like an obvious answer with an obvious reason, but it’s actually an obvious answer with two obvious reasons. Firstly, you’ll likely be spending a lot of time with your coworkers, so if you hit it off it should be easy to transition to some after-work drinks. You might even get the chance to meet more friends of your coworkers and expand that social circle even wider. If you’re self-employed or a freelancer, you could take advantage of a co-working space with events to meet others like yourself. The second obvious reason your job will help you grow your network is that making friends can cost money! Sure, beers in the park are cheap, but being able to splash out on a round of cocktails or a meal out is always a plus. Besides, when European travel and music festivals return, you’ll need some spare cash for those pricey tickets so you can go and have an epic weekend with your new mates.
Turn Those Facebook Friends into Real Friends
The past year has likely seen your use of social media rise dramatically. How about using it to put the ‘social’ back into your social life? Facebook, for example, is filled with many Berlin expat groups, some more general and some catering to more specific demographics. If you’re reading this I’m guessing you probably are a member of some of these groups already. It’s easy to forget that all the fellow group members are expats just like yourself going through the same things. Some groups host more organized social events, whereas sometimes it’s just a member posting “Would anyone like to have a picnic this weekend”? Don’t be afraid to say yes to invites, or to put the offer out yourself!
Even if you’re not looking for romance, many dating apps now have options to search for friends. Sure, “Looking for friends” used to be seen as the sign of someone cheating on their spouse, but these days some people are actually looking for friends! Particularly in an expat-heavy city, lots of people are looking for new connections and there’s something less stressful about talking to someone new from the comfort of your couch before making the commitment to hanging out irl. Use your bio to filter for what you want, whether it’s a yoga buddy or someone to join for beers at the park. Besides, if you’re single and looking, you can always open it up to romance as well, just in case.
Learn (or Improve) a Skill
Taking a class in something new will help you meet others who enjoy the same activities as yourself. Whether it’s getting back into art or learning to roller-skate, there are many ways to get your skill on. Search for local classes in whatever strikes your fancy. If you’re looking for something less official but still organized, Meetup.com is a great way to search for local meetups. There’s everything from coding, hiking, meditation, even birdwatching. You can also sort by in-person and online.
German language courses
Ah, probably one of the most important skills of all if you’re wanting to fully integrate into Berlin. What if you could make friends and improve your German at the same time? Sprachcafés are casual meetings where people improve their language skills together while getting to know new people. Usually, this takes place in public places or cafes at non-peak times. As of writing this article, a lot of these meetings are still taking place online via Zoom. However, as more of the current restrictions are being lifted some of these may start taking place in outdoor locations this summer. The Facebook Group Sprachcafés in Berlin may be a good place to start, otherwise, a quick Internet search for Sprachcafés should help you get started.
If you’d rather keep the learning and socializing separate, you could focus on your German with a one on one tutor service such as Preply which allows you to go at your own pace with a German tutor from the comfort of your own home, or wherever you have Wi-Fi. This is also perfect if you have a changing schedule, as your can book your lessons for when it suits you without committing to the same time every week. The great thing is once you’re able to manage conversations in German, this will open up your potential Berlin friendship pool to Deutschsprachige friends too!
Go to a bar
Going to a German bar will be fun. In fact, it’s one of the easiest ways to make new friends in Berlin. Just show up. No need to book a place, no need to explain why you want to be in their group. Just show up and say hello. Most people I meet are happy to make acquaintances through their drinking (or sports team). So finding them can be easy – just be friendly and approachable.
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway
This may not be the answer you were hoping for, but it’s the one you need to hear. Nobody ever made new friends without talking to strangers. The good news is a lot of people are probably out there feeling the exact same way you are. Compliment someone’s outfit, ask to borrow a lighter or bottle opener at the park, ask someone from the class you’ve taken if they’d like to grab a coffee. Turn that stranger into a pal, and then it won’t be so strange anymore. Not only that, but you’ll have a cool story for when people ask you how you met.