Last week I got to talk to Angel about life as a commuter, which you can read here. This week I caught up with my friend, Jessica, to talk about a different component of life in Beijing: roommates.
Let’s Ask a…Roommate!
To start this conversation about roommates, Jessica, how long have you had a roommate?
The first time I had a roommate was when I had to share a bedroom with my brother. He wasn’t the best roommate ever. He’s the older one, so sometimes he would kick me out of the room just because he was bigger and stronger. We were little kids always arguing. We were a handful for my parents. In my later years, I’ve had a roommate on and off since college.
So other then…forcibly…living with your brother, how did you decide on who to live with?
There are a few things I considered, but I just looked for compatibility and responsibility. I need to know if I would get along with this person. Also, is she responsible enough to take care of our apartment and maintain a good relationship with our landlord.
Yeah, that makes sense especially with the dynamic of apartment renting and often moving in Beijing. In a more general sense, what are some things people should consider when looking for a roommate?
It depends on your priorities. If being responsible is important, then you need to find someone who is responsible. If you like a clean house, then you better make sure they’re clean. If you are self-sufficient and independent, then you don’t want to live with someone who is co-dependent. These are things that I value and I would advise people to think about those things.
Continuing on with things to consider as you pick a roommate (and as a roommate picks you!), what are some necessary conversations you feel people should have before deciding to room together?
Boundaries! What is important to you and what is important for the other person—and set house rules if needed. If you don’t communicate what your boundaries are then you and your roommate can easily fall into conflict. To know what is important to each other creates a mutual respect and expectation. Talking about this before rooming together gives you an idea of how compatible you will be with each other.
What, then, is your favorite part about having a roommate?
Since I live with my best friend it feels like family. Life is so much easier when you have a roommate that feels like family. You don’t have to worry about which is your food. You get to share and you know that both of you will be responsible for the groceries.
You said you get to live with your best friend, so what are some things you guys do to maintain that friendship as you are also roommates?
We like to do a number of things together. One thing we do as friends is find time to relax. We both have busy schedules, and the one thing we do that helps our friendship is find things that we both enjoy to get away from our to-do list.
I know that even with the best of friends, living together can lead to conflict, so how do you handle conflict between the two of you?
We have to communicate. My roommate is really great with expressing herself and being honest. I, on the other hand, like to keep to myself. I’ve learned that I can’t hide when conflict arises and hope that it goes away, but I have to sit and handle it with the person through communication. On the other hand, in certain situations you will need to create space. You need to use wisdom to know whether or not you or your roommate needs space to think and calm down.
I think that’s really important, the combination of communication, wisdom, and discernment. What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about yourself from having and being a roommate?
I learned to let the little things go because the person is more important. For example, my standard of cleanliness is higher than most and I can’t pressure the other person to meet those expectations or else there would be conflict. I’m not saying that I don’t want a clean house, I’m just not expecting a spotless house. I at least want my roommate to keep the shared spaces tidy.
That seems like a key perspective to have on valuing the person more. I know you’ve also had some seasons of living without a roommate, so I wonder if you could speak a little bit to some of the pros/cons of living alone versus having a roommate?
One thing that’s great about living alone is that you can live however you want. Since you live on your own, you don’t have to worry about accommodating your living space for someone else. Living alone can get lonely and boring. Having a roommate makes life at home a little more exciting. That would be the pro of having a roommate. Life is better when you get to share it with people. Its not easy to live with someone else but you get away from creating a monotonous routine when you get home.
As a last question before we have to go, do you have any hilarious roommate moments you want to share?
A funny moment was with my previous roommate. I love to put on my headphones and dance when I’m home alone. I really don’t like to dance in front of people. One day, as I was organizing our living room, I put on my headphones and blasted my music. Of course, I’m dancing like nobody is watching. All of a sudden I see my roommate walked in. I paused in my dancing stance and she just stood there in shock. We probably froze and stared at each other for about a minute before someone started laughing.
Ha! Too bad that one wasn’t Snapchatted…well, Jessica, thanks for taking the time to have this conversation! Having a roommate can be either an incredible experience of friendship and community or a really difficult period of time, and I think you’ve shared some things to consider to make it the former rather than the latter.
Do you have questions about roommates? Post in the comments below and we’d love to get back to you!
Check out our next Ask a… post and if you have someone you want to be interviewed, send a note to email@example.com.
“I’ve learned to let the little things go because the person is more important.”