You've just moved to a new city and have started checking out advertisements for places to live. You would mostly consider certain factors such as distance to your workplace and access to metro stations.
More importantly, and this might be news to all of us who haven't lived with flat mates or roommates before, the type of people you will live with is the most crucial factor to look at before moving in.
Here are some guidelines that could help:
Out of bounds
Your roommate's stuff is strictly out of bounds, it's as simple as that. There’s no excuse to go through your roommates side of the fridge for something to munch on, or 'borrowing' a little toothpaste when you're out. Chances are your flat mates are aware about their stuff and its whereabouts. So don't try anything that will make you look silly and make your roommates vary of your habits.
Even if you don’t prefer talking after a busy day at work, there is no reason to be that zombie in the room making everyone around you awkward. Try and maintain a friendly atmosphere in the house. You can begin with just asking about their day, or simply giving them a broad smile to acknowledge their presence.
You don't have to be an isolated figure with your head buried in your laptop. Talk to your flat mates, ask them simple questions on where they're from or about their jobs. If they're under the weather, offer help or share something you might have cooked. This will help you feel less lonely too in an unknown city.
Exchange emergency information
You never know when you might be locked out of the house, or forget to turn off the stove. Exchange numbers, and personal details in case you find yourself in a situation where you may need to contact your roommate for help. Don't be shy to ask your new roommate for their phone number, if they don't want to share it, (very rarely) don't take it personally. That's their problem, not yours.
Everyone does not live like you
Remember not everyone was raised the same way and we all have different routines and traditions that are part of our daily lifestyle. So don't be too quick to judge. If you have a roommate who prefers to be more religious than you are or someone who has different cooking preferences than you, remember not to hold it against them. Unless it is a reason for concern or disturbs you to an unbearable extent, don't make a big deal about it. Everyone is different, remember to celebrate the diversity.
If there's just one thing you can do while living with a roommate, it is to be kind. This will make life much easier. So what, it's their turn to take out the trash and you do it instead? Big deal. While you’re vacuuming ‘your’ side of the flat, push over a bit and do the rest too! It's not going to make a big difference if your already doing chores wash one more plate too.
This doesn't mean you go rummage their personal stuff in the process or go through their wardrobe and clean it out. But don't be too rigid about 'my side' and 'your side.' Leave room for flexibility, your roommate will definitely appreciate the gesture and return the favour.
Speak up when required
Even if you are the newest member in the house and there are things that need to be addressed, do it immediately. Don't wait a month to talk about something that happened. If you find yourself constantly picking up trash leftover from your flat mates party or being taken advantage of, speak up. If your roommate seems to be 'borrowing' the toilet paper a bit too much or you find your makeup getting empty too soon, speak up.
Don't build up tension in the house with awkward silences and angry stares. Be direct with your concerns. Remember you pay rent too, and you are not there to babysit and enable someone's unhealthy lifestyle.
Know your flat mates policy on having visitors before you move in to avoid any conflict later. Let your flat mate know when you're having people over so they don't come home to a room full of strangers or are caught off guard. If you're in the middle of a celebration, invite them as a courtesy but don't impose. They might not be in the mood to hang around strangers or might have had a hard day a work and don't want to socialize. So try not to hold it against them.
As in life, treat others like you would want to be treated. This stands very true especially while living with people. Compromise and adjust while also being smart about it.
- Sanobar Mistry is a published journalist and is currently a teacher in the UAE