After living with my host family for a while, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Spanish family is a bit different from the American family. There is often still the same general structure, the mother, father, and two or three kids. However, the dynamic is just a bit different, at least in my experience.
The first thing that shocked me was just how much parents do for their kids here. I know this sounds like American families don’t take care of their kids, but hear me out. On my first night here, my host dad set the table, served me dinner, refilled my drink AND took care of my dishes. I tried to help, but he told me not to worry about it. The next day, I had dinner with the whole family, and it all happened again. Occasionally, my host mom will ask her kids to help set the table, but she will take care of the dishes and make sure everyone is eating enough. While at home, my mom would have a fit if I expected her to take care of my dishes and didn’t help clean up. Another thing is, my host mom cleans the entire house daily. She vacuums, does the dishes, does laundry and even cleans up everyone’s bedroom. Her kids don’t have any assigned chores, which is very different from how I grew up. It still makes me feel bad when she does so much for me, but she is just treating me like one of her own children.
To continue on with the topic of kids, kids here will often live with their parents until they’re close to 30 years old. I have friends here who have host siblings who are 27-28 years old, and it’s not looked down upon. I have lived on my own since I was 18. Many of my friends are just turning 21 years old, and they feel bad for still living at home. Now, Spain is currently struggling financially and unemployment for people under 30 is fairly high, so there is an economic factor here. I just love how you aren’t criticized here for not moving out and beginning your adult life before you’re even out of college. The pressure to move out so early in the US is so prevalent, and I do believe it can be detrimental and sets many young people up to fail their first time being on their own.
Another small thing I want to touch on, is the prevalence of affection in the Spanish family, especially with dads and their children. In the US, affection is seen as a very feminine thing, so moms can kiss and hug their kids, but after a certain age, it becomes weird for a dad to hug and kiss his kids. My host dad and mom are always giving kisses and hugs and general affection to their kids. I kiss and hug my parents goodbye, but outside of that it feels a bit weird because I’m an adult. However, affection here is normalized within the family and out, and I think we could use much more of that in the US.
All in all, there are things I really enjoy about the Spanish family, and there are things I like about the American family. I do like living away from my family. I feel like our relationship is so much better now, but I do also recognize that this is not the case for everyone in the US. However, I do wish the culture around when to move out and affection was different in the US. I feel like it makes the family dynamic a bit strained and less welcoming.