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March 7, 2011 | by  | in Opinion |
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Peas and Queues – Picking a Flatmate

Your flat—even the dampest, most inaccessible and tiny of flats—should be a happy home. A haven from the stress of endless tutorials and essays, a rest from your crappy job and a shelter from Wellington’s changeable weather, your flat should be a place of peace.

Unfortunately, this peace is made fragile by the inevitable—flatmates. They can become your best friends, or people you avoid eye contact with on the bus. We often decide who we live with on a whim, but this isn’t the way to flatting harmony.
There are tough questions that need to be asked. Such as:

Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?

This is an important one. While it may seem indelicate to ask, you’ll want to know if your new flatmate has a screamer of a girlfriend. You’ll not want to be surprised by your flattie’s naked boyfriend tottering innocently round the kitchen. You may also want to know if your potential new best friend actually only spends one night a week at your house; who wants an absent flatmate?

How do you clean a toilet?

This is a question of fairness. Assuming you have divvied up cleaning duties in some kind of egalitarian way, you’ll all be getting a shot at the loo. If you’re a conscientious soul that not only scrubs the bowl and the seat, but the flush buttons, the tank and even that grimy S-bend beneath the bowl, then you’re going to feel pretty ripped off when all your flatmate has done is squirt a bit of bleach in the bowl.

Do you, or anyone you know, deal drugs?

I can hear you chortling, ‘Sheesh, I’d be cool with that!’ but I can tell you, it’s not as fun as it sounds. While the dealer himself might be a perfectly nice, pay-rent-on-time kind of dude, there are no guarantees about his customers. You’d be surprised at people’s bad manners—turning up at all hours, never bearing gifts for the host, thinking that because they can buy weed at your house, they can smoke it there and invite their friends to come too. You’ll get sick of it.

Are you a note-leaver or a discussion-haver when flat issues come up?

Here’s a note: Any note that starts ‘Dear Cunt Flatmates’ is probably not going to lend itself to a happy resolution of an issue. If you’re that angry about an issue, really, shouting is a far better option. You never want to live with—or be—a note-leaver. No matter how big that smiley face on the note is, it’s always a passive-aggressive way to communicate.

What’s your signature dish?

Would you rather the guy who only ever learned to make tuna casserole, or the young lady with a knack for beautifully decorated cupcakes?

Scrabble, anyone?

Face it, you’re poor. You’re a student; it’s okay. There will be many a long winter night to come in which you will not even be able to scrape together the change for a cask of red wine. You’ll have to figure out how you’re going to keep each other entertained—will it be Scrabble or Risk? Dumpster diving? Building forts out of the little furniture you have? Live Action Role Playing? Your new flatmate’s hobbies and imagination should be of great interest to you.

Potential flatmates need grilling, though try not to frighten them with too many questions—and be casual about that toilet question, otherwise they might think you’re weird.
Got burning questions? Write to auntiesharon@salient.org.nz

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