HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS IN BERLIN

So, I was in Berlin, completely alone. In the beginning, I kept myself busy touring the city, traveling, having long video calls 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 loads of German-related administration was overwhelming. Navigating the public transit was stressful. Learning the language was not as fun as I thought. I pondered why I’d made such a massive life change and, even more, contemplated my insanity at moving to Berlin under my particular circumstances.

Then, a moment came when I needed to focus on making friends in Berlin and fully embrace my new “Berliner 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 I had more friends than I ever needed before I knew it. I moved here in 2011, and in 2024, this still holds.

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WAYS TO MAKE FRIENDS IN BERLIN

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 can be quite easy to make new friends in Berlin.

Here are my top ways to make new friends (both foreigners 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 first things you should do is enroll in a language class (view our list of top schools) so you can better immerse yourself in German culture. It will help make your transition easier (including finding a job) if you can communicate with Germans, … 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 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 the German language, you can begin speaking with locals and open up even more opportunities to forge new friendships.

I started a one-month German intensive course shortly after I arrived in Berlin with Sprachnatalier. Unfortunately, most of my classmates were young students from Spain and Italy who were only going to be in Berlin for a month. While I made some new “temporary” friends, I didn’t establish any long-term relationships I desired.

But hey, my Spanish friends taught me to drink wine like “real” Spanish people do, mixing Coke with red wine. I still shudder when I think about having drunk several glasses of that, um, … unusual mix.

2) Find A Local Bar and Call it Home

The theme song from the famous American 1980s sitcom Cheers perfectly sums it up: “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.” Whether it be a nearby bar, café, or restaurant, find a place you can call your own, where they know your name, how you take your coffee, or what wine you like to drink.

It’s imperative the place you choose is not touristy but a neighborhood establishment where you can meet people who live in the area and who you’ll likely see again. I’d highly recommend checking out one of your local Kniepes.

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 without saying a word. I then befriended the staff and, through them, was introduced to some German women who became close friends and even a guy that I (sort of) dated for a while – while no longer together that way, we’re actually still good friends.

It wasn’t easy. I can’t tell you how many nights I walked into that place 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 All of The Apps and Websites

If you’re looking for love, there are always online dating sites or apps like Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, Hinge, etc., but what about if you’re looking just to make new friends and not hook up (not that there’s anything wrong with that!)?

I’ve always been a big fan of X (formerly known as Twitter). After moving to Berlin, I used the site’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 started following them. With time, I became less shy and entered the fray of conversation, finding out what cool things to do that weekend and when and where people were meeting. For example, I met a bunch of people through a “burger tour” of Berlin organized by Adam and Georg. We met every 2-3 weeks at different burger joints to chow down on burgers and meet other foodies.

Over the years, I’ve done the same with Instagram and met many people. 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 host frequent events. People also report luck with Bumble BFF, where it’s not about dating or hooking up but making real friends.

Another way to find locals in your area is to research blogs and websites for your chosen city. Before arriving in Berlin, I already knew some of my favorite sites. I emailed them, tweeted them to ask for advice, and suggested meeting up. If you feel too shy to do that, at the very least, follow them to see what events they’re attending and if there’s an opportunity for you to attend too and, hopefully, meet IRL. Over time, I met or worked with various people from several Berlin blogs

As Berlin’s community is so active, there’s always something going on for everyone—whether it be a party, conference, or even an impromptu Mexican picnic at Tempelhof with other Berlin newbies. We highly encourage you to join one of The Berlin Life’s community events.

4) Attend Meetups

Another great tool is meetup.com. You can search through their directory to find groups in your area to make friends or even groups of like-minded people with specific interests like dining out, going to movies, or attending live music events. We profile some of our favorite local meetups on this post, Best Berlin Meetup Groups For Meeting New People.

I once went to a party on a boat and met up with a bunch of other Internationals in Berlin. Another time, I had fun on Canada Day when I attended a Canadians in Berlin meet-up at a Canadian pizza place.

Another option is Internations, a community with chapters worldwide, including Berlin. They hold monthly events where you can meet other people from abroad. Note that 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.

5) Get Sporty With Others

Join one of the many fitness studios around Berlin, where you can meet and bond with fellow health freaks. Try out such places as McFITFitX, or if you’re fancy, go somewhere like Holmes Place. Flexible programs like Urban Sports Club or ClassPass 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, whether 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 long-term friendships.

Other ways to meet new people? Join one of the more athletically oriented meetups, like running or hiking groups. There are even badminton and floor hockey groups, which are especially appealing to Canadians like me. Sign up for classes at yoga studios, which are numerous around Berlin. I know many 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.

6) Volunteer

Over the years, I’ve met a lot of great people simply by offering my time to those in need. It’s super fun, as I’ve not only friended fellow volunteers but also some of the people I’ve helped. And let’s be honest, in today’s weird 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.

Recommended Reading: Our guide on ways you can help Ukrainians in Berlin.

7) Befriend Your Colleagues

Some of us 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 with colleagues, so why would you willingly spend even more time with them? If you go out with people from work, you’ll inevitably 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 international companies, employing people from 50+ countries. We usually have a lot in common besides work, so hanging out with one another happened naturally. Aside from staying around for Friday night 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 best friends from work, and I maintain contact with them several years after leaving the company.

If you get an invite from your colleagues, take them up and have a great time. 

8) Go On A Food Tour

Over the years I’ve done various food tours (like this one) and met a lot of seriously cool people. 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. 

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.

We hope this guide on how to make friends in Berlin is helpful and that you’ll be surrounded with a close-knit social group in no time.

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Cheryl Howard, Founder @ The Berlin Life

Cheryl Howard, Founder @ The Berlin Life

Hi, I’m Cheryl. My mission is to help you move to Berlin and find work.

A Canadian in Berlin for 10+ years, I have the unique experience of moving to Berlin – not once, but twice. During my time in Berlin, I’ve had five different visas and worked as both a freelancer and a permanent employee for numerous Berlin companies. I even managed to find a new job during the pandemic and again in 2023, during Germany’s recession and massive layoffs in tech. 

My day job has involved work as a hiring manager, overseeing the recruitment of countless people, as well as a team coach helping teams and individuals work better and find happiness in their careers. Through my side projects, I’ve also shared my personal experiences by publishing a series of helpful blog posts, creating a thriving community of job seekers, and hosting events to help people find work in Berlin. In 2021, I decided to put my coaching and recruiting talents to use by creating The Berlin Life, bringing my existing content and community together in one spot.

The combination of my personal and professional experience means I know exactly what it takes to move to Berlin and find work.