Recently I asked some friends about this phrase, not because I didn´t know what it meant but rather because I wanted to understand what they really meant by it. See, I almost never, so as not to say 'never', go through a week without being told this every thing. Due to the frequency of the statement, I wanted to get my head around what they were trying to convey.
Whenever someone is telling me a story about something that happened (and it just happened to have taken place at their place) during the telling they make sure to let me know that ¨their house is my house.¨ If taken literally, I have a lot of houses!
Now I have heard this phrase, as I am sure many of you have, and maybe even understand it to mean that I am to feel at home at their place. But what I was asking my friends was, what they meant by it, due to the fact that I got told it so often here. And, not only often, but emphatically! This was their answer:
People want you to know that they consider you a friend and they want you to feel welcomed - that whatever they have, is yours. They are almost offering you their friendship. They repeat it often to you, as a foreigner, so that you catch it... really, my place is your place, feel at home, be at home.
This is yet another thing that my family in Guadalajara is teaching me...don´t assume the relationship. Repeat it often - the invitation to friendship. Every story that has 'my place' in it, let them know that it is theirs too. What I have is yours. Feel comfortable and relaxed at my place. We are friends.
That said, my next door neighbor, Ale, introduced herself to my children as my sister. So that speaks to me of our friendship. We have been left in charge of their adolscent children when they went to the states. We have stated on occasion that we are friends, family. Yet, this past week she came to my door, needing to borrow my oven, because she had run out of gas while baking a cake. She apologized for bothering me! She came to my door Saturday, needing tools to fix something. She apologized for bothing me...again. I finally said, hey you can´t be my sister one day and then apologizing the next for being a bother! Either we are family or we´re not. No, no she said, we are family! Okay then, I said, whatever you need, I´m here. And you, I said, I know you are there too for whatever I need.
So that you know - ¨Mi casa es su casa.¨ Feel free to come for a visit. But, as the joke gets said here, ¨since its your house, do you mind paying the rent and the water right away!¨