Coming to Spain, I had a long wish list of things I wanted in my Spanish apartment or piso. I wanted a charming place with balconies and updated appliances and amenities. What I quickly discovered was my wishes were not all going to come true (at least not on my budget!). Still, it is possible to make your piso feel like home.
I did, with the help of my roommates, land in a very nice place. Unfortunately, it has no balconies, but does have a decent-sized shower and new kitchen appliances.
Even if an apartment is objectively great, it may not feel like home right away. I’m the type of person who likes to feel a place is mine, not like I’m living out of a hotel. So right away, I started to make things “hom-ier” with a few, inexpensive changes. Here are some of my ideas.
This might be the least controversial opinion out there, but I think bedding is the most important thing in the house. After all, you spend a lot of time in your bed. (Maybe we spend a little less than we should. We are young people living in Spain).
When I first moved into my apartment, there was no bedding at all. I made the terrible mistake of putting off home shopping for the next day. I ended up sleeping with a mattress protector and a bath towel. Not fun. I learned my lesson and bought pillows, a duvet, and sheets the next day. Needless to say, all the nights since that infamous first night have been paradise.
Your location in Spain will determine what type of bedding will be right for you. I live in Madrid, where the temperatures have been dropping since late September. I also live in a sotano apartment (a basement apartment), so it’s always a little colder in my house compared to other apartments. My cozy duvet and fuzzy blanket have been lifesavers these past couple of weeks.
Affordable Stuff for your Bed
Even though bedding is so important, it doesn’t have to be expensive. I have had really good luck at Primark. The prices are super affordable, and they have a wide selection. I was able to grab matching yellow sheets and a duvet cover that really brighten up my room and remind me of the Florida sunshine I left at home.
El Corte Inglés has the largest selection, and they usually have deals on bedding, so it won’t be hard to find a discount. My friend found a cute white sheet set and duvet cover for under 20 euros.
For the more stylish Language Assistants out there, Zara Home has very nice textiles, but you have to pay a little more.
Do yourself a favor and invest in nice bedding for your room. You won’t regret it!
DIY Photo projects
I’ve never lived more than three hours away from my family, so moving an ocean away to a new country was a major shift. The homesickness was intense the first week or so, and even now, I still miss my family. I knew that this would be the case, so I brought some of my favorite pictures of my friends and family with me to Spain. I planned on just taping them to the wall, but then I came up with a better idea.
There was a framed piece of wood in my bedroom when I moved in. Maybe it’s abstract art, but wood is not what I would consider “frame-worthy”. So, with a little bit of tape and creativity, I made my own photo collage!
It was super easy to do and, most importantly, makes me smile every time I see it. It’s a good thing to show off when your new friends in Spain come over, and it’s nice to have as a background when you Facetime your loved ones from back home. The best part is, when it’s time to move, I can simply take the pictures out of the frame and use them again!
Here are some other super-easy DIY projects you can do with your own photos.
Fill the Kitchen and Cook at Home
Spain is home to some of the largest cities in the world, and consequently, the longest list of food options. It’s so easy to go to a tapas restaurant every night and never keep groceries in your apartment. While that doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all, it can drain your wallet quickly.
Cooking at home and going to the grocery store can make you feel more at home in Spain. Whether you cook some of your favorite meals from back home, or try your hand at Spanish dishes like cocido or tortilla de patatas, using your kitchen and eating at home will make your piso feel like home. I also love the routine of going to the supermercado on the weekends and trying out new snacks and foods I don’t have back in the United States.
Inviting friends over and cooking together is another way to bring liveliness into your Spanish home. After work, my roommates and I cook dinner and talk about our days as Language Assistants. This ritual is probably my favorite part of the day. While none of us are gourmet chefs, we’ve been able to make some dishes that I think are good (or at least adequate).
Pasta is always our meal of choice. Having a dinner party or hosting a weekend brunch is a not expensive way to hang out with friends (as long as the number of guests is in line with local health regulations, thanks COVID!). It’s nice to make some happy memories in your new place.
Try to Have a Good Relationship with Your Roommates
They say “home is where the heart is”, so it’s difficult to adjust to life in Spain when your family and friends are far away. I’ve found that the things that keep me from missing home too much are my roommates. We all come from different countries (United States, Ireland and South Africa), but we have a lot in common.
We are all Language Assistants with Meddeas, so it’s nice to talk about our shared experiences and bounce ideas off of each other. We like to listen to the same music, watch the same shows, and generally understand each other because we are so close in age.
One of my favorite parts of the work day is coming home and hanging out with my roommates. On the weekends, we go shopping, sight-see and try out new restaurants in Madrid. Sunday-night dinners (with take-out!) start us off for a great week ahead. I consider my roomies to be both my friends and family here in Spain.
I don’t believe a good roommate situation will fall into everyone’s laps. It’s important to try to connect with whoever you’re living with. Find common ground and work off of that. You both like Indian food? Try the new Indian restaurant down the street. Living with people you get along with will make you feel more at home in your piso. It’s not possible, of course, to get along with everyone, but making the effort to have good relations with your roommates will be worthwhile.
There are many things you can buy or do to make your piso feel like home. It may take a while, but with these tips, the adjustment period will be a little easier.
By Courtney W., 2020-2021.