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8 Lessons Learned from Living With Strangers

Rooming with someone you don't know can be scary, but the experience will likely be rewarding. Keep an open mind and an optimistic attitude and pick the right person, and your lease will go by quickly.
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While moving in with your bestie sounds like the most amazing living situation you can imagine, you may not get the "Friends" lifestyle you pictured. From moving out of town to having friends who live with their significant others, certain events might not allow you the opportunity to share an apartment with your friends.

However, that doesn't mean the next year is going to be a bad one. Living with strangers can be good, as long as you're careful. College kids do it all the time!

As you scour the Internet for strangers to move in with, check out these lessons learned from rooming with someone you don't know:

1. It's Like a Blind Date

Moving in with strangers can feel like a blind date. You don't know them. They don't know you: Everyone feels a little awkward and unsure. So what do you do on a blind date? Get to know each other! You can do this by conducting an interview. Consider making it casual by getting coffee with your potential roomie, then follow these tips:

2. Interviewing is a Must

Just because someone's "roommate wanted" ad looks nice and has good grammar doesn't mean the two of you will get along. Before you lock yourself into a year-long living arrangement with this person, get to know them as best as possible. That means conducting an interview.

Prepare ahead of time by writing down a list of questions regarding lifestyle, expectations, employment status, etc. Basically, you want to learn whether this stranger will pay rent and utilities and be a good match. For instance, you may include some of these questions:

  • When do you go to sleep most days?
  • What hours do you work?
  • How long have you had your job?
  • Do you like to have friends over and how often?
  • Do you have pets?

Ask these questions in person or on the phone-- getting a sense of tone is difficult in an email. Be as thorough as possible and answer your questions as well.

3. Share Expectations Before Hand

In your interview, your potential roommate shouldn't be the only one sharing. Tell the person what you expect and want from a roommate. For instance, you could say "I expect you to pay rent on time and do half of the chores" and "I want to have a quiet space where I can focus on my work."

Telling the other person what you need from a roommate gives him or her a chance to back out. While you have to consider if this person is a good fit for you, they have to discover whether you're a smart match for them. Going over expectations upfront also prevents situations where you're scrubbing your roommate's dishes all night while they have friends over.

4. Set Ground Rules

If you and a stranger do share an apartment, turn those expectations into ground rules. These can be things like taking out the trash when the bin is full and washing dishes after you eat a meal. Talk over the rules you want to use so you can both compromise and find a list that you feel comfortable upholding.

With rules come consequences. Decide what will happen if someone doesn't do their chores or fails to cover their portion of the utilities. That individual could take on extra chores, for instance.

5. Doing Stuff Together Can be Fun

Once you've settled into your new apartment with a stranger, you might be tempted to avoid the person. You have your own friends and life, so why add another person to the mix? In actuality, you could be living with your future best friend.

Invite your roommate out when you go to the bar with your friends. Or, see if they want to watch a movie with you. Simple gestures like these can help break the ice and establish a friendship (or at least acquaintanceship) with your new roomie.

If he or she always seems to say "no," there's nothing you can do, the ball is in their court.

6. Be Optimistic

While the world is full of some crazy people, most are incredibly nice, interesting and easy to get along with. Chances are, the stranger you live with will fall into the latter category. Maintain a positive attitude as you interview and when you move in, and let that fuel your behavior.

Of course, being somewhat skeptical is a good thing, as it will help you discern the good and bad roomie options. Try to find a balance between your creep radar and excited optimism.

7. The Golden Rule is Golden for a Reason

Do unto the stranger in your apartment as you would have him or her do unto you. That means paying your rent on time, doing your chores, observing your household rules, and being friendly. If you're a jerk, your roommate will return the favor. If, on the other hand, you're a lovely human being who reaches out and includes your roommate, that person will likely extend the kindness.

8. Be Open, You'll be Glad You Were

Living with strangers might be a new and nerve-wracking experience, but you can learn a lot from it. Everyone has a unique story and point of view, and you can gain insight from that. Try new things with your roommate and get the most possible out of your living situation.

Rooming with someone you don't know can be scary, but the experience will likely be rewarding. Keep an open mind and an optimistic attitude and pick the right person, and your lease will go by quickly.