1. Accept that conflict is inevitable
Conflict in the Spanish Apartment is to be expected. Given our diverse personalities, there will always be something that annoys someone else. It could be noise levels, tidiness, time spent in the bathroom, the list goes on.
Imagine the situation: You have one person that’s very sensitive to noise, another that likes to blast Spanish music in the morning, another that is a totally inconsiderate when it comes to personal property, another who is jabbering away on a webcam in a language you cannot understand, and another who is a slob.
Add to that the fact that we are all classmates in the Masters Program in Arts & Cultural Management, and are therefore in each other’s company for extended periods of time. Things could regress to levels akin to cabin fever more quickly than usual, and where absence makes the heart grow fonder, familiarity breeds contempt.
Seeing that this is the case, it is good to see things realistically. As much as we try to tiptoe around each other, or give each other space, conflict is a part of life, and anticipating it can minimise its effects.
2. Set some Ground Rules
We all have different ways of expressing or repressing our displeasure. I, for one, have a tendency to aggravate conflict situations instead of defusing them. It is something I’ve worked on a lot and have now downgraded this tendency to passive-aggressiveness.
But still, knowing that conflict is a part of life, it is important to have some tools with which we can address issues and resolve differences amicably.
Awat, the unofficial matriarch, bought a notebook where we can keep track of household expenses and also, as a space where everyone can write down their thoughts, feelings, or anything that’s bothering them. It’s basically a real-life facebook.
We have had one ‘house meeting’ where we discussed the rent, how the costs and chores for maintaining the flat will be divided and so on. There’s shared expenses such as Internet, cleaning products, utilities that have to be accounted for and paid off every month.
TIP: Always get things down on paper or documented through email or a message thread so that you can refer back to it in the future.
With five people sharing one kitchen, space becomes precious and we’ve had to divide up the real estate in the cupboards and the refrigerator.
There’s a dishwasher, washing machine, and clothesline which are easy enough to share, and then there’s the television. So far there haven’t been any fights over the remote, and we’ve all been open to watching each other’s films every now and then. And since all the channels are in Spanish, we rarely switch it on.
And finally and most importantly,
3. Respect One Another
One thing I admire about my housemates is that they are all very brave. It takes courage to leave the comfort of one’s home, of one’s family, of the familiar, and to trust complete strangers. As humans we all try to have some degree of control over our lives, and after living on my own, I appreciated this freedom even more. It is very liberating, once you get the hang of having to sort out the basics of cooking and cleaning. Living with others, however, entails responsibility. And the responsibility includes looking out for each other, respecting each other’s property, privacy, and most importantly, each other’s differences.
I like to think of the Spanish Apartment as a microcosm of the world. As part of our course in Arts & Cultural Management we are tasked with coming up with policies that would address cultural issues like minority languages, integration, sustainable tourism, and more. Living with people from different continents would be an excellent way to practice cultural management, along with diplomacy and international relations.
If we are able to live together harmoniously, then it proves that so can the rest of the world.
This, however, remains to be seen.