How To Make Friends In Medellin
Traveling and/or moving to a new place is not easy.
One of the things that scared me the most about living abroad - was the fear of NOT making new friends.
After 11 months living in Medellin, Colombia I can honestly say it’s never been this easy to meet new people. The Colombians, the expats, and the meetups are amazing. If you want to, you can meet friends easily, and here are 9 easy ways to do it!
1) Take group Spanish lessons
Surprise! You need to know some Spanish in Medellin.
Look, I know group lessons aren’t for everyone because private lessons are pretty amazing. BUT, since we are looking to make friends and build a community in this blog, give me a chance to explain....
Did you know I went to Medellin on a solo vacation in August of 2016? 1 year before I moved here. Because I was traveling solo, I decided to take Spanish classes during my visit. I settled on group lessons at Colombia Immersion Spanish School.
I took 4 hours of group lessons per day and there was a different social activity every night. Right away, I had built in friends who were all in the same boat as me. When I decided to move back to Medellin in April 2017, I rejoined the school and met many people who were not only students, but had planned to live in Colombia long term. They are still some of my best friends today.
Colombia Immersion is the school I choose and loved, but there are many Spanish schools in Medellin that offer group lessons and provide students with a plethora of activities to keep them busy. Here’s a nice list at some other options, take a look and see what may be a fit for you.
And once you start making friends, opportunities arise!
I met my friend Mirelle who introduced me to one of my side hustles – online English teaching with VIPKid. I met my buddy Alex who later became my roommate. I met Avalon, the marketing director at the school, who not only became a great friend but provided tremendous marketing insight. I met Tiffany, who brought me to my first Latin dance lesson and awoke my love for salsa!
I could go on forever with these stories. The point is you just need to get started and it snowballs from there.
Send me a message if you need help deciding which Spanish school is right for you. Happy to help.
2) Attend a Language Exchange
Now that you’ve taken Spanish classes, you’ll want to put it to use.
Language exchanges are extremely popular in Medellin. Essentially, a bar or Spanish school hosts them for free. Native Spanish speakers come to practice English, and native English speakers come to practice Spanish. This way, no one feels dumb.
It’s also a great way to get outside of your bubble and ensure you don’t stay hanging out with only English speakers. My favorite language exchanges are:
Toucan Spanish School – Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (Poblado)
Hostel Ondas – Every Wednesday Night (Laureles)
Medellin Spanish-English Events – Every Wednesday (Poblado)
Colombia Immersion – Every Friday Night (Envigado)
DanceFree - Every Saturday
Am I missing any? Drop me a message so I can update this list.
3) Join Medellin Specific Facebook Groups
Medellin or Colombia specific groups not only are a great way to get answers to common questions, but you’ll often find people that have just arrived in Medellin who want to meet for lunch or coffee.
I did the same when I arrived! And I met some amazing people who could totally relate to my new lifestyle and loved Medellin as much as I do.
Put yourself out there or send a message to someone who wants to meet up. You can take this tip with you to any city you go to. My favorite Medellin specific groups are:
4) Create Your Own Meetup
There’s a reason that the Blogging in Medellin group above was listed first (no shame).
When I first arrived here, I went to an Expat meetup and thought to myself - why can’t I do this!?!? 2 months later, I decided to create a Blogging in Medellin Facebook group and meetup. The goal was simply to share knowledge and network (and make new friends). What I thought would be a group of 5, turned out to be 25.
7 meetups later, I can say it’s the #1 way I’ve met friends. I have also networked to several freelance (paid) jobs and learned so much about how to build my own blog. In addition, it’s brought Lost In Linderland additional exposure (grassroots style) and grown my social media following. And I follow ALL of my fellow bloggers back! It’s a win win for all of us.
5) Use Couchsurfing.com (Hear Me Out) or A Shared AirBnB
I have not used Couchsurfing in Medellin, however I did use it in Mexico City. Hear me out on this one.
I was very skeptical, being a solo female traveler AND in my early 30s - I didn’t want to sleep on a couch. However, a friend told me to filter for Private Rooms only, and see what I could find. I did this, and found 30 solid options. And all of them had their own bedroom, not a couch! I decided to stay with a retired couple in Mexico City who turned out to be some of the kindest people I ever met.
I secretly love meeting old people from abroad. They have the best stories! They are kind, they’ve seen some shit, and they LOVE meeting people from abroad. It fascinates them that young people want to live in their country. When I return to Mexico City in the future, they will be the first people I call.
In addition, I rented a room through AirBnB from a young woman named Maria my first few nights in Medellin. And I'm so glad I did, because she has truly become one of my best friends here. Sometimes, you meet people and click, and I found that with her. I've also met tons of people from sharing and living in large group, digital nomad, shared houses.
