When you interact with the same people over a long period of time, issues are bound to arise, and conflicts are likely to appear. One of my first suggestions would be to create a group on WhatsApp, WeChat or Facebook to communicate quickly and easily with all your flat mates at the same time. Remember, just like in any relationship, communication is key. Noise, cleaning habits and cultural clashes are some of the most common problem sources that could make the air in your flat become tense from time to time. In this article I will explain how they can become issues and how you can attempt to avoid and/or appease the situation.
We all like to listen to music, watch Netflix, and talk on the phone or on FaceTime to our family and friends. Whatever the reason may be for you increasing the normal noise level in your flat, do not forget you live with other people. Try and be considerate of your flatmates who may be studying or resting while you have a get-together or party planned.
Sometimes it may be you having to bear with a little extra noise. Maybe you’ve had a stressful day and feel more intolerable than usual. If you do, try and rationalize your irritation. Is the noise actually that bad? Give it a few minutes to see if it continues. Be patient. If it doesn’t, kindly ask your neighbors to keep it down.
It may be helpful to establish certain rules for everyone to follow. I sent out a message in our Facebook group to ask people to let us know in advance if they planned on having anyone over in the common areas. However, have a little more tolerance on the weekend, remember everyone around here is still pretty young and socializing is part of the university experience! I have also constantly asked my immediate floormates to tell me if the music in my room is ever too loud, or if they can hear my voice through the walls when I’m Facetiming friends and family back home.
Cleaning habits in shared spaces
Girls: please pick up your hair in the showers!
Boys: please keep the toilet seat down when you’re done with it!
Everyone: please flush the toilet!
Wash up after you cook, mop up the floor, clean the counters or table if you spill or leave any crumbs, and open the windows to avoid invading the entire flat with strong and clingy smells. Designate specific places where each of you will keep your food in the fridge and your kitchen and cooking utensils in the cupboards, so everyone becomes responsible of their own spaces.
It’s more important than ever to make sure that surfaces and handles are cleaned with an antibacterial/antiviral cleaner as often as possible, especially when you’re eating or preparing food.
Rubbish or cleaning rotas
Now that some accommodations are discontinuing cleaning services, this advice may come in handy… establish rubbish or cleaning rotas together, as a group. If someone new comes to live in the flat, explain the system to them. I printed out a “trash pass” because one of our flatmates did not have social media. Even so, we had an issue with him because he did not agree with the rota we had established and refused to even meet with us to discuss it. We reached out to our ResLife Advisor and we held a flat meeting to explain the rota situation, as well as more serious hygienic issues related to the same flatmate. Our advisor told us she would contact the person directly, however, the situation did not improve a whole lot. So the rest of us just carried on with our system.
It’s useful to keep in mind that sometimes you will face people who do not want to get on board with everyone else, and you should just try and work around that, for your own peace of mind. I have also found the social media group you establish with your flatmates to be quite useful to remind each other if someone forgets they’re responsible for the rota.
Possible cultural clashes
Meals in Peru are usually social gatherings as well, so I was very surprised when I realised most students here eat in their rooms, by themselves. I’ve learned not to take this personally because it’s simply about preferences. Another issue arises when people that speak the same language come together. This can sometimes be annoying because you can’t understand what is being said, literally in your face! And sometimes it can even make you feel lonely or left out. But just think about it for a minute, wouldn’t you do the same in that situation? Remember people sometimes feel shy to speak in English if it’s not their first language.
Another problem could arise if people use ingredients that are foreign to you, and/or that you don’t like smelling, or even seeing! Again, try and be tolerant and ask your flatmates to keep these in sealed containers, and to keep the windows wide open when they cook. One of my flatmates always asked me to do this when I fried garlic or onion. He was not a fan!
Finally, another possible clash that could come up could be related to alcohol consumption. You need to keep in mind that some people are uncomfortable with this because of cultural or religious reasons and you should respect that. If you plan on drinking in common areas, maybe quickly run it by your flatmates to avoid potential discomfort.
Going the extra mile
Try and contribute to building a nice environment for everyone to feel comfortable in. Your flatmates will be the people you will see on a regular basis for the next few months and there are ways you can be friendly and learn to enjoy their company to make your daily life a little cheerier. One of the things that I find that is easy to bring people together is food, which is why I encourage you to read another one of my articles called “Cooking Ideas that Bring your Neighbours together”.
Sharing treats is also nice and creates a pleasant environment. When I came back to Manchester after the Christmas break, I brought Peruvian sweets and a bottle of our famous soft drink “Inca Kola”, for my flatmates to try. Moreover, on several occasions my flatmates have sent messages to the group chat saying that they had left things to share in the kitchen like cookies, gingerbread and sweets. Finally, if you can get together for birthdays or other celebrations every so often, it will really help you go the extra mile to creating one of the friendliest flats you could live in, and maybe even some of the best friends you will make at uni.