Aero: Kelsey Castro – France 2015 – Family Life
Aero: Kelsey Castro – France 2015 – Family Life
After spending a week in Paris, I was ready for the pace to slow down and to meet my host family. Eline and I had talked briefly over Facebook before leaving the United States, but I was still very nervous about living with people I had never met. Living with a host family was a completely new and unforgettable experience for me, and I feel very lucky that I was paired with such an amazing family! Even though there was a language barrier, I never once felt unwelcomed in their home. They immediately made me feel like a member of their family.
I am an only child, and very used to having my space and being alone. My host family was very respectful if I ever just wanted to relax by myself in my room. It was nice that they were happy to have me hang out with them whenever I wanted to, but also allowed me to have some alone time if I felt I needed it. Before arriving, I wasn’t even sure if I would have my own room or be sharing it with my host student.
One of my biggest concerns about staying with the host family was my eating situation. As I have previously mentioned, I am a vegetarian and overall an incredibly picky eater. I was very nervous that my host family might perceive me as rude if I didn’t want to try something. This was never an issue, and while they may have found my eating habits to be a bit odd, they never seemed offended by me not trying things. They always had wonderful breakfasts, and that was definitely my favorite meal of the day. I still miss the homemade raspberry jam that was on the table each morning.
My host family consisted of parents, Anne and Smaïl, and daughters, Eline (18) and Enora (15). It was obvious to me that they are a very close family and really enjoy spending time with each other. I learned that Eline and Enora enjoy playing music with their father. Eline plays the violin, Enora plays the clarinet, and Smaïl plays the guitar. I found it interesting; because playing music is something I love doing with my father (I play guitar, and he sings). Although we play different genres of music, it was cool to be paired with a family who has a similar hobby. I really enjoyed hearing them play. Music is definitely a universal language!
Smaïl was born in Morocco, and moved to France to study. He speaks Arabic and French fluently, as well as a little bit of English. In addition to some French, I also learned some Arabic words while I was with my host family. They had many decorations and things around the house that were from Morocco, and I was able to see some pictures from their most recent family trip there. It was really interesting to see the blending of two different cultures in their home, and I was very fascinated by what I learned about Moroccan culture. I think I would enjoy visiting Morocco someday.
Overall their life at home and family dynamics didn’t seem too different from mine, but there were a few noticeable differences. In most French houses, there is a “toilet room” separate from the bathroom. So, across from my bedroom there was a very small room with just a toilet in it, and right next door there was the bathroom, which had a sink, mirror, and bathtub/shower (but no shower curtain)! It seemed inconvenient to me to have the toilet separated in its own little room. I also immediately noticed how there was much less water in the toilet bowl. Water/gas/electric/etc. are all much more expensive in France, so they are much more conservative in their usage of it. For example, my host family would turn off the water between rinses while showering, they turned off their Wi-Fi at night, and they don’t even own a dryer (they air dry all clothes). I have a feeling the French see Americans as a very wasteful society. I was also surprised by how late they slept in on the weekend, even the parents. I rarely see my parents sleep past 8:00am on the weekend, and they are always up before 6:00am during the week. This is another example of the French mindset of a healthy work/life balance, in contrast to the American mentality of always being on-the-go. My host family really made it a priority to spend time with each other and talk to each other each and every day. While I talk to my parents’ everyday, sometimes we are so caught up in life, school, work, etc. that we don’t take the time to really appreciate each other’s presence.
I had a truly amazing experience with my host family, and I will always appreciate their kindness and how they made me feel comfortable in their home. The trip to France would not have been the same, had I not been given the opportunity to be immersed fully into the culture by staying with a family. I really hope to stay in contact with them in the future.