this week, i thought we'd take a break from our guest posts, but still give you a little bit more information on living in singapore. for many filipinos here, the concept of living with other people in one flat is normal. because of the high rental rates here, it's rare for a pinoy to live on his own unit. you will live with about two or more other people in a flat during your stay here. you're lucky if your flatmates (or housemates) are people you know already, but there may come a time that you will live with total strangers, who will eventually turn out to be good friends or the bane of your existence.
in the more than seven years of my stay, here are some useful tips on living with housemates here in singapore:
1) respect the due date of your bills -- so the way it works is all of you in the house have a share in the rent, the utilities and the cable/internet subscription. it's really simple: if you don't pay your share of the bill, either all of you will be late in paying the bill, or your housemates will have to shoulder your share. you cannot be late in flat rental payments, because that's a contract with the flat owner (he can choose to evict all of you). and as for the utilities, well, you don't really want water and electricity to be cut off, do you? don't burden and inconvenience your housemates, it just makes for a lot of tension in the house.
2) agree on the system of bill-sharing, but don't obsess and count every cent -- i've talked to a lot of people here who have different ways of splitting the utilities bill. the easiest (and most common) is to just divide it by the number of people in the house. others compute it by the number of days you're in the flat, ie. if you're not there, they deduct a certain amount. and the silliest i've heard so far is someone wanting to count the per-kilowatt-hour charge of each appliance, and then counting each person's usage. seriously, with the stress at work, do you really want to spend any more time discussing utilities? whatever system you agree on, just make sure everyone agrees with it.
3) keep the common areas clean -- you don't have a maid to clean up after you here in SG. so if you don't know how to clean the kitchen after you cook, or if you don't know how to clear and wipe the dining table after you eat, may i suggest simply ordering from McDonald's, or eat at the nearest hawker center? and yes, that goes for the bathroom too. just clean up after yourself and sometimes, if you're already cleaning your room, why not clean the living room too (at least once a month, maybe). remember, even if you don't see dust and germs, it's there and it's going to make you and your housemates sick.
4) if you're having a party, be nice and inform your housemates -- if you and your housemates are not yet friends, most of them will make the effort to either stay in their room or go out of the flat for the duration of your party, if you tell them in advance. if they stay in their room, keep the noise down, your housemate may be resting. and try not to party all the way till morning.
5) if you're leaving, notify them early and help find a replacement-- technically, if you're leaving the and you did not sign the lease contract, you're not required to find someone to take your place in the flat. but for goodwill (and especially if you're leaving before your rental contract ends), help your housemates by finding a replacement. post in your personal group mails, advertise, etc. don't be a b*tch or a d*uche by leaving your housemates in the lurch.
6) respect the refrigerator space -- the refrigerator is common storage for everyone. don't go all out in your grocery shopping spree at giant or cold storage, and stash everything in there. chances are, most of the stuff you buy, you will only use once (i have thrown out so many expired milk, bread, jams, eggs, hotdogs, etc. when i cleaned the ref in the flats i stayed in). and if you're putting in leftover dishes, please throw them out after a day or two, if you're not going to eat it anymore (i have seen some containers with moldy food inside many times!).
7) respect your housemate's privacy and property -- if your housemate's room door is closed, please knock before opening it, seriously this is common etiquette that people forget a lot of times. and please never ever open their mail, their bags, or whatever they own, without asking for permission! and by the way, if you have a kick ass entertainment system inside your room, be conscious of the noise level. not everyone wants to hear guns and bombs going off whenever you watch your illegally-downloaded-action movies.
8) have a visitor coming? let your housemates know -- it's common for you to have your friends or family visit you here in singapore. all you have to do is to let your housemates know. most of them are fine with it. but please limit the number of your visitors. if your entire family of say, six people are coming over, maybe get them into one of those budget hotels? if you're not occupying the master's bedroom (which usually comes with its' own toilet and bath), that's a lot of people who are going to use the common bathroom. that's an inconvenience to your housemate who needs to get to work by 9 AM. he/she should not have to wait for your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, your tita and tito to finish using the bathroom that morning because they need to get to universal studios when it opens its gates. and please, if you let your visitor/s stay a whole month, consider adding your visitors to the headcount for the utilities share for that month (see #2).
9) get to know your housemates -- some rental contracts last two years, maybe even more. that should give you enough time to talk to your housemates, and get to know them a little bit. who knows, they may eventually become your good friends. you already have a common ground -- you're both in a foreign place. start with that, and you may find you have a lot more to talk about.
10) if you're leaving, make sure to have ALL your bills and correspondence addressed to where you're going. it is really a hassle for your housemates to have to contact you every time they get your bill and your mails. be conscientious and responsible enough to contact your card companies, your magazine subscriptions, etc to have your address changed. please note that some housemates will just opt to put your mails in the "return" mailbox, and not contact you at all. so if you're wondering why you haven't received your bill yet, you only have yourself to blame.
there you have it, my top 10 tips for harmonious living with housemates in singapore. just follow common sense and courtesy, be conscientious and CLEAN, your housemates will want to live with you for a long time.
if you've lived with housemates, do you have any tips to add? please share!