The basics
Study abroad : Student Accommodation

How to settle disagreements with housemates

Living with somebody new is full of surprises, and sometimes those surprises aren’t always positive. Keep your relationship with your roommate smooth sailing with these four tips...

Living with a housemate

At many universities, the dormitories are very small and you are expected to share this tiny room with someone you just met. Living in such close quarters makes it inevitable that some habits of yours might annoy your new roommate. Also, for many students, this is the first time they are living with someone else besides their family. That is why in the first few weeks of getting to know each other, it is important to set up some household rules and schedules. If you tell each other your preferences, and expectations early on in the year, you both won’t have as many bad learning experiences about what each other doesn’t like. However, we don’t live in an ideal world, and arguments are bound to happen in some form or another. Here are some tips to help you out of those rough patches.



How important is it?

While something your housemate is doing may be irritating, is it important to bring it up? Sometimes the actual conversation about telling your roommate that something they do is bothering you is worse than the actual thing that is bothering you. Also sometimes the thing that is bothering you might not be possible for your roommate to change. For instance, many colleges put international students together, so you might be with someone that has quite different customs than you. Therefore, do not bring up things that are tied to their culture. On the same note, if your roommate’s views are radically different than yours, do not try to change them, but embrace them instead. If you get in an argument because of your differing views make sure you reference the fact afterwards that even though you have different views, that you learn so much from them, to turn it positive and lighten the mood.



Bringing it up

In such close quarters, it is hard not to irritate your roommate while talking on the phone or Skyping someone. Even though it is easy to leave the room during the day to give them space, sometimes because of time difference it isn’t so easy. There might be times when your roommate is calling late or early to talk to friends and family at home. This is a sensitive situation because they have the right to call home, but if it is late at night and you are losing sleep, it might be a good idea to say something like, “Is there any way that you can Skype your family in the kitchen or student lounge? I really need to get some sleep tonight,”. The next morning make sure to apologize and ask them how their family is to make sure they are not upset.


The classic apology

First and foremost, one of you has to initiate the apology. Even if you were the one that wasn’t in the wrong, it is important to be mature and start the apology, which often leads the other person to apologize as well. Don’t apologize right away because often, both of you are still heated and have strong emotions from the argument that can translate into the apology, resulting in no progress. Give enough time for both of you to simmer down so you can have a calm and civil conversation.


If you were in the wrong, start the apology something like: “I’m sorry that I didn’t realize that what I did bothered you, and I should have, because if I were you I would have felt the same way”. Following this statement you should reference that you either will try your best to improve on it, or won’t do it again.


If you weren’t in the wrong saying something like: “I know you didn’t realize that it was bothering me, and I think we can both agree that we should not have argued that way”. If your roommate doesn’t also apologize after this statement, close it up with something about how you hope everything is okay and ask if there is anything that you do that bothers them. This is a good chance to prevent other arguments from starting.



Food is a healer

Do not hold a grudge! Ask your roommate if they would like to go out for a drink, food, or even ice cream. This will ease the tension even if they don’t accept because it is a kind gesture and shows character. Everyone needs and loves food so it doesn’t come across as you’re trying too hard either. If they accept, you will be forced to be together for a certain amount of time, whether they like it or not. This will ease the tensions, even if it is just small talk.



Every pair of roommates is different; while some are best friends, others can go all day without speaking and still be happy with each other. Try your best to be polite and if it gets particularly tough, just remember roommates are a temporary thing.

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About Author

Living with a housemate

Alyson Blech recently graduated with degrees in Public Relations and Media Studies, along with minors in Journalism and Art History from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. Alyson has lived in Iowa her entire life, but decided to cross the pond to gain internship experience in London, England. In her spare time she obsesses over dogs, pizza and zumba.