6) Salsa Dancing
If you’re in Colombia, you have to salsa dance. It’s in their blood. I think people learn to salsa before they walk. Group and private lessons are affordable and accessible. There are plenty of great places including:
I took my salsa lessons at DanceFree which I loved because the shared salon allows for 3 – 5 couples to take their private lessons at one time. And once I started becoming a regular, I made friends with other people taking the lessons as well as the instructors. In addition, they have large group lessons almost every night of the week. Another great way to meet people.
AND THEN, when you put those skills to use at some of the infamous salsa clubs (like Tibiri or Son Havana) you’ll have the opportunity to meet even more people who share a passion for the dance and music. It’s truly captured my heart and I’ve realized I found my passion, I even made this video to prove it.
7) Join a co-working space
A co-working space may be a new concept if you’ve never worked remotely.
As digital nomads, we crave the freedom to work and live wherever we want, yet somehow we still miss having “co-workers” and a routine. A co-working space solves that problem.
It’s essentially office space you rent with other digital nomads. You come and go as you please but you know you'll always have a desk, quiet space, reliable internet and amazing remote working "co-workers".
Most co-working space also have events not only to meet other people, but to learn about business and technology. It’s a way to meet others who likely have that entrepreneurial spirit as well. Here’s a great list of some Medellin specific co-working spaces. And co-working spaces are popping up in every major city across the globe - so wherever you are you can easily find one. For example, WeWork is one of the most popular global co-working spaces with 50+ locations worldwide.
Volunteering is a great way to meet like-minded people and become involved in the community. No surprise. In Medellin, I have utilized the Facebook group Volunteer Medellin to look for opportunities.
I’ve volunteered with Prime in the Comuna 13 neighborhood and La Sierra Tours to teach English. It also benefits me as not only do I meet amazing people (seeing a theme?), but they also helped and taught me Spanish.
I’ve also had the opportunity to meet the amazing Ann who is the CEO of Venture With Impact. Her organization engages professionals on a 4-week-skills-based volunteering program. If you’re not at the place where you’re ready to take the living abroad leap quite yet, but perhaps want to dabble your toe in the waters, programs like this are a great way to start and build your living abroad confidence. If you’d like to apply, click here. You can also use my code lostinlinderland for $50 off your registration fee.
9) Meet Your Instagram & Facebook Friends In Real Life
When I knew I was moving abroad, I spent hours on Instagram. I followed every person who looked interesting, semi normal under the following hashtags:
I used them as inspiration. I found accounts dedicated to Medellin. I found other strong women who were traveling. I followed people who were doing their own startups. This brought a great sense of comfort to me that I wasn't alone in my future journey.
And when I moved to Medellin, if those people happen to be in Medellin when I was (and I repeat, seemed semi normal) I messaged and asked to meet for a coffee.
And as I started posting about Medellin on my own Lost In Linderland Instagram account, people started reaching out to me too. And turns out, those digital nomads and bad ass travelers – they started changing locations and many of them eventually passed through Medellin. I even reached out to a few for collaboration opportunities, even if they weren’t in my city.
One of my favorite stories is about meeting Andrea from It’s a Travel OD. I don’t even remember how I found her account, but between her storytelling and captions I instantly related to her. I also found her tips on how to live/work abroad realistic and helpful. Fast forward months later, she was in Medellin and I asked her to speak at my Blogging In Medellin event. We even did a little collaboration as I wrote a blog about our meeting for her new book and website So You Want To Vlog.
Many people harp on social media, but the truth is, if you use it correctly it’s the most amazing tool for travelers to collaborate, meet other like-minded folks and catapult their creativity!
BONUS TIP: It Will Happen Organically
As you start to travel, your social network will inevitably expand. And as you share your travels through your social media channels, your friends and family will follow along. It’s the point of social media after all.
And very likely, when a friend of yours, has a friend who’s traveling to your location – they’ll let you know! They will email, send a three way Facebook message and introduce you. And if you feel like it, you’ll meet this friend of a friend for coffee. And chances are, you’ll hit it off! After all, you have a mutual friend in common.
All of this has happened to me. And I love it. I did not expect it, I did not even think much about this as I began my journey – but it’s been quite a delight.
In addition, people have found me through reading my own blog. Strangers have emailed asking for tips about Medellin, making money while traveling and how to do it solo. And very often I offer to meet these people once they arrive to Medellin. Because candidly, that’s what I wanted when I moved.
So hey, if you’re worried about making friends when traveling or moving abroad… don’t be! Especially in Medellin.
I can promise you, making friends is the easiest part of the whole process.
Have anything I should add? Shoot me a message. I need people to keep me on my toes.
ALSO, these tips can apply to all your travels - not just Medellin.