My younger daughter, Divya, is heading off to college soon and looking forward to enjoying a little independence. She has spent her entire life at home, living with her parents and following their rules, and soon she will find out what it’s like to live with a roommate and follow her rules.
Actually, her future roommate may not have many rules, but it will still be a strange situation for Divya. For the first time in her life, she will be living with someone who does not knock on her bedroom door at noon on weekends and ask, “Will you be getting up for lunch or going straight to dinner?”
Her roommate will probably not cook meals for her, not do any cleaning for her, and not shoo away any potential boyfriends. Divya may view this as a positive thing, of course, not realizing how much effort it takes to cook a good meal or wield a broom.
Her future roommate may not have as many rules as her parents, but almost everyone has rules. No one wants to live with a person who has no rules, because it means that anything goes—not just for you, but also the roommate. Just picture a prospective roommate saying to you, “I’m cool with anything. If you blast your music in the middle of the night, that’s fine with me. If you walk around half-dressed, that’s fine with me. If you grow marijuana plants, that’s fine with me.”
Divya, of course, will be living in a university dormitory, and her residence director may say to her, “If you blast music in the middle of the night, that’s a fine for you. If you walk around half-dressed, that’s a fine for you. If you grow marijuana plants, please give some to me.”
It’s important to share some basic principles with your roommates; otherwise you are bound to clash with them.
That’s why many people conduct interviews before agreeing to share an apartment with a stranger. Being able to pay your share of the rent is a minimum qualification, as is the willingness to split expenses such as the water bill, even if it arrives more frequently than you take showers.
A Twitter user named Astha recently shared some questions she received from prospective roommates in Bengaluru. One of the questions is quite common in India: “What are your eating preferences (veg or non veg)?” This is an understandable question. If your prospective roommates are strict vegetarians, they may not like to share a kitchen with someone who cooks meat. And if your prospective roommates are strict non-vegetarians, they may not like to share a kitchen with someone who feels superior. Even if you don’t feel superior, they may not like to share a kitchen with someone who eats so much veg. They may even feel guilty, thinking to themselves, “We should be eating healthier food, too.” And before you know it, the chicken biryani outlet near the apartment will be out of business.
Another question posed to Astha pertained to employment: “Where do you work and how often do you have to go to the office?” The first part of the question is to determine her ability to pay the rent (and also her social status); the second part is to make sure she wouldn’t be in the apartment 24 hours a day, working remotely or remotely working. Even the houseplants go outside occasionally.
The shortest question Astha received was this: “Where are you from?” I hope she gave a short answer: “From my mother’s womb.” Other good answers include “From this planet” and “From Russia with Love.”
A fourth question that Astha received is quite astute: “Are you a Phoebe, Monica or Rachel?” Her potential roommates want to know not only if she has watched the sitcom “Friends,” but also if she tolerates silly questions.
When it comes to having good roommate relationships, tolerance is important. You have to tolerate not just silly questions, but also silly answers. If you ask your roommate why the bones from her chicken biryani have been sitting on the table for one week, don’t be surprised if she says, “Because we don’t have a dog.”