Credit: GG Illustrator AJ Duncan (@ajd.illustrates)

Flatmates and friendships: flat-ships

By Zoe Lambert

The Glasgow Guardian seeks to explore the whole package of flatmate living; the good, the bad, and the uncomfortable drunken conversations.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that at some point or other, we, as university students, will likely have to experience the joys of shared accommodation. With this comes the chance to garner a new family of flatmates, lifelong friends, mortal enemies and rising therapy bills. Whether the relationships be positive or negative, the connections that we curate with our fellow lodgers differ from that of any other.

At the most basic but perhaps primordial level, ignoring the obvious financial benefits, flatmates can simply ensure that there is someone there for you to go home to, a support system, even if it might not necessarily feel like this. Marina, a third-year engineering student, told The Glasgow Guardian that she had learned a lot from having a flatmate. As neither of them comes from the UK originally, she described how difficult it was to look for accommodation. She explained that “it was a stressful experience, but doing it together made it a lot less scary. We had a lot of fun, and we did find a really good flat in the end. It felt very grown-up. I think we both realised that we were a lot more independent than we thought.”

Second-year history student Chloe shared with The Glasgow Guardian that having a flatmate from a different corner of the world proved invaluable in terms of broadening her cultural outlook. Inspired by her newfound knowledge, Chloe even ended up deciding to take a Spanish course at university. As hyperbolic as it may seem, flatmates can form global communities of friends which transcend borders.

Communities, however, do not always live in harmony. Living with other people can sometimes get tricky, and adapting to the people you live with may prove challenging. For instance, living in halls and having to share a flat with people you have never met before is a unique experience which can sometimes be awkward or even problematic. The thing is, we do not all have the same habits, we do not all share the same opinions, and we do not all have the same culture. When remembering her first year at university, Marina said that “after two months of living together in halls, I realised that my flatmates didn’t really want to be friends. Since it was during Covid, I couldn’t really meet other people. It was quite lonely and awkward at times. So, I ended up avoiding them for the rest of the year.” 

Perhaps there is some merit in separating your flatmates and friendships. Chloe explained that it may be easier to share a flat with people you don’t really know since it makes it “less difficult if things don’t work out.” After all, nobody wants a dusty flat to be the sole reason behind a friendship breakup.

Money is another recurring theme which students brought up when asked about their experiences with flatmates.  When Chloe was asked what she thought about this situation, she shared her experience of living with someone who struggled to pay rent on time. She explained that this scenario was very stressful because the landlord gradually became less understanding and that although she wanted to support her friend, she could see that their relationship was deteriorating. She ended up moving out because “there was too much pressure.” Finance is a delicate issue at the best of times, now more so than ever, with rising living costs. It appears there is no neat or polite way to navigate this discourse. 

Consequently, having flatmates can be distressing, awkward, and even problematic. Sharing a flat really depends on personalities, habits, and compatibility. Our ability to communicate is vital in order to have a good experience. You don’t really know if your relationship with a flatmate will work until you try. Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t; regardless of whether you were friends beforehand or not. Marina explained that home is the place where you let your guard down and where you’re the most vulnerable. You end up sharing more things with your flatmates than with your regular friends, and you see these individuals more than family. Accordingly, flatmates are “the step between friends and family.”


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