Living with Strangers
Moving into a new house share can be a little like sticking your hand in a Lucky Dip, with a few crocodiles thrown in for good measure. Sometimes you’ll pull out a great prize, other times something not really worth commenting about … and occasionally you’ll get your fingers chomped off.
I moved out of my parents’ house at 21, which is late compared to a lot of countries but pretty young for Malta. In bigger countries the majority of people leave home to attend university but given how small Malta is there is no need for any of that; it’s easy enough to hop on a bus or drive there every morning. As such, it’s not uncommon for Maltesers to live at home until their late twenties and the only reason they usually move out is to move in with a partner/new spouse.
Since moving out the first time I have lived in six other houses, as well as dossed in a hostel and on a few couches, and have had nine different house mates. I have certainly learnt a thing or two about people – and myself – along the way but, unfortunately, I am still a crap judge of character!
I have lived with some rather odd characters:
- The girl who threw a hissy fit when I washed the blender “the wrong way.” She would also jump up really high at random in the kitchen. I honestly had no idea people could jump that high without a trampoline or pogo stick.
- The girl who seemed to have multiple personalities. Sometimes she would scowl at me, other times she was relatively friendly. She avoided contact as much as possible, going as far as locking herself in the bathroom whenever she heard me coming down the stairs.
And dealt with some stressful situations:
- Being given a day’s notice before a house mate moved out and left me to cover two months’ worth of bills by myself.
- Having a flat mate’s boyfriend practically live with us and the guy would barely speak a word to me but had no issues putting his feet up on the couch and taking control of the TV remote.
- Sharing a house with two girls who had no problem making a mess but never helped clean up. There were clumps of hair on the bathroom floor regularly and they kept dirty plates under their beds. Ew.
Ah, the joys of living with strangers. After my first bad experience of living with somebody, I promised I would try to get to know potential house mates a little better before agreeing to live with them. Unfortunately, as you can see by the fact that there is more than one stressful situation listed up there, that didn’t work out too well. And do you know why? Because there is absolutely no way that you can know what a person is like to live with until you have actually lived with them. If only there was some kind of universal house share code that everyone had to abide by. One doesn’t exist yet but the following steps are good practice:
- Be considerate – Don’t let your noise and your mess affect the communal areas. Remember that other people may need to use that pan/shower/TV. Of course, being considerate works both ways: understand that some people may want to play music or watch a movie in the shared living room. As long as their behaviour isn’t too disruptive, let it be.
- Be friendly – Make an effort to get to know the person(s) you are living with. It will make life a lot less awkward and help to create more a of a homely atmosphere, rather than just a house with strangers living in it.
- Respect others’ privacy – Never ever go into a bedroom that is not your own unless you have permission to do so. Same goes for using things which are not yours. This is probably the golden rule.
- Pay up – Bills usually have to be in one person’s name. Pay your share promptly.
- Help out – Nobody likes emptying the bin, cleaning the toilet or washing the floors but it has to be done so take initiative and help out.
And that’s it really! You might not be best friends with the person you are living with but at least by following those five steps you can live together happily and comfortably. Bear in mind that other people are always going to have habits that you might find weird or annoying but as long as they are not affecting you in any major way, you just have to learn to deal with them.
Moving out of the family home has to be the fastest way of growing up. No matter how independent you thought you were, it’s a whole new ball game when you are the one who is responsible for paying the rent, keeping your clothes clean, fridge stocked and bills paid. It’s difficult at first but once you are used to it, there’s no going back. As much as I love my parents, I love doing things my way even more and there is definitely a sense of pride to be had in managing your own life.
I am lucky enough to be living with two lovely ladies at the moment, whom I get along with well and make my living situation more of a home than just another house share. Thanks, girls 🙂 Please don’t turn into complete loonies anytime soon!