Family Values In Spain


Reflections From A Balcony In Spain: Family Values In Spain. 

I AM perhaps not the best qualified to write about families. Sands and I have no children, both our families are all based in the UK, and as an only child my family consists of my parents and myself, and of course Sands and her tribe.


I do know about families though, as like most people growing up in the UK of my age range I saw the OXO adverts, of the family sat around eating a meal and talking together. And who can forget the Christmas adverts of whole families sat around a full dining table laughing, talking, drinking and enjoying a perfectly cooked meal. Huge families having fun, but as I said there was more chance of my family fitting inside the OXO box than featuring in the adverts!

Living in Spain I have always felt that, and often commented on, the family unit in Spain is one to be applauded. Without exception every fiesta, birthday, public holiday, saints day sees whole families sat down together enjoying a meal.

Great grandparents are respected by all, children are loved and amused by all. I have a theory that by taking the stress out of these events by fundamentally sticking to the same menu, the same wines and the same routines and places they free themselves up to enjoy the event, the occasion and most importantly each other.

I now have another theory to add to that as well. It is one based on respect, of being of value, of fulfilling an appreciated role, of being a unit working together. Let me explain.

Sat in a favourite Spanish cafe with Sands we noticed that the couple that owned and ran the cafe weren’t present, nor was their little baby, but Grandma was. Now normally one of the parents runs the cafe, while the other tends to their child, which I always thought was remarkably fair and to be respected. Talking to Grandma though it seemed that in the mornings both parents open up and work through the morning rush while Grandma looked after her grandchild. Rush over, the parents returned and Grandma took over looking after the cafe, which struck me as a brilliant idea.

Think about it. Child gets to spend time each morning with Grandma and both Parents. Parents get a mid morning break from the business and time together with their child. Grandma on the other hand effectively has a part time job (no pay) babysitting… the cafe not the baby! She has a group of friends who come down and sit and chat with her over a coffee, and even help out clearing a table, or delivering a coffee when it gets a little busy. Grandma has a social life, a job to keep her active and involved, a sense of helping raise and support her child and grandchild. Most importantly I suspect she feels valued, appreciated, respected and useful!

I was tempted to say “only the Spanish” but in talking to Sands we came up with a number of examples of English families that we know in Spain where the grand parents have moved over as well to offer support, mostly baby sitting it has to be said, but where possible running chores, offering support, and helping in a family business.

I can’t say it doesn’t happen in England, I am sure it does, I just never put myself in a position to observe it, but sat in the cafe here in Spain I couldn’t help but smile and admire the Spanish approach, as I have seen it.

A cautionary note to end though, Grandma wasn’t too hot with the Maths I am afraid. She seemed to get confused over the amount owed and the change, and ended up giving us back the amount we owed for our coffee and tostadas, rather than the change.

Easily rectified, just left her the difference with the tip, but maybe something to look out for, and certainly not take advantage of.

By Chris Marshall


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