How To Make Friends In Berlin In 2021 – Ever since I wrote my rather long-winded confessional about why I moved to Berlin (and back again), people have written and asked me how I made friends as a newcomer in a foreign land. Some really lonely person even arrived on my blog by Googling “Moving to Berlin with no friends.”
I quit my job, sold everything that I owned and left a great job in Toronto, all to move 6,400 kilometers across the planet to start anew. I came alone, without family, friends, or a significant other. In fact, I didn’t know a single person in Berlin! I’d never even been to Berlin for that matter. To add to this, I was unemployed and didn’t know how to speak German.
In other words, the odds were against me surviving in Berlin for any significant length of time.
How To Make Friends In Berlin In 2021
So there I was in Berlin, completely alone. In the beginning, I kept myself busy touring the city, traveling, having long Skype dates with friends at home, and meeting up with Toronto buddies who happened to be visiting Berlin (strangely there were a large number of Torontonians in Berlin during my first summer here).
I sulked a lot in those first days. Moving abroad is way different than taking a vacation. Trying to grapple with the loads of German related administration was overwhelming. Attempting to navigate the public transit was stressful. Learning the language was not as fun as I thought. I found myself pondering why I’d made such a massive life change, even more, contemplating my insanity at moving to Berlin under my particular circumstances.
Then a time came when I needed to focus on making friends in Berlin and fully embrace my new expat lifestyle. I forced myself out of my comfort zone and found different ways to meet new people. It took time and a fair amount of self imposed fearlessness (fake it until you make it!), but before I knew it, I had more friends than I ever needed. I moved here in 2011 and in 2020, this still holds true.
As daunting as it may seem and no matter how gruff Berliners may appear on the surface (we’re all familiar with the renowned “Berliner Schnauze”), if you put yourself out there and really are open to it, it’s quite easy to make new friends in Berlin.
Here are my top ways to make new friends (both expats and locals!) when you move to the German capital.
1) Enroll in a language class
If you move to Berlin and don’t know the language, one of the very first things you should do is enroll in a language class so you can better immerse yourself in the German culture. It will help make your transition easier (including finding a job) if you can communicate with Germans, well, … in German.
The great part about enrolling in a language class is that you can befriend your fellow classmates, who are most likely new to the country as well. You can study together or just hang out doing other things. You’ll share a common bond and can support one another as needed, especially when you find yourself missing home. The other great thing is that once you have a basic command of whatever language you’re learning, you can begin speaking with locals and open up even more opportunities to forge new friendships.
I started a one month German intensive course 2 months after I arrived in Berlin with Sprachnatalier. Unfortunately, most of my classmates were young students from Spain and Italy who were only in Berlin for about four weeks. While I made some new “temporary” friends, I didn’t establish any of the long-term relationships that I so desired.
But hey, my Spanish friends taught me to drink wine like “real” Spanish people do, mixing coke with red wine.
2) Find a local and call it home (aka your second living room)
The theme song from the famous American 1980’s sitcom Cheers sums it up perfectly – “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.” Whether it be a nearby bar, café or restaurant, find a place that you can call your own, where they know your name, how you take your coffee, or what type of wine you like to drink.
It’s imperative that the place you choose is not touristy but more of a neighbourhood establishment where you can meet people who actually live in the area and who you’ll likely see again.
A visiting friend introduced me to a chilled out local wine bar shortly after I arrived in Berlin. After a while, I jokingly came to refer to this place as my “second home.” I’d walk in, be hugged, kissed, and handed a glass of wine, all without saying a word. I then befriended the staff and through them was introduced to some German women (who are now close friends) and even a guy that I sort of dated for a while.
It wasn’t easy. I can’t tell you how many nights when I walked into that bar alone. It was embarrassing! Feigning confidence, I’d walk up to the bar, sip from my glass of wine, and smoke my cigarette while surveying the crowd around me. I’m sure those who observed me thought me weird or even worse, “looking for a good time“ but I persevered and kept going back until I started meeting people.
3) Get social on social, specifically Twitter and Instagram (maybe Facebook if you’re not boycotting them)
If you’re looking for love, there’s always online dating sites or apps (ahem … Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, Hinge, etc.) but what about if you’re just looking to just make new friends and not hook-up (not that there’s anything wrong with that)?
I’ve always been a big fan of Twitter. After moving to Berlin, I used Twitter’s search feature to find active local users like Natalye and Nicole. For the first while, I sat back and watched their conversations. Then through my rather intense stalking efforts, I discovered who they talked to and starting following them as well. With time, I became less shy and entered the fray of conversation, finding out what cool things there were to do that weekend, and when/where people were meeting. For example, I met a bunch of people through a “burger tour” of Berlin that was organized by Adam from Travels of Adam and Georg from Digital Cosmonaut. We met up every 2-3 weeks at a specific burger joint to chow down on burgers and meet other foodies.
