[Week 4] Galego Word of the Week: Lar


Pronunciation: Lahr

Translation (to English): Home, house

A typical Galician house (and what most small-town residents live in).
Many lars scattered about in the hills and countryside outside of La Coruña on the way to Ferrol.
A cute mailbox slot with a beautiful hand-painted tile above as seen in Oleiros.

As I may have mentioned in a previous post, Galego and Portuguese are very closely related linguistically. Galego is believed to be the “mother” of Portuguese which means it came first and Portuguese was created second. There are debates on this very issue so I won’t go on anymore with that discussion. I’ll save it for another entry perhaps. I have been putting off writing this post (and continuing the series) due to some trips that kept me busy and a lack of time to fully research the words I planned to share with you all this spring. I also could not find a lot of information on this particular word, “lar,” but managed to have a breakthrough today and can now finish explaining this word. I hope you will enjoy learning about it as much as I have.  

The definition of a “lar” according to a Brazilian Portuguese dictionary is this: a place where there is harmony, where people live and feel good about themselves. Example sentence: My home is my kingdom [castle].  

One big cultural difference that I’ve noticed between the US and Spain over the years is how private Spanish people are when it comes to their home and family. The culture in general almost always goes out to restaurants, bars, clubs, parks, beaches, etc, to be with their friends and celebrate events or just to have a normal get together. You don’t see many house parties or gatherings in the home unless it is something family related like a birthday, anniversary or first communion party, or confirmation (if the family is Catholic). On the contrary, in the US, it’s common to invite your friends over to your house for a number of reasons and most of them are informal. Your home (or neighborhood rather) in the US is most often where your first friendships began by giving someone a simple invitation to come play or watch a movie at your house. There are rarely any limits on when and why you can come over, just that you do.

Fogar doce fogar (home sweet home).

The home is very important and almost sacred to Spanish people across the country as a whole but especially in Galicia. They won’t invite just anyone to their home but when they do, you’ll know that the invitation came from the heart.  

Not everyone lives in a home similar to the ones I shared above. In fact, most people in Galicia live in a flat or apartment with their family or with flatmates. Another commonality that I’ve found to be true in almost all of Spain, is that while someone may say they’re from a city, it’s highly likely that they’re actually from a small town outside of the city. There’s also a high chance that their grandparents (and even their parents) still live there and the city dweller will go home to visit their pueblo at least once a month if not more. And as much as a gallego might enjoy living in the city, there is nothing like a visit home and the chance to taste their mother’s cooking again and bring enough Tupperware containers back to their flat for the following week’s meals.

What most gallegos actually live in – apartments (pisos) (From my rooftop near Playa del Riazor).

I personally have been to a handful of Spanish family’s homes over the years (mostly in Andalusian homes) and consider each visit a privilege. I’ve yet to be invited to celebrate an event or share a meal in a Galician home but I hope to one day have the honor. I’ve been regularly attending church here and have been a guest at a few Sunday meals after the service but I feel like that is just a taste of what it’s like to fellowship with a Galician person. To an outsider, a gallego can seem unapproachable and unfriendly. They can also appear to have cliques or groups of people that they will only hang around and talk to. This is partially due to habit and the fact that many of the local people in this region have lived here most of their lives. They are bound to still have childhood friends living near them or family friends whom they’ve known forever.

In my experiences, I have found that they are very quick to help a person in need whether it’s with the language or giving directions (some will even walk with you until you reach your destination!). However, they are not very trusting as a whole and a person has to earn the trust of a gallego before becoming their friend. Once you earn that trust and begin a friendship, though, they will consider you a friend for life. Nothing and no one are taken very lightly here in Galicia.

A Galician tapas feast that you can enjoy in a lar or in a restaurante.

For many gallegos, the home can represent many things. It can be a place of rest and relaxation after a long hard day of work. It can be a loving and warm retreat from the rest of the world and its gloomy rainy days. It can also be a place of fellowship and a place where you can eat some of the best food of your life and miss that food while you’re away. A lar to a gallego will be the place where you are the safest and most loved. It’s where you will make a regular house a home that will linger in your mind and heart for many, many years to come.

Have you ever been invited to eat dinner or attend a special party at a Spanish family’s home? What was it like? If you live in or know people from Galicia, do you find the topics I addressed above to be true when it comes to Galician homes and families? Tell me about your experiences below!

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