La Familia: The Spanish Home

20 Sep

La Familia:  The Spanish Home

I’m not even sure how it’s possible, but another week has come and gone.  Since you’ve last heard from me, I’ve began my regular courses for the semester.  I have to say, I’m absolutely loving my schedule.  Now that the intensive cycle is over with, I am only taking 4 classes, two days a week.  Meaning, I only have class on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Don’t be too jealous though, once I return to Purdue, it’ll be back to the crazy 18 credit hours worth of classes, Monday through Friday.  So needless to say, I feel this is a wonderfully deserved break!  In addition to classes, however, I’ve also come to many realizations about the lifestyle of the Spaniards—and the lifestyle within the home, to be specific.

Of course while reading this, please keep in mind that everyone’s experience is different and that I am only sharing with you my own individual interpretation.  I am doing a homestay program during my semester abroad, meaning that I am currently living with a Spanish family.  I was extremely excited about this before leaving the States, I couldn’t wait to begin living in the Spanish home!  However, my expectations of a smooth transition were much different from reality.  After arriving in my new home, things felt very awkward to say the least, and there were many adjustments to be made.  Of course, there’s the small things that hardly even bother me:  wearing shoes around the house (marble floors), having someone else clean up after me (madres take pride in their housework), and being extremely cautious of energy usage (lights and water especially).  However, there were deeper concerns and obstacles much more difficult to overcome.

For starters, I have very young parents in the States, and even so, I am now used to living more or less independently while at school.  For some reason I never thought over the fact that coming back to stay with an unknown family full time would feel like such an abrupt change.  Now, I am again living at “home”, and mis padres here in España are quite old, about 70 and 73 (double the age of my parents at home!).  For this reason, at first it was difficult to establish some common ground, and find things relative to one another.  I felt like a boarder:  Eat, go to class, eat, hang out with friends, eat, go to my room for the night, sleep.  Repeat.  During the day, there were few words to be exchanged, mostly just what I’ve done and what I’m about to do.

Additionally, it was difficult—and still is—to become accustomed to the very direct and blunt nature of Spaniards.  The second night in my new home, I finally had the chance to speak with my family and my boyfriend (however, only on Skype typing).  Mi madre knocked on my door just before midnight to tell me that it was very late and that I needed to cut my conversation short and go to bed.  Okay.  Back up, wait a minute—what just happened?  Needless to say, I was both hurt and furious.  Long story short, after contacting one of the directors about my concerns, we both talked to mi madre and the problem was resolved.  Apparently, many Spanish mothers are so caring and concerned that they can come off as overbearing, and even rude.  Therefore, it was implied that I go to bed as her advice, but I was apparently free to do what I wanted.  This has taught me that at times it can be difficult to overcome that language barrier—and cultural barrier for that matter—because for the most part, when learning a language, we only know what is said, not what is implied.

Now to today.  It has been exactly 3 weeks since I arrived in my Spanish home.  I am very happy to say that everything is going much more smoothly than before.  I have found that to get a little, you gotta give a little.  I had to remember that the family was still adjusting to me as well, not just I adjusting to them.  Last week, instead of having my “me” time in my room as usual, I went to sit down on the couch and watch some TV with my family—great way to learn, by the way!  Although we didn’t really say much, somehow that was the beginning of tearing down the wall.  Since then, each day it has been easier to communicate with them, and I try to spend at least some spare time with them, even if it is just watching TV.  I know they appreciate it, and they want to get to know me and as much as I want to know them.    Not to mention, mi madre has even seemed to warm up a bit, and she hasn’t come off quite as stern lately.  Don’t get me wrong, there are still moments when I get slightly offended, but I just let it go, and remember that it isn’t meant to be taken personally.

Even through all the challenges of dealing with the unfamiliar, in the end I know I will be very grateful for this experience.  Some students find families they click with immediately, and others may take some more work.  I think it will be a valuable learning period for me to live in a way that I never have before. I wouldn’t change my decision for the world!  Just remember to let go of the petty things, and that, most importantly, communication is key.

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