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How to deal with difficult flatmates while at university

Midrange housing isn't in shortage in the UK...unless you want to study in London. Source: Shutterstock

Open up any university prospectus, watch any US college film or talk to anyone who’s lived on campus, and you’ll likely be told the familiar tale of how soul mate friendships formed.

Sunday brunches, weekday movie marathons and hanging out in each other’s rooms are considered a key part of student accommodation, and while its great if it works out this way, there are sometimes hiccups that get in the way.

The likelihood you’ll click with everyone in your flat is pretty slim when you think about it. Being around people from other cultures and countries all the time can be pretty intense, and sometimes personality traits or habits can clash when you live together.

From the messy kitchen dweller to the one who always has their other half staying over, there are some situations you don’t have to deal with until you live with them. If you’re finding it hard to know what to do in these times, the information below could really help you out…

The one who never washes their dishes

The issue: Probably the most common type of annoying flatmate, this person never washes their dishes. Ever. This either means the kitchen is into total disarray 24/7 or the responsibility is passed to those who actually care to clean up their mess. Those who do the chores often feel under appreciated, while the non-washer-upper continues their happy existence as if nothing’s wrong.

Sound familiar…? Source: Giphy

How most people deal with this: Most people take the passive-aggressive route of either washing up in silence and getting more and more frustrated, or going on washing up strike and allowing the kitchen filth to build up. While it can be awkward to confront the situation head-on, reacting in a passive-aggressive manner will only lead to more frustration rather than resolution

How you should deal with this: It’s important to remember the person who doesn’t wash up their dishes either doesn’t mind the kitchen being messy or doesn’t realise how annoying this is. You should first speak to the person in question and calmly explain to them why it’s so annoying.

It could be that they honestly don’t realise how frustrating it is for the rest of their flatmates – and leaving rude WhatsApp messages in the group chat isn’t going to change this fact. Offer to share the responsibility of washing up (even though you already do this) and create a chores rota to encourage a harmonious living environment.

The one who always has their partner around

The issue: While it’s great your flatmate has found happiness, it’s not so great their happiness eats the food in your fridge, uses up all the hot water before your morning lectures and never says thanks for your hospitality. You’ve basically acquired another flatmate in an already small student flat.

Sounds about right. Source: Giphy

How most people deal with this: It’s tempting not to say anything in this situation, as you don’t want to look bitter or jealous of your flatmate’s relationship. Your flatmate is probably so smitten they don’t realise how annoying it is for the rest of you, making it even harder to approach the situation.

How you should deal with this: You’re all paying rent to share the flat so you all have an equal right to voice your opinion. It can be a difficult topic to approach, but if you calmly explain how it genuinely affects you, you should be able to implement some boundaries. “It’s annoying they’re here” isn’t a good argument – but “I can’t have a hot shower because we have an extra person using the water in the morning every day” is.

The bedroom DJ

The issue: Whether they’re super passionate about music or just lack self-awareness, this flatmate is continuously blasting tunes out of their bedroom.

They might be playing for themselves on a weekday afternoon, having a few friends round after a night out or hosting a full-blown party without asking anyone else if it’s OK. There’s no consideration for those who need an early night or have studying to do, and they can’t even hear your yells telling them to turn it down.

How most people deal with this: A war of noise. Playing your music even louder, slamming doors and yelling to turn it down are common tactics for dealing with the bedroom DJ. However, if they play loud music, they’re unlikely to care if others do the same, and they may not even hear it over their own party.

Your flatmate should really leave the partying to these guys. Source: Giphy

How you should deal with this: A text message is an effective counter for this flatmate. They’re unlikely to hear you shouting through the door, and you can communicate why you want the music to be turned down over a clear message.

You have a deadline next week, an early work shift or a nasty hangover, so some peace and quiet would be appreciated. Your flatmate is likely using their phone to play music so there’s a good chance they’ll see your message. If they continue to ignore you, you might have to go for the direct approach and visit their room – if they don’t have the manners to reply, it might be your only hope.

The one who is judgemental

The issue: When you live with someone, you share a lot of your life with them. They see you when you’re usually switched off to the world and witness your highs and lows. From puking after a night out to ugly crying over a breakup, your flatmates often see it all. This can create an everlasting bond, but if you live with a judgemental person, it can create unnecessary tension and impact your ability to be your true self.

How most people deal with this: It can be hard to approach this situation because if someone is judgemental, they’re likely to judge your reaction, too. Most people continue living with this person without confronting the issue, which can really impact your mental well-being after a while.

If you’re getting a lot of looks like this, it might be time to say something. Source: Giphy

How you should deal with this: It’s helpful to try and understand why your flatmate is judgemental. Maybe they feel insecure, come from a conservative culture or are concerned about your behaviour. They may want to help you but are showing it in a problematic way. If you can understand the way your flatmate is acting, you can discuss with them how it makes you feel and find a solution that works for you both.

The clingy one

The issue: So you’ve finally found freedom in your student life, you’re living away from home and are ready to make new friends. But then there’s the fact that you’ve grown a new limb in the form of a flatmate…

Everything you say and everywhere you go seems to be accompanied by “me too!” or “I’ll come!” While it’s nice to have a buddy when you arrive in a new place, it can easily get too much if what you want is independence.

If only your clingy flatmate was as cute as this koala. Source: Giphy

How most people deal with this: It can be tricky to confront this situation out of fear of hurting your new friend’s feelings. They’re probably clingy because of insecurities so telling them to back off could make this worse.

Most people just go along with the situation until they eventually crack in a sudden outburst or a drunken rant. This can potentially ruin the friendship forever and even have a ripple effect among the rest of your flatmates.

How you should deal with this: You need to do what’s best for you. Studying abroad represents a chance to truly be yourself and find friends who inspire you to improve. This can be hard when you have a sidekick who follows you everywhere.

Create some distance for yourself by leaving the flat without declaring it to the others and signing up for activities that interest you. You’re not obliged to go to that nightclub just because your flatmates are going!

The clique-y one

The issue: Opposite to the clingy one, the clique-y one purposefully leaves you out of the flat dynamic. This could be because of your different interests, culture or no reason whatsoever. It can be really hard living with someone like this as you feel like a stranger in your own home for no apparent reason.

How most people deal with this: It’s easy to blame yourself in this situation and assume you’ve done something wrong. This can lead you to isolate yourself further to avoid feelings of inadequacy. While hiding in your room is a short-term solution to ease anxiety, in the long run, it’ll likely make things worse when you eventually need to socialise with your flatmates.

Embrace that independence. Source: Giphy

How you should deal with this: The best way to deal with this situation is to find other friends who accept you for who you are. You’ve just arrived at a university full of other students also looking to make friends, so why bother with people who don’t show you respect?

From cultural societies where you can meet people with similar backgrounds to interest groups where you can make new friends, there are plenty of opportunities to meet people outside of your flat. Trying to make your flatmates be your friend will likely push them away further, so why bother when you can turn your attention elsewhere.

Starting university can be challenging and finding the right accommodation can be hard. If you’re unsure which accommodation to choose, take our quiz to find out which suits you best and check out our accommodation Help & Advice section for answers to all your queries.

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