Ah, the flatshare experience. How we all love it. Sharing a house or flat is all part of the working holiday experience in New Zealand. And why wouldn’t it be? It is a great way to save money on long-term accommodation when you decide to settle somewhere for work. The people you live with are often enough the people you end up being best backpacker buddies with. For that reason, and the fact that you have to live with them, makes getting along with you flatmates all the more important. After a day at work, you want to be able to relax with your housemates, not want to murder them in their sleep.
Communication is key! You need to make sure that everybody is heard and feels understood. Even when making a simple request, be mindful of how it could be taken by the rest of the group and take the care to phrase it properly. This is the best way to avoid disputes that could come to bite you in the ass later if someone is questioning their “rights as a flatmate”. It sounds stupid, but seriously, take a look at our Rights as a Flatmate or Tenant in New Zealand article.
2. Invite your flatmates to do things with you
The best way to create long-lasting friendships is to share experiences with your flatmates. It may be as simple as going to the movies, going for a hike, or even watching a show together.
3. Set your boundaries
Although it is important to respect your flatmates, it is also important for them to respect you. Every culture is different and setting your boundaries early in the game is crucial. Don’t be rude about it either but calmly explain if, for example, you are kind of grumpy in the morning and that it is not best to talk to you before coffee #2.
Ok, now we sound like we are giving relationship advice but… Living with other people means that you will step onto each others toes from time to time. It is Ok and totally expected when sharing a common living space. Compromising on things should be second nature to you if you want to have a smooth house share experience. It is also a great life lesson that will come handy later on down the road.
5. Respect the house rules
Every flat has house rules, written or not. When joining a flat you agree to respect them so everybody gets along easily. It is worth asking about them when looking for a flat so you know what you are in for. If you feel the need to set a new rule for your own sake, make sure to approach it in a very diplomatic way so nobody gets offended.
6. Keep your flatmates’ needs in mind
Culture and background aside, you are likely to have very different schedule than your flatmates. Keep that in mind when coming back home at 3am drunk like a sailor. Your flatmates might have to work early in the morning and you are about to ruin their day. Avoid the late night cooking and go straight to bed. That is called respect, people! Respect!
7. Always offer to help out with chores
Chores are often shared amongst flatmates so everybody pitches in to keep house life running smoothly. It is customary to offer a hand when seeing one of your flatmates busting a gut to keep the place clean. Plus, it’s just another opportunity to spend time together!
8. Be HYGIENIC
Nobody likes a stinky flatmate: it’s a simple as that! Take a shower once in a while, do regular laundries and wash your dishes. If your flatmates wanted to live with a skunk they would have gone to the pet store and got one. Instead they decided to get a traveller like you to share a slice of their life with. The least you can do is not to make them regret that decision.
9. Be aware of what’s yours
We know, this crisp bottle of beer in the fridge looks so fresh and delicious… You want it. You want it now! Well, your flatmate is probably looking forward to that when coming back from work. Oh yeah, and they were the one that bought it! In most flats in New Zealand, each flatmate cooks for themselves so do your own shopping and try not to forget anything. You can ask to use ingredients once in a while but do it too often and this will become annoying.
10. Don’t bring too many friends over
A shared house is already busy as it is, so be mindful of that fact when bringing friends over. In some flats, nobody cares and anyone can bring anybody at any time. But in most, it can get very frustrating for your flatmates to have to share their crowded space with more people regularly.
11. Bake for your housemates
Time to become a domestic king/goddess! Another great tip to be loved by all housemates is to bake once in a while, especially if you screwed up. Everything can be forgiven with a good batch of homemade cookies.
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12. Choose your flatmates carefully
Finally, the golden rule of a peaceful flatting experience is… Don’t rush into a flat! Take the time to get to know the people that you will be living with and pick people that you will get along with. This will make your stay all the better and often result in lifelong friendships. That’s the goal when flatting during a gap year; not to have to deal with regular headaches.