Live with your parents after age 18 in the US? Complete loss of all street cred. Shack up with your parents at the ages of 26, 43 or 67 in Spain? A cultural given.
Being raised in the US meant expectations of college at 18 and finding a job which would provide financial independence at 22. AND if anything were to happen requiring me to move back in with my parents at 22 or beyond, they would not only would they charge me rent, something I was repeatedly told during the growing up years, but it would be both a failure and an embarrassment to mom, dad and me.
The benefits of the US model? It is a virtual guarantee of a culture full of entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, independence and independent thinkers. It is breeding grounds for people wired from birth on how to go about figuring it out, as my four year old nephew would say, ‘aw by ma sef.’
The downfall of the US model? It creates a society that is drowning in isolation, loneliness, depression and at times, personal and societal violence.
The downfall of Spain’s model? It encourages a culture with substantially less drive towards entrepreneurship and far less need for self-reliance which, during economic situations such as what Spain is experiencing today, cannot only exacerbate the economic problem but, arguably, be one of the leading causes of it.
The benefits of Spain’s model? It is a culture constructed of healthy and bonded families not only because sanity dictates it, but because people are raised to honor and rely on that closeness for the long run — and not to simply attempt tolerate it through their late teens. It is a culture whose time living with the family typically only ends when a person goes to live as ‘pareja,’ a couple, and as such, it is a culture where almost no one ever lives alone. It is a culture that is devoid of the many issues of American parejas as they have spent their entire lives learning to accommodate and respect the needs of others all the while sharing a typically small space. It is a culture that will, like all of them, yell, scream and bitch at each other but unlike many where the screaming results in days, months or years of the silent treatment, in Spain the act of sharing bedroom walls creates significant motivation to resolve issues much more quickly and far more peacefully.
And while individuals in the US are experiencing the benefits of not having to compromise on daily tasks of life and are enjoying the numerous benefits of uber-self-reliance and independence, in Spain families are closer, couples are healthier, individuals are less lonely and the occurrences and consequences of isolation are, at least in terms of that which exist in the US, practically non-existent.