One of the hardest things I find about moving around all the time is how difficult it is to meet new people and make friends. We spend about one-third of our time at work, so when we move somewhere new, the first people we usually meet are work colleagues. Naturally, we get to know our them pretty well, and perhaps go out for a drink or a meal with them. But what if you don’t have colleagues? Working as a digital nomad it is extremely difficult to meet people and socialize, when you work alone and live alone. So how do you make friends in a new city when no-one knows you’re here? That’s where NORN comes in.
NORN is a new concept, still not fully launched in fact, but it is already starting to change the way nomads settle into a new city. They arrange social events in key cities around the world, currently in Barcelona, London, Berlin and San Francisco, specifically for digital nomads. They understand how hard it is to find somewhere to live, work, and play too. They have it all covered!
The events are usually hosted in their NORN homes, which are also available for digital nomads to rent. They are not for AirBnb weekend travellers, or for long-term residents, instead designed for medium-term rentals of one to six months. The homes are beautifully designed apartments, with several private rooms, and plenty of shared space for working, living, and socialising. Before Christmas, I spent a week at the Barcelona NORN home to get a taste of what NORN will be like when it launches in the spring.
Meet New People at NORN Social Events
While I was there, Gabi, the manager for the NORN Barcelona home, arranged a Christmas themed event at the apartment. Gabi is a fabulous hostess, and decorated the apartment, made some delicious snacks and ordered in plenty of wine! She also invited a range of people to the event; people she had met in co-working spaces in the city, expats from around the world who had recently moved to Barcelona, and a couple of sociable friends to help get everyone chatting. Gabi herself is somewhat of a nomad; originally from Ecuador, she lived in Toronto for several years, and moved to Barcelona a couple of years ago. I actually met Gabi while I was living in Barcelona before I set off for South America; she was one of the people who inspired me to take my trip, as I wanted to go and meet more lovely South Americans like her!
The event was great fun. It was Christmas themed, as it was the week before Christmas, and Gabi asked everyone to bring a decoration for the tree, and a story about how they celebrate Christmas in their home country. I was impressed at how prompt people were – I had got so used to the relaxed timings in Latin America that I was amazed when the doorbell rang bang on time! As the guests arrived, Gabi handed them a welcome drink, and we went upstairs. Gabi introduced us all if we hadn’t had chance to do it already, and made sure that everyone was chatting with someone else. No-one was left out, and as we were all here to socialize and have fun there was a great atmosphere, and easy to make new friends.
When it came to the story-telling, we shared stories of Christmas traditions or memories of childhood Christmases. Would you believe there were two people from two different countries who both have families who own Christmas tree farms?? It is a small world after all. The wine and conversations flowed easily, and I felt at home among this group of strangers. We talked about our countries, our businesses, life, and Barcelona, things that we had in common, no matter where we were from. For me, that was the joy of NORN – it was so easy to get to know these people, who were all in the same boat. We didn’t know many people here but wanted to get out and socialize in this incredible city. We wanted to make new friends! NORN arrange different kinds of events each month, I gathered as this was Christmas it was perhaps a little more rowdy than other events, but there was a great mix of people and a great vibe throughout the night.
I admit, I was a little wary about having a party in the apartment where I was staying, but needn’t have worried! It was so relaxed if I had wanted to go to bed early then the others could have moved elsewhere in the apartment, or headed out to a bar. As it happened, I was enjoying myself so much I was one of the last ones up – drinking the last of the wine and munching on Gabi’s amazing spinach and cream cheese dip.
NORN Homes in Barcelona
The home itself was incredible. I’ve only seen pictures of the other NORN homes but they all look incredible. The Barcelona apartment was on three levels; a living area and kitchen with three bedrooms and bathrooms on the ground floor, with a large terrace and seating area outside. Upstairs was another bedroom with a kitchen, and lounge area, and a balcony with a couple of smaller tables and chairs. On the roof was a huge terrace with sun loungers and a large table with benches for working or chilling out. My room downstairs had a seriously comfy double bed, with an ensuite bathroom. It was simple, but clean and light, and there were wardrobes where I could hang my clothes – quite a luxury when I usually live out of a backpack!
The kitchen had everything I needed to cook, and although there are hundreds of amazing restaurants in Barcelona, it was nice to feel at home and I loved cooking in ‘my’ kitchen. I was the only resident at the time, but there were four bedrooms in total, each with their own bathroom. I spent most of my time in the kitchen and living area on the ground floor, there was a table there for eating and working at, so it became my makeshift office. Gabi came over sometimes and we worked here together, it was nice to co-work for a change instead of sitting alone!
NORN gave me the peace I was longing for, after months of hostel living I needed some space of my own. The apartment was large enough though that four people could have easily lived and worked here without getting in each other’s way. It was winter when I was there, so a bit too cold to be outdoors, but there was plenty of space on the two terraces and balcony to find a quiet spot in warmer weather. The wifi was fast (a must for digital nomads of course) and the view from the terrace was something else! No matter which direction I looked in, I could see something cool – the sea (just!) on one side, the Sagrada Familia from another, the MNAC Museum from another. Outside space is so important to me when I’m working from home, I love to take 5 minutes to get out and breath fresh air away from my laptop!
The location of the NORN Barcelona home is in a quiet area known as Poble Sec, which is residential and full of local people, far away from the crowds of tourists in the Gothic Quarter. It is up a hill, which can be tough with a suitcase, but the view makes it worth the effort! It is 5 minutes’ walk from one of my favourite streets in Barcelona, Calle Blai, which is full of pintxo bars serving tasty small tapas on sticks with wine and beers. The metro station is 5 minutes away too, the closest stop is Poble Sec on the green line, a short ride from Plaça Cataluyna and Las Ramblas.
Final Thoughts on NORN Barcelona
Would I recommend NORN Barcelona? Yes! It is out of my usual backpacker budget, but I am not a typical digital nomad. For real digital nomads, working on building their online businesses, but still wanting to integrate into their new home (however temporary it might be) then NORN offers an excellent combination of social events and gorgeous accommodation to help you settle in and make new friends in your new city. I can’t wait to see what NORN do when they officially launch, I’ll be watching closely and will see if I can try out their other homes in London and Berlin too!
Barcelona for Digital Nomads
Barcelona is a great city for digital nomads, an international crowd makes Barcelona their home, and the whole city has a cosmopolitan feel. Barcelona has everything you could need, from beautiful beaches to delicious food, buzzing nightlife, incredible architecture and fascinating culture. It’s no wonder that Barcelona is start-up hub, with great weather (for Europe!) and relatively cheap living costs. For me, Barcelona has a buzz about it, no matter how you look at it, the city is alive! Come here and see for yourself!
Do you have any tips for helping digital nomads to meet new friends? I’d love to hear them!
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My stay at NORN Barcelona was complimentary, but as always, all opinions are my own.