The Advantages and Disadvantages of Living with a Host Family in Spain

fam2What kind of student accommodation in Spain is the best?

As we have discussed before on the UniSpain blog, student accommodation is an important factor when it comes to your well-being abroad. The living options for foreign students in Spain are usually as follows: shared student flats, purpose-built student residences, hiring your own apartment, or staying with a Spanish host family. Here is our guide to host family accommodation in Spain.

What kinds of Spanish families take in students?

It is useful for foreign students to understand that all Spanish host families take in students to earn an income. UniSpain always makes an effort to choose the best possible family, and whilst some students and families become good friends, you will probably find your stay to have few “frills” to it.

For example, you’ll need to eat the food that is being served each day and abide by house-, laundry, sleep and bathing time rules. There is a big difference between staying with friends as a non-paying guest, and paying for board with a family who may have no other sources of income but you.

fam3Some host families take on 2-3 students at a time. This means that the family home may have more of a “student bed-and-breakfast” feel to it, rather than a cosy family atmosphere. Those families, who take on more than one student at a time, usually earn a decent salary, with 600-700 euros charged per student each month – the family pays for food, gas, water and electricity out of that amount.

A host family will probably be an older couple, rather than a family with young or teenage children. This is because elderly couples’ children have usually left home and due to low pension rates in Spain, they are now hiring the room out to make an extra income.

What are the pros and cons of staying with a host family?

Here are some advantages you will experience with a host family:

1. Language immersion
Living with a Spanish family, rather than other international students, forces you to practice your Spanish every day. When you constantly hear Spanish at your language school, and then have to hear and speak it at home, your language skills will improve rapidly.

2. Cultural experience
Staying with a family will give you glimpse into how people really live in Spain. Host families will usually provide you with some of your daily meals, so you’ll get to eat local food. Families will also be able to advise you on aspects of living in Spain, like where to buy things, great local places to visit or popular local entertainment. Some host families may also include you fully in their family lives and invite you to places and events that you’d not normally get to go to, if you were travelling on your own.

 3. Feeling of safety
If you are a young adult, who is travelling abroad alone for the first time, staying with a family may be easier than other types of living arrangement, because you won’t have to worry so much about cooking, where to do your laundry or other practicalities. It can make you feel a little bit less homesick too, if you’ve never lived outside of your own home before. Some students become good friends with their host families and stay in touch with them afterwards.

4. The financial side
A host family is often a financially worry-free choice, because the price includes rent, meals and a place to do your laundry. You’ll know exactly what you are spending on accommodation and your main meals, so that you can divert the rest of your spending money onto sightseeing, entertainment or shopping.

Here are some of the disadvantages of staying with a host family:

1. Other people’s rules
Each host family has their own household rules and you may not like some of them. There could be a curfew, you might not be allowed to prepare your own food in the kitchen or bring friends around. If you prefer to explore Spain on your own terms, you might find this type of situation too restrictive.

2. Being separated from other students
If all your other classmates are sharing a student flat, you may feel like an outsider staying with a host family. And in the host family itself, you will of course be the “foreign visitor”. Whilst a host family can feel safer for young people staying outside of home for the first time, others might find that this living situation prevents them from forming friendships with their peers and living an adventure.

3. Restricted personal space
Some people don’t feel comfortable depending on others – especially staying in a strange family’s home. If you are used to looking after yourself, cooking or doing laundry, having other people do these things for you might feel awkward. Most host families in Spain will go out of their way to make you feel at home, but many students constantly feel like the “guest”.

How to choose?
To help you decide if a host family would be the best option for you, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is Spanish language and culture immersion the most important factor for me?
  • Would I genuinely fee comfortable living in another family’s home?
  • Would I mind following other people’s house rules?
  • Would I feel safer if I had a local family to ask for advice during my stay?
  • Would I rather be staying with other students like me?

More information

fam8At UniSpain, we often get asked questions about the best type of accommodation. You can check out our blog resources on accommodation for lots more information about the different types of student accommodation available in Spain or contact us if you have any queries. ¡Buen viaje! 

Have you stayed with a host family in Spain? Let us know about your experience!


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