Life in a Spanish Household

Authored by:
Danny S.

Danny S.

What I expected and how my host family experience actually went are not entirely the same thing. I assumed I would be with a family, but was actually placed with a single widow in her 70s with another girl in my program.  'Señora' is a title that means something similar to Mrs., and this is how we addressed her. Honestly, I was never sure what our señora's name actually was and she never asked for ours or referred to us by name. Usually she just called us 'guapas,' or beautiful girls. Our señora had a large apartment by Spanish standards with 4 bedrooms, but she lived alone. She offered us separate rooms, but we decided to stay in the same room. Luckily, my roommate Carolyn spoke much better Spanish that I do so we could communicate. Our señora was either a real great actress, or she genuinely didn't understand one word of English. I am going with the latter. That didn't stop her from non-stop talking our first evening there. Three hours of listening to Señora speak and not being able to respond much was an overwhelming way to begin the two week stay. I may not have understood much of what she said, but I would pick up on her comments of "you have no idea what I'm saying, do you?" or "your Spanish is really bad." Yeah. I know.

We moved in on a Friday, and our Spanish classes began that following Monday. I can't remember much about this first weekend. Once lessons started, Carolyn had classes in the morning (930-12:45) and I had classes in the evening (17:45-21:00). Since I understood virtually nothing my señora said, I decided to leave almost every morning with Carolyn and explore Madrid. My señora's place was only a 15-minute walk from Retiro so I spent most of my time there. During the homestay I was also struggling with the climate change. I had gone straight from living in Florida with a very high humidity, to the exact opposite in Madrid. I was sick during the whole homestay. Half of my day was walking around Retiro, the other half was laying in the grass in the mist of whatever sprinklers I could find.

Rose Garden, Retiro

Señora had a good heart and she really wanted to make sure we were happy and comfortable staying with her. She provided us with a much bigger breakfast than is typically given in Spain. She had cereal, cookies, muffins, and fruit. She also would do dinner based off of what time worked best for us. We wouldn't get home until 21:30 from my class so when we arrived she would ask if we were hungry then or wanted to wait. Usually we ate right when we got back, so around 22:00. I am a pescatarian and she was told I didn't eat red meat, but did not know I didn't eat poultry. She seemed fairly irritated but not with me. She worked so hard to make sure I was fed. During dinner, the news was always on. Señora didn't eat with us but would sit with us while we ate. She would switch between commenting on our eating (too fast, too slow, not enough, how hungry we were) and commenting on the news. She was not afraid to share how she felt about pretty much anything, but I never fully figured out quite what she was saying.

Ramdon Retiro

What did I learn while living with my señora besides that I really didn't know any Spanish? They really do stay up late, eat late, and take a nap in the middle of the day. Midday all the ladies would be hanging their laundry and yelling to each other. That's how these people make friends, I guess, hanging out their windows in the middle courtyard while putting up their laundry! I found out that homestays usually are older women that house students, and its typical for them not to care if you don't understand them. It doesn't stop them from talking your ear off.  My favorite part of the experience was being able to have lazy mornings in the rose garden of Retiro and thinking about how lucky I was to be starting a ten month stay in a new country that already seemed to welcome me.


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