Lifestyle Study Abroad and Exchange

Four tips for building happy relationships with housemates

When you study abroad, living in a share house is a good way to meet new people and enjoy your student life. Some of you may live in a share house with people you don’t know. At times, you might feel nervous or shy when you first meet your housemates in the share area at home. As an international student who has experienced a share house for three years, I would like to share some tips for you to try to help build friendships with your new housemates.

  1. Start with smiles and have a chat

First impressions are so important. I was living in share house with people who came from Taiwan, China and South Korea and my housemates told me they were so scared to talk with me because I had my poker face on when I met them! They were afraid they would bother me if they tried to chat with me. In fact, at that time, I was extremely shy to talk with them and I didn’t know how to get along with them. So, starting with some smiles, saying ‘hi’ when you meet your housemate and starting to chat with them when they are free, are great ways to build good relationship with your housemates. Let them know that you are not a difficult person to get along with. You may even become their friends thereafter.

  1. Short discussion about the rules at home

Living in a share house means you will share the kitchen, living room, dinning room, bathroom or even garden with your housemates. You have to show your understanding to your housemates because you have to accept that everyone has different habits and behaviours. The best way to reduce conflicts with housemates is having open discussions early on about the house rules.

I was living in a share house with the homeowner, his girlfriend and three housemates. The homeowner had set up some house rules, such as leaving some space to the homeowner, clearing the kitchen after it was used, taking off shoes when entering the living and dinning rooms. On the other hand, I set up a timetable for cleaning the bathroom to make sure the housework is shared equally amongst my housemates. These rules are set up to not only keep the house clean and liveable, but to show mutual respect to your housemates. Don’t break the rules! If you do, this might cause unnecessary tension between you and your housemates and this is something you want to avoid.

For more advice for setting up house rules and other tips about living in a share house, you can revisit Explore blogger Hayley’s post: How to have a successful share house.

  1. Create a housemate online chat room

Some people may not like this idea, but I have found the online chat room (group chat) extremely important when I was living in a share house. If anything happened in our share house, we could notify others via messages in the chat room. The messages could be anything from the due date for your electricity bill, to the date of the pest control treatment, to the latest information about a scheduled power outage. We can also share photos about our uni life and funny things in the chat room to keep things fun and light-hearted at home.

  1. Organise housemate gatherings

After a few weeks living together and having had some conversations with your housemates,  you should be more comfortable around each other. I encourage you to invite your housemates to hold some gatherings together. In my share house, we made a notice board and wrote down everyone’s birthday’s and any upcoming events We also encouraged everyone to suggest some outdoor activities for everyone to participate in together and wrote the details of the activities on the board.

For anyone’s upcoming birthday, we would organise the birthday party or bring your own (BYO) food party to celebrate. We would have lots of chats and play games, showing we cared about one another since we could all relate that studying aboard can be tough, as you all face the same issues such as homesickness and language barriers. The gatherings did help us to build closer friendships since we had lots of interaction and it brought fun to our share house living.

I hope you find this article useful and interesting. Building relationships with your new housemates is not as difficult as you may have thought – it is a far greater experience if you become friends with your housemates. For me, I have become close friends with my former housemates. They would often help me out and cook for me when I was busy with my studies. They would even chat with me when I felt sad, and travel with me when they had spare time. I am fortunate enough to keep in touch with them although I have now moved out of that share house.

Creating your social network is very important when you study abroad. Friends are your greatest support when you live overseas. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do some of your own work on building good relationships with others so you can have a happy uni life in Australia.

Good luck!

– Chin


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