To avoid kitchen meltdowns and drunken brawls, take our advice on dealing with the worst culprits.
Illustration: Nathaniel Quinn
Whether you’re a fresher, second year or beyond, this September is likely to be bringing an array of new rooms and new neighbours. For those in halls, welcome to a Big Brother-style situation where all walks of life are randomly selected to be incarcerated with each other for the next year. Chances are you’ll love them (which you will tell them soon after the first bottles of vodka are drunk), but the daunting possibility remains that you’ll have less in common with your enforced buddies than the Queen has with Russell Brand. Love them or loathe them, everyone has irritating shortcomings, which can make sharing a roof a diplomatic nightmare.
The secret scoffer
They proclaim innocence and are first to offer sympathy when yet another tub of ice cream has gone missing. They claim to love cheese, but strangely never buy it. Yours, however, is rapidly diminishing. You have no solid evidence… but your doubts are rising.
SOLUTION: Buy a bag of salad leaves and keep your cheddar and your choc protected by food too healthy for a peckish fresher. Alternatively, sacrifice one tub of strawberry ice cream and drizzle chilli paste over the top to catch the culprit red-mouthed.
Always exercise caution around anyone who boasts claims to “craaaziness” or lad-like qualities; this is normally subtext for an attention seeker who doesn’t know when to stop. This character can provide entertainment through Freshers’, as they start drunken flour and water fights and drink anything that hasn’t been drunk first, but by week three it’s tiresome. The third surprise soaking from a water pistol, or the fifth broken window signifies urgent need for action. As much as you love having fun, they’re driving YOU crazy, and not in the way that they think they are.
SOLUTION: Firstly, ensure you’re not overreacting. It’s Freshers’, and if other flatmates are unconcerned, adopt the ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ’em’ approach. Put an oxo cube in their showerhead or pay nightly visits to their room with a sports horn. It’s probable they’ll soon demand a truce. However, if hilarity has lost its laughs, and everyone remains paranoid about the next practical joke striking, then have a chat. Keep it simple, serious and non-confrontational; politely ask them to stop and then move on. Alternatively, fake a note from Student Residences to the flatmate in question, stating that there have been numerous complaints from ‘a neighbouring flat’ – and if the offending behaviour continues, a £100 fine or even eviction, will ensue.
A direct opposite to “The Hulk”, this poor soul has failed to grasp the realities of student life. The kitchen is plastered with notes about saucepans in wrong cupboards, or tallies of exactly how many bin bags each individual has shifted. Each morning encompasses a sit-down talk about door slamming or ‘using the toaster too loudly’ after a night out.
SOLUTION: The kitchen is never going to look like Nigella’s, and as long as washing up has been done and the chance of a salmonella outbreak is minimal, the focus should be on partying and not pans.
Try and encourage the parent to let their hair down. With a horrendous hangover, chances are that the stinking bin, or last night’s unwashed glasses won’t be their chief priority. If that fails, buy them a set of ear plugs and keep your new mum mellow by making her a cup of tea now and again (washing the cup afterwards, of course).
The dirty dish inducer
You would rather not spend your valuable time clearing up their manky meals, but after two days of drinking coffee out of a bowl and cereal with a fork, you have the choice: wash it up or starve. Their room is a museum of crusty plates lined up on the desk, and mouldy mugs stewing like a science experiment.
SOLUTION: Be honest. So often, people strive to avoid conflict rather than address problems, which can create bitching, moaning and nothing getting solved. Suggest a flat clear-up from scratch, and suggest that everyone makes an effort to keep the place habitable, rather than singling anyone out. Perhaps consider a rota – but try to avoid the temptation to turn into a prison officer or a “parent”.
The “Me, Me, Me”
This poor soul hasn’t yet grasped the concept of a conversation, preferring constant delightful anecdotes about themselves. Often starting with “well, on my gap year, I…” or “this one time, when I was drunk…”, their narcissistic ways are reducing the rest of you to grim silence.
SOLUTION: Identify the main triggers of their verbal diarrhoea, and make a conscious effort to avoid them. Gap years, boyfriends/girlfriends and alcoholic escapades are common examples. Speak to them in terms that require a yes/no answer rather than a monologue. Keep your iPod on you if you find you’re cooking at the same time as them – just be sure to nod every now and then.
Above all, give everyone a chance. If someone’s starting to really grate on you, wait a while before you stick the knife in. Everyone is anxiously trying to impress and as everything starts to settle down, it’s likely a lot of issues and behaviour will too.
The people you live with are often the people who will become friends for life. So chill, embrace people for their weirdness and try to have fun!