Living with Roommates for the First Time
We’ve all watched the movies and television shows romanticizing what life is like living with roommates. It’s easy to come into the roommate situation with preconceived notions, assuming that it’s going to be an amazing journey of laughs and cries and comradery from the start to the end. Although that is a best-case scenario realized by millions across the country every year, living with roommates for the first time is best approached through a pragmatic lens, preparing for differences and learning to adjust to diverse lifestyles. Living with a roommate can be one of the most educational and beneficial experiences of your lifetime, which is why you should definitely consider the arrangement when moving to a new location or city.
The American Moving Craze
Chances are, if you’re staring down a first-time move-in with roommates, that means you’re moving somewhere. You’re saying goodbye to what you’ve comfortably known, and taking a leap, trying to find roommates that complement your new life. If you’re moving, know that you’re not a minority: according to a Gallup Survey in 2013, one in four Americans move every five years. When looking at data from the FiveThirtyEight statistics blog, researchers found that the average American will move 11.4 times in their lives. When compared to other cultures around the world, it’s worth noting that Europeans, on average, move four times in their life. As Americans, we like to move. It’s a good thing.
Whether it’s for a job, schooling, pursuing a dream, or chasing a loved one, there are a lot of reasons people are looking for roommates today. It doesn’t just apply to the 18-year-old going off to college, either. According to Zillow, 38% of adults ages 23 to 65 live in a roommate situation, which is a 9% jump from the same study conducted in 2005. Related to the higher cost of living and unaffordability that comes with settling down in one of America’s big cities, living with a roommate is in many cases, the only way to realize the dream of an urban lifestyle.
Moving to a New City
Regardless of the reason, you’re now moving to a new city. It can feel overwhelming and daunting, sporadically lonely, and altogether exciting. There’s a lot to feel out in a new city, like transportation, overall neighborhood safety levels, do’s and don’ts, customs, food establishments, bars, and the list goes on. If you find yourself drowning in a pool of intimidation when considering your forthcoming new city move, know you are not alone.
However, you can be proactive about your new life in a new city before you actually move there. For starters, you can make a running list of eating and dining establishments in walking distance of your apartment, look up crime maps to get a feel for neighborhood safety levels, read transportation blogs that cover what you do and don’t want to do on the way to work, and check out city Instagram accounts that highlight the best features of your newfound home. As far as your living situation goes, you can even be proactive about your roommate(s), getting to know them to the best of your ability before you make the big jump.
Getting to Know Roommates Before the Big Move
No one wants to go into a living situation totally blind, with no familiarity or awareness of the people they’re about to spend their everyday with. It’s an uncomfortable situation, which is why so many people dread living with roommates for the first time. Thankfully, with technology and social media, you can actually make an effort to get to know your roommate before you move into your new space.
1. Social Media: This is one of the easiest and most laid back ways to get to know your roommates. Start a Facebook group if there’s more than one roommate, and ask everyone to exchange their social profile information so you can follow one another. Social media accounts, especially Instagrams, can tell you a lot about a person’s character. You can learn about their job(s), hobbies, and overall senses of humor, as well as how they like to spend their off time. Look for any similarities between the two of you, and start a conversation about your joint passion. It will provide common ground that you can base a friendship off of. Living with a roommate is much more pleasant when you get along.
2. FaceTime / Skype: This one is a little more forward, but if you feel like you have a lot in common with your roommate, suggest a FaceTime or Skype call. This is totally dependent upon your personality type, and may not sound like a good idea to you. But, if the other person is receptive, you can have a chat or two about your expectations and the new city. If they are already familiar with the space, they can give you the lowdown and let you in on local tips and tricks you otherwise would not have known.
3. Texting: Texting is going to naturally occur between you and a roommate when moving in. You need to know what time they are moving in, what items they already own so you don’t double up on TVs, and other pertinent information that is fair to request when conducting a move. While texting about your roommate list, try and make it more personal than simply going down the list. Strike up conversation about joint items you own, and add a creative touch so you feel a friendship start to form before you come face to face.
Of course, there are some roommate situations in which each roommate is totally opposite from the other. However, in these cases, sometimes, that’s when the strongest friendships blossom, learning to respect and learn from one another on a daily basis.
