What Are the People Like in Málaga, Spain?
They're from all over the world.
People in Andalucía describe Málaga as a cosmopolitan city. They estimate that maybe 50% of the population are Malagueños. All the rest are Spanish people from other areas and expatriates from mostly North America and Europe. I can't say whether the numbers are accurate, but my experience aligns with those estimates.
Not all cities with a growing population feel good about that. People can become hostile and view newcomers as ruinous. I won't assume that no one in Málaga feels this way, but the people I meet seem to accept that the influx of new arrivals is a good thing.
Spanish people are friendly, but they're not Mexican-level friendly.
My experience with Mexicans in America is that they typically stay within their cultural circles. But it's a different experience when you cross the border and meet them on their turf. I think because they are at home, they are more comfortable, willing to connect, and eager to show you their country. And, once they decide they like you, they treat you like family right off the bat.
People in Málaga don't rush that quickly into adopting extended family members. They are open, friendly, and willing to make connections. Many deliberately hang out in ex-pat circles and enjoy mingling with foreigners. They will not hesitate to show you around their city or recommend places for you to go and things for you to see.
Yes, they are warm and welcoming. But you probably won't get whisked off to Sunday dinner the following weekend the way it can happen in Mexico. And, for some people, that's a good thing!
The ex-pats are a mixed bag. Watch out for the occasional crazies!
If we accept that ex-pats make up roughly half of the population, then you definitely need to consider the level of friendliness from other countries. This varies significantly and comes down to individual preferences and cultures.
For example, you might encounter the German who leaves without saying goodbye, the Polish who kiss on the cheek, Italians who kiss on both, and the Americans who maintain personal space but smile at everyone.
These are all generalizations, of course. But they nonetheless represent the range of foreigners you might encounter. I found that the Spanish, Western Americans, Brits, and Polish tend to be the friendliest people in the group.
Because the ex-pat groups are so diverse, navigating them takes a different level of cultural skills. If your only experience with diversity is tackling noticeable differences you can see, such as race, you will need to sharpen them.
On that note, I encountered a few nutbags in the ex-pat circles. Some people leave their countries to immerse themselves in another culture and experience a new or better way of life. Others are running from something, and the worst things they seem to run from are themselves.
Sadly, I didn't meet a lot of Spanish women.
The only Spanish women I have met since being in Spain are my Airbnb hosts and a young lady in my apartment complex. For some reason, I don't encounter them as often as men.
For example, I have never had a female Uber driver or delivery person in Málaga. My servers are also overwhelmingly men; the two waitresses I encountered were Asian and spoke English.
I have also never met any Spanish women in our ex-pat circles. I could be wrong, but I suspect Spanish men are more willing to socialize and travel alone than women and are less likely to stay in cliques.
So what is the girl in my apartment complex like? We are about the same age. She is sweet and helpful. When we meet, it's not the stiff politeness of strangers. There is underlying friendliness and a genuine smile. If this was a longer stay, I think she and I would be good friends!
Making friends in Málaga is really easy.
Digital nomads traveling across the U.S. often encounter reluctance from others to be anything more than casual acquaintances. That's because there's always a chance we could leave at any time. People in Málaga do not let the lack of permanence or certainty dissuade them from connecting with others.
Whether I was there for 30 days or three, the more critical question is if I would like to play beach volleyball or join them for a hike. Need a plus-one for an evening ride on a catamaran? Not only are they ready to go, but they are bringing cake. Do you like cheesecake, or is chocolate more your thing? Also, here's a bottle of wine!
Let me add that, despite a commonly held misconception, the men were not pushy. They can take a hint. And if an explicit no is your go-to method, you really only need to say it once. Yes, I’m sure there are exceptions, but these are my experiences.
It was very easy to have dinner, go on boat rides, and take evening strolls without constantly reinforcing boundaries. That's priceless for a young woman traveling solo!
How can you make friends while in Málaga, Spain?
Next week, I'll share tips with paid subscribers on how to make friends in Málaga. Whether you're traveling solo or looking to add diversity to your travel group, you'll find that connecting with people here is incredibly easy.
Alexis Chateau | Free Ramen is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
See you next time!