I’ve done the same with Instagram and managed to meet a number of people over the years using that platform as well.
Facebook Groups are another good one (for some reason Berliners love Facebook groups!?!?), with various groups like Girls Gone International that are quite social and hold frequent events.
As the community in Berlin is so active, there’s always something going on whether it be a party, conference, or even an impromptu Mexican picnic at Tempelhof with other Berlin newbies.
4) Chat up local bloggers (there are plenty of us!) and at least one is bound to be friendly
Another way to find locals in your area is to research blogs and web sites for your chosen city. Before arriving in Berlin, I already knew that some of my favourite sites were Slow Travel Berlin, uBerlin, and Travelettes. While one of these sites is no longer so active, back in the day, I emailed them, tweeted them to ask for advice and suggested meeting up. If you feel too shy to do that, in the very least, follow them on Facebook or Twitter to see what events they’re attending and if there’s an opportunity for you to attend and hopefully, meet as well. Over time, I met or worked with various people from these blogs.
5) Attend a meetup using … Meetup
Another great tool is meetup.com. You can search through their directory to find groups in your area like expat communities or groups of like-minded people with specific interests like dining out, going to movies, or attending live music events.
I once went to a party on a boat and met up with a bunch of other Internationals in Berlin and another time, I had fun on Canada Day when I attended a Canadian expat meet-up at a Canadian pizza place.
Another option is Internations, an expat community with chapters all around the world including Berlin. They hold monthly events where you can meet other people from abroad. Note, there is a fee to be part of Internations, so this option may not be for everyone. Meetups, however, tend to be free of charge.
6) Be sporty and get your fitness on
Join one of the many fitness studios around Berlin, where you can meet and bond with fellow health freaks. Try out such places as McFIT, FitX, or if you’re really fancy, go to somewhere like Holmes Place. Flexible programs like Urban Sports Clubs allow you to visit different venues around the city.
Obviously, gyms are pretty much like bars, where men and women eagerly search for potential mates, be it for a one night stand or a long-term relationship. But for sure, especially if you’re in a women’s only gym (I used to belong to Lady Company), there is a high chance to meet other people and establish a longterm friendship.
Other ways to meet new people? Join one of the more athletically oriented meetups, like a running or hiking groups. You can try the Midnight Runners for example. There are even badminton and floor hockey groups, the latter being especially appealing to Canadians like me. Signup for classes at a yoga studio, which are numerous around Berlin. I know a lot of people who’ve developed friendships from participating in crossfit programs. I’ve even heard of people making friends with fellow swimming enthusiasts while doing their morning laps.
7) Make friends in Berlin, volunteer somewhere, and help people
I’ve met a lot of great people over the years simply by offering my time to those in need. It’s super fun, as I’ve not only friended fellow volunteers, but some of the people I’ve helped as well. And let’s be honest, in today’s COVID-19 world, we all need to connect on more human levels, now more than ever.
I’ve worked in the kitchens of refugee and homeless shelters with the Berliner Stadtmission and they’re absolutely lovely. You can find even more opportunities through Vostel and Give Something Back To Berlin.
8) Hang out with your colleagues
Yes, there’s some of us who want to draw a firm separation between work and play. When you leave work, you want to put thoughts about work behind you. Besides, you already spend eight hours of your day with colleagues, so why would you willingly spend even more time with them? If you do go out with people from work, inevitably, you’ll end up gossiping about people or complaining about things. During these moments, it may be hard to relax as you fear that certain boundaries may be crossed.
I’ve worked at some pretty international companies, employing people from 50+ different countries. We usually have a lot in common, besides work, so hanging out with one another happened naturally. Aside from staying around for Friday nights beers, we’d go on our own for after work beers on other days, casual dinners, or fun events like go-carting. I’ve met some of my very best friends from work, and years after leaving the company, maintain contact with them.
If you get an invite from your colleagues, take them up on it and have a great time.
9) Go on a food tour around Berlin
Over the years I’ve done various food tours (like this one) and met a lot of seriously cool people. Yes, sometimes the people in the group are tourists here on a visit (read about mistakes tourists should avoid when they’re in Berlin), but many times, they’re locals looking to experience the city in a different way.
Make Friends In Berlin And Just Get Out There
The possibilities are endless and you need to do what works for you. The ones I listed above are just what personally worked for me.
Regardless of your situation, you need to be flexible and open-minded. There’s no time to be shy as you need to put yourself out there even when you feel the most uncomfortable. It might not be easy but with a positive attitude, patience, and time, you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by a group of close friends.