The Loneliness of Flat Sharing in London

One of my friends lives in Bermondsey and I visit him occasionally round on his ‘flat-sharing journey’.

I don’t know if it is a ‘London thing’, but people who share houses do not want speak to each other, other than to say a weak ‘Good Morning’, talk about rent, the rota to tidy the house, talk banally about work, discuss getting stuff for the garden or to communicate by passive aggressive notes scribbled on the communal table. There is no other variation. I have had this ‘conversation’ a million times.

You would think that you would learn new things from other flatmates, learn about the area you have moved in, maybe be taken out to somewhere local, have some friendship perhaps. Have some laughs would be nice. I suppose one reason why conversations are so fake, is that there are often no communal living rooms any more, and people just watch TV or do stuff in their rooms.

I had an experience recently, when a flatmate that I say a Good Morning to, didn’t even say anything to me whilst I was in a communal area, as ‘if I was not there’. Automatically I thought I had done something or he hated me!

When I travelled round the world, particularly in Australia, if we were congregating round the kitchen, we generally would speak, make new friendships, learn about the town we were in, and that sort of thing. It was like a ‘family away from family’. And in America, we would talk too. But no, we’re in Britain, and we have to be cold and unfriendly.

Now, I can understand a ‘neighbour-like’ experience when you live in the same tower block, and share communal stairways and live very privately, you have a kind of ‘distance’, but when you are in a rented flat, and you share bathrooms and kitchens, which is more ‘intimate’, one would expect a more friendlier, homelier feel.

In my experience, the lack of conversation is particularly noticeable when you get couples sharing a flat. Couples will appear to pretend the other couple is not there. Maybe it is a case of one person may be inclined to ‘fancy another flatmate’ which could be a problem to someone. Of course, in most cases, the couple in question is very happy as they are.

You could think perhaps that some couples, as often they share similar hobbies perhaps, could go out on a foursome round London and do something together, make lasting friendships. But no, in London, couples appear to refuse to mix with other flatmates. It feels like they want all the house to themselves, and we are a nuisance.

So, in this flat, we have this kind of ‘superficial relationship’, the ‘superficial hellos’ and the lack of real conversation. It is not just lonely, it just feels unnatural and inhuman. For people in a flat on their own, with other couples, it can get very lonely and/or boring. Many of us are far away from our own family and friends too. I tend to get on better with single people in flats, rather than couples, who seem to be locked in some kind of narrow ‘couple zone’.

And of course, when flatmates go, they never even leave any contact details. You are just nothing to them. The place they live in, is not a home, it is just a ‘base’, and that is it.

Maybe this is yet another British thing, that it is ‘not done’ to mix with other flatmates, even if you have loads in common. Right now, I don’t want to go back in the kitchen and have yet another ‘fake’ experience. I wonder what other cultures think about this behaviour.