I’m an introvert. I love going home and just being alone for a while. Relaxing. I love the comfort of being in my own space without any intrusions. This makes living in a Spanish home difficult. For example, mannerisms differ from culture to culture, and these differences follow foreigners all the way to the Spanish home.
Size: it doesn’t matter in the Spanish home
In the American culture, size does matter. The coolest guys on the block have big trucks with oversized wheels. Millionaires live in mansions that could house a small country. Women get surgery to be bigger in all the right places.
Spain, however, is compact. Spaniards live in just as much room as they need. My house in the states is big enough to host regular parties (with a makeshift dance floor to boot!), but my piso (apartment) in Spain is just enough for the five of us to live in.
I mentioned before that living in a new culture made me love my own culture more. The Spanish culture has also taught me things about the American culture that I would have never seen otherwise. Why do we need such big televisions? Our eyes aren’t any bigger!
Privacy? But we’re a family!
I said it before and I’ll say it again: the Spanish culture is incredibly social. So, it shouldn’t be of any real surprise to find out that personal bathrooms aren’t the most sought after accessory here. For example, when I moved in to my 3-bedroom piso, I knew it only had one bathroom. I’ve been fortunate enough to be sharing the bathroom with decent roommates – I shared a bathroom with 3 other girls in college. Would not recommend. In Spain, however, this isn’t such an outlandish concept. When you leave America, you leave the world of personal bathrooms.
No, but we’re a really close family.
I’ll admit, the first couple weeks of moving into my piso, I was a little confused. That family can’t sleep in one room, the kid is 5 years old! Where’s the other room?
While I admittedly live with South Americans, not Spaniards, the idea is the same. Pisos in Spain offer much less room to go around, and Spaniards take advantage of every inch they can.
Still. We’re still really close.
The Spanish culture is very family-oriented. I suppose it makes sense that people who grew up spending every waking (and non-waking) moment with their parents have learned to appreciate spending copious amounts of time with them. That being said, the Spanish home is often alive with family reunions, sometimes every weekend. While they generally don’t move far from home, if that’s where life takes them they will take life right back to sus padres (their parents).
Walking around barefoot
Don’t do it. Ever. Socks don’t cut it, either. You need some slippers, child, or this culture will never take you in as their own. And that’s all there is to it.
Heating and air conditioning
Throughout the year, Spanish weather is pretty moderate. Summers will reach 40°C, or 104°F, but winters will just barely touch below freezing. Because of this, and because of Spanish frugality, air conditioning is not very common in the Spanish home. While you’ll find it in public places like the metro, most Spaniards are content to grin and bear it. Heaters are similar – you’ll find these everywhere, but they won’t be turned on in the Spanish home until absolutely necessary. Like air conditioning, of course, public places will always be heated.
So, when my poor Floridian blood is left to cope with the weather, I’m going to walk around my piso with a heavy coat. And my roommates are going to tell me to stop being dramatic. And that’s how our relationship is going to work.
Washing your clothes
Right off the bat, my piso‘s washing machine is in the kitchen. Laundry room? What’s that? Second order of business:
Back home in Florida, I’m constantly surrounded by water. Yes, literally, as the state is a giant peninsula, but also kind of figuratively: Florida’s humidity is always through the charts. To the contrary, Spain’s air is very dry, especially in Madrid, which is smack dab in the middle of the country. What does this have to do with washing your clothes? Good luck finding a piso with a dryer! If you walk around Spain, you’ll find old-fashioned clotheslines with clothes hanging off them. Spain’s climate is so dry, all you gotta do is let your wet clothes sit for a bit and they’ll dry right out!
However, I do have a confession. I’ve been cheating on cultural immersion for some time now. I’ve found myself a lovely little laundromat down the street that will dry my clothes in 30 minutes. And, you know what? I’m so much happier for it!
Don’t hole up in your room
I grew up in a culture where you spend your free time alone in your room. What’s more, I grew up in a generation that lives off their computer in their room. Suffice to say, my first instinct when I come home at the end of the day is to go to my room and close the door. This is a habit I have successfully learned to break while living in this new culture.
When you’re at home in the Spanish culture, it’s time to stop being social with your friends online and start being social with your family and/or roommates in your piso! Crowd around some cheesy Spanish drama, have a meal, and enjoy yourself. Remember, be social!