Ah, la familia. Mothers and fathers. Sisters and brothers. Cousins, aunts, uncles. Grandparents. Godmothers and godfathers. “Aunts” and “uncles”. The friends who feel like family. In Spain, there is a saying, or perhaps more of a refrain: Madre, sólo hay una. You have but one mother. If I’ve learned anything about Spain—and oh, there is much to learn—family is important. And mothers … well, you’ve only got one.
The stereotypes are (somewhat) true: Spanish children don’t leave the nest as early as those of us in Anglo-Saxon countries. The average age for leaving home in Spain is 25.2 years old (source). This is not seen in a bad light here; it isn’t shameful. In fact, even if a 20-something does have a job, they may choose to stay at home with Mom and Dad, just because they can. After all, why pay rent when you can stay at home rent free?
The questions are always there, lingering. They are questions you ask yourself. They are questions others ask of you. They are questions that go unanswered.
Are you staying?
When are you going?
Where, indeed, is home?
Hello! Long time no blog, eh? While I get around to fighting my writer’s block, let’s have another interview with an American dating a Spaniard!
Let’s see… My name is Katrina and I’m 21 years old currently studying to become a speech-language pathologist in Pennsylvania. I’m not living in Spain currently, but hope to teach English there for a few years after I graduate/before graduate school. It’s sort of ironic, as I chose not to study Spanish in high school due to its popularity (I did German) and am now thinking of teaching in Spain.
How did you meet your significant other?
I was at a party, looked across the room and saw this beautiful creature before me. My eyes instantly locked on his blue eyes and… just kidding, our meeting wasn’t conventional at all. We both were members of a pen pal website, InterPals, and happened to be online at the same time. He sent me a message and we started talking and it eventually became more frequent correspondences. After months of talking we managed to find the time to meet each other and it’s been steady for almost 2 years now!
Ah, I get it. You are returning to the United States, and you are preparing for the much-feared reverse culture shock. What to expect?
You should expect to find it weird when people address you in English, that the grocery store has about three hundred different types of cereal, and people want to talk to you while standing in line. Yeah, okay, I feel ya. I see how that could seem weird or odd for a while after you return home.
But let me tell you something, sometimes I wonder if I grew up in an alternate universe, if perhaps my experience of the US has been different from many expats who write on the Internet, because some things I just don’t see. Some stereotypes just don’t fit my experience. I write this to see if I am alone.
1. Americans are always in a hurry
I live in Madrid, so everyone seems to be in a hurry, especially on my morning commute. But my experiences in Madrid aren’t extended to the rest of Spain. Thus, I find it hard to believe Americans are always in a hurry, because most of my family and friends don’t ever seem to be in a hurry. Where are all these hurrying people you’re talking about? New York City? Where?