Homestay FAQs

FAMILY LIFE

What if I don’t speak much Spanish?

Don’t worry too much about the language. Families have a lot of experience and are very patient. They will slow down and use the dictionary when needed. Using nonverbal cues and body language can help too.

Should I bring a gift for my host family?

Students normally like to bring their host families a small gift from their hometown. This is not mandatory, but it’s always appreciated. Some students also purchase small gifts during the Signature Seminars, like a bottle of olive oil or sweets.

What if I lose the keys?

You are responsible for communicating to Syracuse and to your host family that the keys given to you were lost or stolen. You are also responsible for the costs of replacing the lock and keys. It is recommended to avoid carrying a physical copy of your home address along with your keys.

I heard that Spaniards can be loud and direct. What does this mean for me?

Spaniards are very direct and honest. They love to debate just about anything and can sound very passionate in conversation.

Sometimes students perceive that their señoras are yelling at them; however, it’s simply their way of speaking. Many Spaniards believe that it’s better to talk right away about problems that surface rather than letting them snowball.

Who will I share the home with?

Spaniards are family-oriented. It’s not unusual to find a grandmother and 30-year-old host brothers or sisters living under the same roof. Families can vary from a single professional to a family with several generations living together.

Can I close my bedroom door?

If you close the door to your bedroom when you are at home, this may send a message to the other family member(s) that you’d rather be left alone. Students are encouraged to communicate and build a relationship as part of their homestay experience abroad. Joining them in the living room or the kitchen is always a nice way of participating in the family life.

Will I share bedroom with my roommate?

Most students will probably share a double bedroom with two twin beds in a homestay.

Will people come into my bedroom?

Your room will be cleaned at least once a week. That means someone will go into your room to clean, sweep, and dust. You’re expected to keep your bedroom tidy.

Am I required to stay in my bedroom?

It is recommended that you take advantage of your time in Madrid to learn about the Spanish language and culture. If you confine yourself to your room instead of socializing in the living room with the family or in the common areas with other residents -in the case of students in the residence hall option-, you won’t fully enjoy the benefits of cultural immersion. This is a great opportunity to interact with the locals and learn as much as possible. However, it is important to respect your host family by asking them when the best times are to hang out in the common areas.

Can I walk around the house barefoot?

You’re expected to use house slippers or flip-flops as in Spain it’s considered rude to walk around the house barefoot.

Can I have a friend over/spend the night?

No. Students should know that Syracuse Madrid prohibits daytime visitors and overnight guests in the host family home. When this is reported by the host family, it could result in expulsion from the host family home at the student’s expense among other consequences.

Will I have a curfew?

There is no curfew in your homestay, so you’re asked to exercise common sense. Take off your high heels when coming back late, don’t slam doors, and try not to be noisy. Most Spaniards live in apartment buildings with thin walls. Be respectful of the family members and the neighbors. After 11pm, be sure not to speak loudly and disturb others.

At what time should I stop playing music or talking loudly with my roommate?

Quiet hours are strictly observed after 11 pm.  Furthermore, students staying in individual rooms in the same homestay are asked to respect their roommate’s quiet hours from 11:00pm to 8:00am.

What will the neighbors of my host family be like?

Neighbors will greet each other in the stairs of the building. Saying good morning or good afternoon is common courtesy at the building entrance or elevator.


MEALS

What is a typical Spanish breakfast like?

It is common that you will be served a continental-style breakfast, which could include: coffee, milk, juice, toast, small cookies or fruit. Sometimes you will find that your host family may prepare your breakfast ahead of time and may not be present at the table.

What should I expect at the dinner table?

Spanish families will show good manners at the dinner table. For example, eating with fingers or stretch or yawn at the dinner table are not acceptable. At the beginning it could be shocking for you to see how the members of the family peel their apples or pears before eating. You don’t need to do the same, but don’t be surprised.

Should I help the host family to cook or clean?

It’s nice to offer help to clear the table, but the kitchen is usually considered the host’s space, so you should ask in advance if you’d like to prepare a special meal.  Generally, however, you won’t be allowed to cook.

What if I don’t like what they cook?

In Spain it’s not considered rude or offensive to tell the host mom you don’t like what you’re eating. In fact, it’s better to be upfront about it. If you pretend to like something, your host is probably going to continue preparing it for you.

Is it true they eat a lot of fish and olive oil in Spain?

Host families are very proud of their cooking and believe the Mediterranean diet is a very healthy one. Spaniards do eat a lot of fresh fish and use olive oil with almost absolutely everything. Your host families will respect your preferences, but don’t be surprised if you see more seafood than you’re used to.

Will I be forced to eat red meat and fish?

Your host family will respect your dietary choices and restrictions.

Should I notify anyone in advance if I’m not going home for dinner?

Students have to consider that the host family has been cooking dinner, and it could be considered rude not to show up without informing anyone. Be sure to notify your host family as soon as you suspect you won’t be able to make it.

What time will we eat dinner?

Spaniards tend to have dinner late, around 9:30 p.m. A usual lunchtime is 2:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m., and bedtime is often as late as midnight.

How long will dinner be?

Spanish families take mealtime seriously, and they sit down to relax and enjoy it. A normal dinner can take over an hour, and it’ll be followed by a sobremesa, a conversation around the dinner table. The TV will often be on in the background, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anyone is watching.

What if I am hungry in between mealtimes?

For students in homestays, it is important to ask when it is best to enter the kitchen or common areas when snacking. By asking if it is ok to use their kitchen utensils, plates, cups or napkins, you are respecting their space and property. Typically, fruit will be offered as a snack but any other food for snacking should be purchased and cleaned up by the student. Delivery items cannot be ordered to your homestay location.

Will my host family take out the trash and recycling?

As mentioned in the Housing Guidelines, your family will be responsible for depositing the general family waste created from regular meal times. However, please keep in mind that any waste related to snacking is your responsibility. You will notice that your host family will likely separate plastics, organic waste, glass and paper/cardboard apart from general waste or “desechos en general.”


UTILITIES & COMMON AREAS

How much should I monitor my use of electricity?

It is important to keep in mind that electric bills can be expensive for the host family if utilities are not monitored well. Turning off the lights when you exit a room and go to bed is considered the norm. Unplugging electronics that are not in use is also considerate.

Can I take a shower every day?

Due to Spain’s very dry climate, students are asked to limit their showers to one per day and prior to 11 pm.  Spaniards are very conscious of water consumption, so they’ll shower instead of taking a bath, and they’ll turn water on and off as needed. Observe and imitate this mindful use of water as your host family will expect this.

Most students will join a gym and take advantage of the facilities to take a second shower.

How often will my clothes be washed?

One of the host family’s responsibilities is to do your laundry once a week. All the host family homes are equipped with a washing machine. You may be surprised to learn that most of them don’t use dryers. The climate is very dry in central Spain, and clothes are line-dried. Keep your clean clothes inside the closet. It’s understandably frustrating for your hosts to find the clothes that they have washed and ironed balled up on the floor. Keep dirty clothes off the floor and in a hamper.

Will I have Internet access at home?

Yes, you will.  Don’t expect the same speed as in the U.S. Internet access at home may be limited to the host family’s criteria. After 11pm, it is not permitted to play videos out loud or make phone calls (apart from emergencies).

Where should I study?

If you don’t want to study in the library of the International Institute or the Center’s computer lab, you’ll have a desk in your bedroom where you can also do your homework.