Family life is deemed very important in Spain where family activities and outings take precedence over teenager activities, especially on Sundays. Extended family is also important and, if able, grandparents and extended family have a visible role.
Families eat together whenever possible, hopefully daily, and try to always be present at the big Sunday meal at 3:00 pm, followed by walks in the park, museum outing, watching a soccer match on TV or other family activities. Importance is placed on proper table manners, and in my host families, we never began eating until the father took the first bite.
Families spend time at home together doing a variety of activities. In my experience living with four different Spanish host families, I have seen a wide variety, from card games, watching movies and sports on TV, taking a walk, swimming, shopping, or singing along with a family member who plays the guitar (there is always at least one in the extended family.)
Birthday parties for children focus more on the children being together and less on a particular theme or playing party games. Instead of bringing separate gifts, guests often pool their resources together to offer one nice gift, such as an article of clothing, for the birthday girl or boy.
Spanish parents demand a great deal of respect from their children who are swiftly punished if they disobey. Contradicting parents, especially in public, in front of others, is a grave offense.
Independence for Children
The concept of independence is instilled in children at an early age. For example, when parents take children to the park, if they are old enough, parents allow them to play by themselves or with others. Rarely do you see a Spanish mother playing actively in the park with her children. There are also fewer activities vying for children’s attention, which make the children responsible for finding things to do to fill their weekends, especially Saturdays. Helicopter parents are a rarity as it is the school’s job to prepare students for the all-important end of high school test, Selectividad. The parent’s primarily keep on eye on the hours their children devote to studying.
The majority of Spaniards spend their vacations in Spain and travel primarily by car. My host parents explained that in the working world, employees generally receive four weeks of vacation per year in addition to twelve holidays. August is the most popular time to go on vacation to any of Spain’s beautiful coasts.
Cats and dogs remain the most popular domestic animals, and approximately half of the people I know have either one or the other as a pet.