I have loved having a homestay experience in Spain and would highly recommend it to anyone going abroad. I got an authentic cultural experience and even had my room and laundry cleaned for me. My host parents were very nice and accommodating, but there were a few things I wish I had known ahead of time.
- Quick Showers – You are going to have to take quick showers (10 minutes or less). If you are shaving your legs or something and know that it is going to be longer than ten minutes, it is respectful to turn off the water when you don’t need to rinse. You also shouldn’t take more than one shower a day. My madre never said anything to us about shower time, but I know a lot of other people’s host parents brought it up.
- Turn off lights – Electric, like water, is very expensive in Spain. Because of this, they use natural light and open blinds/windows whenever they can. It was hard at first for me to remember to turn lights off when leaving a room or open blinds instead of flipping the light switch, but eventually I got in the habit of it.
- Be ready to speak Spanish – Very few of the people I study with have host parents that speak English. I came over with the view that everyone speaks at least some English, but I have found this to not always be true. If you don’t know any Spanish, don’t panic. I had a limited Spanish background, but was able to communicate with gestures and translations apps just fine. I caught on to a lot of Spanish really quickly as well. Also, in regards to Spanish, some places, such as Sevilla, do not use the formal tense (usted).
- Space is tight – Unlike the United States, there is far less space in most cities in Spain. With this in mind, don’t be surprised if your shared bedroom is half the size of your freshman dorm room. In addition, be mindful of clutter. Everything in our host parent’s house had a purpose (if not 2 or 3 purposes) and was very tidy. There isn’t room for junk drawers or misplaced objects.
- Estoy lleno(a) – Spanish host-moms will try to push more and more food on you during meals and won’t stop until you stop them. The easiest way to do this is say, “Estoy lleno(a)” aka “I am full.”