Roommates at any stage in the game come with their own unique set of intricacies and complications. In college, I always lived with at least one other person, and the whole acclimation process, however necessary, was more often than not filled with a few hits and misses. After four years at an American university, I thought I was completely ready to rock up and beast the whole shared housing scene in Spain. Little did I know, cultural context played a much bigger role than I imagined. Although this isn't a "one size fits all" solution to roommates, these tips could prove helpful when navigating unfamiliar territory with your new Spanish flat mates!
Always Say Hello
There were times, especially during finals, that I barely even saw my roommates let alone spoke to them. There was this unspoken rule that not all roommates were friends, although if they were, even better! Sharing a flat after the age of 22 was not in my original plans, but neither was moving to Europe. I assumed that "adult" roommates co-habitated-- you know, move easily and effortlessly like two trains on separate tracks. Paying rent, keeping the common areas tidy, and the noise at a minimum were my priorities: pleasantries were the last thing on my mind. Cue cultural differences! Always say 'hello' or 'see you later' and ask at least one question, no matter how much of a rush you're in. I lived with a group of girls for a year, and they complained that I didn't say 'goodbye' when I left the flat and as a result, they assumed that I didn't like them! That wasn't true at all, I was usually listening to headphones and spaced out! Buen rollo (good vibes) is all Spanish roommates want, and qué tal and hasta luego are the foundation. Also, keep your door open too. (Speaking from experience).
Don't Be Petty
This may seem obvious, but American petty is different than Spanish petty. There were several occasions where I found myself a bit discombobulated at the actions of my Spanish roommates. For example, one roommate decided we needed new pots and pans, so she went out, bought a set, and then hung the receipt on the fridge asking us to split the cost. I liked the old pans! I didn't choose the new pans! But, I was in the minority, so I ended up paying to keep the peace. That was a tough petty pill to swallow. There's a much more communal vibe in Spain, meanwhile we write our names on yogurt cups to let our roommates know that it's completely off limits. Pay attention to the vibe in your flat. If one person comes home one day with detergent, toilet paper, and cleaning things for the common spaces, just know that your turn is coming, so leave the petty at the door!
A Full House is a Happy House
I mean full in two contexts here. Expect your house to be full of your Spanish roommate's friends and or family. Friday, Saturday and Sunday (and some times Thursday) are anything-goes. This is why having good, friendly vibes in the flat is so important. Do you really want to spend your Friday evening in your room with the door closed brooding over the laughter and bottles popping? That's one definition of a full house. The other is more literal: eat together. I got so many strange looks from my roommates because I ate in my bedroom even though we had a dining room table. Meanwhile, my other flat mates put on fancy spreads, and ate together. In retrospect, I could've easily eaten in the living room with them, but alas, Scandal was calling. #Priorities
I will also say that I'm an introvert, and an only child, and most days I simply can't be bothered being social. So if the above tips are glaringly obvious, oopsy, I learned the hard way. On the other hand, I think there's something to be said about the cultural context of living in Spain with flat mates. When you move into a house with strangers in a foreign country and speak a foreign tongue, there are bound to be moments of "WTF", but keep in mind that the awkwardness hopefully won't last forever. If all else fails, make them pancakes as a peace offering. That always works!
Tell us about your experience with roommates in Spain below!
Danni, Community + Content Director at Las Morenas de España, is a twenty-something, Chicago native currently residing in Madrid. Lover of language, words, and travel, she's managed to combine all of her passions through her work. In her free time, you can find her exploring the winding streets of Madrid, hunting down good flight deals, planning her next adventure and writing & researching for LMDES. Danni loves spicy food, natural hair, music and of course, her wonderful husband. If you need to find her, she’s the girl with huge hair and her face buried in her Kindle.