Planning for Disagreements
Now, naturally, it’s time to look at inevitable roommate disagreements, and how to properly manage them so that you and your roommate are on positive speaking terms when it’s all said and done. No one wants to live in hostility, and if you aren’t careful about how to approach aggression in your living space, it can contribute to a slew of problems down the road. Therefore, now is the time to prepare yourself for disagreements, and how you’re going to handle different problems that are likely to arise when living in one space with another person (couples are also not immune to co-habitation problems).
Here are a few ways to remain a calm, cool, and collected roommate (reference):
1. Polite Communication:
There are going to be days when work didn’t go well, or you didn’t get the promotion you were hoping for. Life can be hard, there is no way to deny that. However, maintaining a level of politeness with your roommate despite your mood is critical. Maybe they have an annoying habit that’s been eating away at you for months, like the sound of their alarm clock. If you want to confront them about it, don’t do it while you’re in a bad mood. Wait until a weekend morning, and very gently mention that the volume of it can bring you out of sleep, but that you completely understand needing a loud alarm clock. Add an element of “understanding” to your request. It’s part of polite communication.
Slamming pans in the kitchen passive aggressively when your roommate doesn’t wash their dish isn’t going to do any good. It will only add to the level of tangible hostility in the air. Instead, try and be transparent as possible, opening up polite channels of communication the second something starts to seem out of place. Body language is blaringly obvious, which is why having a transparency policy is going to save you a lot of frustrating blow-ups down the line.
It’s not fair to your roommate to pick on them for every little thing they do that annoys you. It’s part of living with a roommate. You need to know when to pick your battles, or else you will start to make them feel targeted in their living space. Before you confront them on a practice or habit, think about how you would feel if someone confronted you on the same topic. Next, reflect on if the annoyance is 100% their fault, or if you’re lumping them in with a bigger grievance that you should take to the building manager, leaving them out of it. Lastly, always be fair about your complaints, as unpredictability to your confrontations can leave another person scared and frustrated with you.
Part of the invaluable experience of living with a roommate is being forced to compromise. You’re going to be exposed to viewpoints and habits you’ve never known before. That kind of exposure is going to brighten your worldview, pulling you out of your comfortable nook you used to stay inside. Let’s say your roommate has a test the next day, create a schedule on the refrigerator that outlines everyone’s workload so you know when you can/cannot blast your music. Maybe make a planner that assigns cleaning to just one person every Sunday. Lastly, always have discussions about it. Maybe you like to clean while they like to cook. Agree to do the cleaning if they do all the cooking.
Once you get over the initial awkwardness of confronting someone on their personal living habits, you’ll discover that agreements can be reached much more quickly through open, honest, transparent, and compromise-based discussions. That change starts with you.
Managing Roommate Expectations
Now, after doing all of this, adding your roommate on social media, politely creating calendars and schedules, and respecting their way of life, it’s incredibly important to still manage your roommate expectations. In most cases, living with roommates is not how it’s depicted in Friends. It can be tough, it can be challenging, and sometimes, it can be difficult if you truly have nothing in common.
The first step in creating change is managing your mentality and what you expect out of the situation. Therefore, it is in everyone’s best interest if you go into the situation assuming you will be on good living terms with your roommate, but not their new best friend.
However, if you want to do everything in your power to create a situation in which you are acquaintances, or even friends, there’s a few ways you can carry yourself to create the most hospitable environment possible:
· Be Considerate: Consideration starts with reviewing your own life and your own habits. Sit down and reflect on what you do that is out of the ordinary, loud, or obnoxious. Try and manage yourself so your roommate doesn’t have to confront you.
· Be Flexible: The more flexible you are with your roommate, the more they are going to like you. Even if you really can’t stand crumbs on the counter, buy a tool that makes it effortless for you to clear them off and get on with the day.
· Be Social: Hiding in your room with the door closed every night isn’t exactly social. Sit in your common spaces and ask your roommate how their day went.
· Be Understanding: There will be days when your roommate is stressed or short with you. Be understanding that we can’t all be happy and perfect every single day. Treat your roommate the way you want to be treated.
Living with Roommates for the First Time
For all the people looking for roommates in the world, know that with preparation, planning, and social interaction, it’s entirely possible to create the living situation you want without engaging in disagreements or altercations. You can find roommates for free today, spending time vetting them online before you make the final decision. Before you do, be sure to check yourself, manage your own expectations, and prepare for the amazing journey that is living with a roommate.