I’ll start off by saying that I honestly do get along with my flatmates in Berlin. I don’t want this post to paint them in a bad light at all; I’m just going to try and describe how my living experience here (so far) is different from my 2 years living experience in Birmingham.
I’m currently living in student halls with four other people and waiting for one more to arrive- oh the suspense! It’s working out fine at the moment re: kitchen, sharing kitchen equipment and using the bathroom (one toilet!), but it is so different from living in student halls at UoB.
Firstly, forget the whole ‘knocking on the flat opposites door to make block friends’ because that does not work here, trust me, I’ve tried it and had a door closed slowly in my face. Thus it goes without saying that I haven’t got a clue who lives in the two flats on my floor, let alone the rest of the block. This is completely different to my first year in Birmingham where we went out together, had a group chat and even organised a secret santa (all 30 of us!).
Also, cooking meals together is a firm no-no at the moment since my flat mates are all meat eaters and aren’t particularly interested in trying out veggie dishes, plus the fact that we all share the utensils that come with the accommodation, which makes it difficult to cook different meals and eat together at the same time. It’s a lot of washing up as soon as you’ve finished eating so that the next person can start cooking! Again, this is a huge contrast to my Birmingham living where Lily cooked myself and Morgana a vegan stir fry on the first night she met us, and myself and Morgs cooked meals for each other most days of the week throughout second year (if you’re reading this: I miss our fajita Wednesday’s).
I think the problem is, that when I arrived, I pinned all my hopes of making friends onto my flat mates because that’s what worked out for me in first year, and people from my block became my closest friends (I ♥ you course and Korf friends too!). But what I’ve come to realise is that living in international halls pushes together many cultures that have varying attitudes towards flat mate living, which I did not expect at all. I thought all countries and university students would have this mind set where flat mates were more than people you passed in the kitchen and nodded at, but it seems to be quite the opposite! However, since I’ve been on the language course for a month, thankfully I’ve met so many lovely people that I haven’t had to worry about the lack of a close relationship with my housemates.
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve been for a few beers at the SU by our block together, and I’m closer with the guys who’ve been here since I moved in, but it still hasn’t reached the UoB level of ‘let’s watch a film as a flat’ which is what we did around the second day after moving in during first year. I don’t think it will reach that level, and now that I’ve realised I can make friends and have people to go out with elsewhere it’s starting to bother me less and less. I now don’t feel like I have to force small talk if it’s clear that the other housemate doesn’t want to either, and I’m quite happy relaxing in my room on my own hungover and going out later in the day to meet friends.
In summary, what I’m trying to say is regarding my relationship with my flatmates, my expectation did not match my reality; but I’m actually okay with that now. We seem to live in a peaceful coexistence that follow China’s 1954 treaty with India; we respect each other’s space, are not even passive aggressive (throw back to passive aggressive post-its in the kitchen first year!), don’t ask too much about each other’s personal lives, co-operate for a mutually beneficial goal eg. wash our dishes, and chat politely to each other as we pass. It worked for them and the USSR & USA for a while, so hopefully it will work for us!
EDIT (I’ve had a few people message to check I’m okay): I am really loving my YA so far, and the housmate part is one tiny aspect of my experience, a part that doesn’t bother me anymore like it did in the first week. Don’t worry, I got this…
Over ‘n out,