Living with my homestay family in Madrid is a rewarding experience so far. Cristina, my homestay señora, is agreeable and accommodating and her 31- and 40-year old sons who live with her are happy to have a guest. At first, when the older son Juan spoke, it sounded too fast for me to draw out the meaning. However, once I spent more time with him—we watched The Exorcist together in Spanish—I began to understand more and we had intelligent conversations. The other son, Alberto, is more reserved, but still good-natured.
Our program director forewarned us extensively in advance about the mannerisms and norms of Spaniards at home. Spaniards considered it uncivilized to walk around with bare feet. Therefore, we were told to wear slippers in the house. One must also eat the European way: with the fork in the left and the knife in the right—without switching. You must peel fruits such as oranges with a knife and eat grilled sandwiches with a fork and knife because Spaniards do not like to soil their fingers. These may seem a little extreme, and sometimes they are, but it is important to understand these cultural discrepancies.
The midday meal called “La Comida” is the most important meal in Spain. Cristina serves it around 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. First, we eat a soup, then a meat or fish dish, a simple salad, and dessert. I rarely see Cristina cooking, yet there is always a lot of food at lunch. I soon realized one important thing about Madrileños: there is no way to end a meal without coffee. When asked if I wanted coffee, I politely declined. Then a guest at the table asked me why I did not want coffee with the same tone one might use when asking a criminal why he committed a crime. I told him I did not want to get addicted and he continued smoking his pipe, probably contemplating many bad things about Americans.
He may think I am weird, but there are many things Madrileños do that seem odd to Americans as well.
- -Leave milk at room temperature and refrigerate their bread.
- -Have doorknobs in the centers of doors
- -Put butter on their sandwiches
- -Place hands or elbows on the table (It is considered impolite to place them under)
- -Few dogs are walked on leashes no matter how busy the streets are
· When making soup, Madrileños often serve the broth apart from the meat, vegetables etc.