Monday, June 24, 2013

Living with a flatmate...

This post is one of those that I have written and rewritten so many times… I have been upset and bashing the crap out of the keyboard… or calmed, reading everything I have written before and turn it down a notch. In any case, this is my attempt of explaining my experience with a flatmate.
There is always a topic to talk about the life in Australia, especially when it is related to how to save a few extra bucks per week in one of the most expensive cities on planet earth. Let’s take any of the Australian cities (like Sydney for instance) where you could be paying close to $2400 per month on a flat with just two rooms, one bathroom, kitchen and something you could call a living room, and you will find no reason (apart from being paranoid or a freak) of why not to share your place with someone else?

Having a flatmate is very convenient for many people as you could share rent payments, some services and hopefully good company for a while... but it could become into a nightmare quite easily... So I have decided to write down this post to understand a little bit the situation I lived for a while and what I needed to take into consideration at the moment of considerate sharing my place with somebody else.
Sadly I couldn't find this guide in time...
Have you lived with a flatmate before?
The very short answer is: no and this probably has a huge impact on my experience. My life in Uni was quite "comfortable" giving that I was living with my parents for a big chunk of it... but when situation required a little space from my parents I used to spend my nights at Uni on the couch of the computer lab or in the department that I used to work for.

Eventually, when I decided to start living with somebody I was in a relationship which it doesn't quite match the description of 'having a flatmate' (although sometimes relationship deteriorate into just having a flatmate and not a couple... but I am not going to go deeper into that subject).
How was my appreciation of "sharing my place with somebody"? What did it mean to me?

I always thought that: "If I am going to be sharing my place with a someone, it has to be my friend!" hence the relationship with that someone was supposed to be easy going, having conversations during those shared moments together but everyone having their own separate life.

On the other hand, having a stranger as flatmate seemed to be appealing as well, as someone new meant getting to know new people, different social circles and possibly different appreciation of life as a whole.
Either way, with friends or strangers I was hoping to share my place to get a little bit of financial aid and moral support on those times of terrible uncertainty I was living day by day.
Why did I decided to share my place?
Two reasons comes to my head:
For starters I was going through the separation that was kicking me pretty hard, deep in depression I needed some company to help me out to go through the days without thinking too much.
And I needed a little bit of help recovering my finances while paying a yearlong contract that I had signed just two weeks before the separation. I was in a pickle but I didn't want to change to much my environment while I was adjusting to my new life.
So... how was my experience?
Well... it was a mixture of not too bad with terrible and awful product of different lifestyles and issues addressed in a poor manner. I thought that offering a hand to a friend was going to be a good idea, offering my home as residency for both while she figured out what she wanted to do with her life, thought it was the safest decision as I was not going to be in the unit everyday and I was hoping she was going to be on her feet quick enough… I thought it was going to be an ‘I scratch your back and you scratch mine’ sort of thing.
The first couple of days were marvelous, talking heaps and catching up during all that time we didn't talk, to which I started wondering "Why did we grow apart?" but surely within that time differences started to show: I became more skeptic and atheist while she became a bit more... ‘extremist’ towards religion and human differences, commenting frequently how she believed 'white people' are superior to any other 'race' and how she was 'pure blooded' being graced by God's will.
People... look around, the world has become a complete mixture of cultures, ethnicities and preferences.
Accepted it or become a hermit!

Within three weeks my good friend became just the person I was sharing my unit but I still had the intention of get along with it, not getting on her way and ignoring her nasty eventual comment on "Why I haven't found a job?" followed closely with "… this country is shit, this air is shit... this <fill the blank space> is shit".
On her mind (based on my interpretation of our conversations), she envisioned a world where Australia as looking desperately for any people with some talent throwing money at anybody knocking the door three times, while being face with reality that in Australia anybody has to work pretty hard to earn their money, to pay their rent and make a living just like any other place. That turned her into an extremely bitter person difficult to be around with.
As time went by the situation turned from bitter awkward into critical when she decided to have one of those inspiring ‘white power’ moments, offending me in the process (I really don’t know if she understood the ‘you should better stop your comments right now if you don’t want to sleep on the streets’ as a ‘I am deeply offended by your comment, you dick!’)... People, if nobody ask for your advice or opinion, stay quiet… bite your tongue or go out with someone that actually shares your point of view.
Certainly I did not get to this point (thankfully!) but notes like this were comment in my place.
But I was too polite (or stupid) to ask her to leave, although I was short tempered, giving her quick comments to every "I am too clever for you" sort of comments. It took close to four months for her to understand I was not comfortable with her around and she was starting to feel lonely as she didn't want to socialize with people I tried to introduce to her before the incident.
Eventually with a job offer, she decided to move alone to her own unit and I decided not to share my unit with anybody else as my experience wasn’t precisely a ball in the park.
Did I considerate to look for another flatmate?
Not really, my experience was a little bit of a downer (as I have my own manners that are difficult to tolerate as well) and I thought I was going to be moving by myself once the contract was going to be over… I closed any possibility to have a nice person around as I was not in a position to be understanding or open to other’s idiosyncrasies.
What things do I think went wrong?
Many things, I was not sharp enough to draw the limit from the start, there was not enough tolerance and the way of living was too different to cope with the other.
Things you need to have in mind at the moment of finding a flatmate.
I am (for a long shot) not the best adviser on this subject as I shared my place only once and the result was terrible... but, based on my experience:
  • All parts involved need to understand that privacy is going to be an issue.
  • Respect has to be a key element in this type of relationship. If you have your space and don't want somebody else trespassing it, then draw the line to define your preferences with the rest of the members.
  • Some common ground needs to be established. What expenses are you going to be paying and what's fair for all.
  • Be open about others ideas. If you don't share the same ideals or believes you don't have to insult others because of it.