“Nobody said it’d be easy”
Many unwritten social rules are governing the experience of living in a shared house. Although these social norms differ according to culture and preferences, I came to learn of these unspoken commandments the hard way.
Mastering the art of living with another human being in the same space requires the perfection of one of humanity’s greatest vices, communication skills. It doesn’t stop at respecting one another’s privacy and preferences, it also means you can’t blast Joji at 11 P.M. without risking conflict. It’s a rather bittersweet situation – you don’t have to worry about your brother spoiling the iPhone cable he borrowed from you anymore, but someone is bound to collect roaches by leaving dishes in the sink for a couple of days. It’s like that age-old Spiderman saying, “With great power, comes great responsibility”. Except, in this case, we’re trading off everyone conveniently not taking out the trash bin in the kitchen for more privacy.
What people don’t seem to discuss is how rarely you’ll ever see your housemates, it’s rather ridiculous. The first two weeks of living in with a house populated with 8 people, yet I felt I had the place all to myself! Needless to say, privacy wasn’t the only upside. For the first time in my life, I could get away with leaving laundry around for weeks. The downside? I ended up not doing laundry for weeks!
6:42am – Time for a Shower
No one likes being late on the job. Living with a house full of working millennials, I wondered how everyone didn’t end up tearing each other apart over who gets to shower first. Something I learned, much later on, was that it’s all in the timing. I’d observe, pick a slot, then arrange my morning routine around the time the shower is occupied. After a week of blasting LANY in the shower, my housemate finally built up the courage to tell me he didn’t appreciate my taste in music.
Becoming an Amateur Chef
There’s nothing quite like arriving back into the comfort of your own home after a long day of work. That is until your stomach sounds off sirens from the hunger pangs. As convenient as it is to eat out in the Klang Valley, my wallet begged to differ after a month’s worth of chap fan. Hence, there was only one other way out for any thrifty Malaysian – forcing the inner Chef Wan out of ourselves! Long gone is the enticing aroma of a mother’s home-cooked meals. It was either I learn to cook or get used to the dent in my savings that eating out entailed. I can’t say I’ve mastered making a perfect chocolate mousse souffle, but I sure can make a mean omelette, which is a long way from cooking mee goreng and pouring some rice into a multi-cooker.
Alone with your Thoughts
After the homesickness had passed, I find that there’s something daunting yet beautiful about being alone. Throughout my life previously, I barely spent time alone with myself. The days were filled with classes and then nights were filled with late-night suppers with friends. Living alone suddenly left me alone with my thoughts. As time passed, I’d transitioned into getting used to the silence and even started appreciating it.
Learning the Ropes Around the House
Though we come from different cultures and backgrounds, we exist as a society, as people of the same species. In other words, there are a handful of things we can do to maintain the peace between housemates.
Keeping it Clean
Quite frankly, there’s nothing worse than watching roaches crowd around a day-old soup pot left by the sink. Well, perhaps the sight of the overflowing trash bin in the kitchen might take the title by a margin. Maintaining a clean environment is pivotal in keeping your housemates non-aggressive and the rats at bay.
Inform the Unexpected
Planning to bring in a large group of random people for a good time? Give your housemates a quick heads up! After all, you wouldn’t want to storm out of the shower into a large crowd, would you? I mean, what if someone talks about how you take an hour in the shower?
Eat What You Own
I’ve watched some pretty thrifty people save up to buy big cans of expensive Nutri-Grain. I’ve also observed the petty housemates who steal them in the dead of the night! Make it a priority to only eat what you’re offered or what belongs to you. As our mothers have taught us growing up – what goes around will come around!