Lots of Freedom and a Couple of Rules – Life in a Shared Flat
Felipe Barreto (19) is from Mexico and intends to study in Munich next year. He is currently living in a shared apartment. Like 26% of German students, he shares an apartment with young people in his age group. The plus points are obvious: life in a shared apartment is not only cheaper, it’s also – mostly, anyway – more fun.
How did you live in Mexico?
In Mexico I lived with my parents in Irapuato. It is relatively unusual for young Mexicans to live alone.
And how do you live in Munich?
I am living with two women veterinary students in a shared apartment. Our apartment has about 90m². Each of us has his or her own room, but we share the kitchen, bathroom and a large living room.
How do you get along with your roommates?
Very well. The girls are open and frank with me and accept me as a Mexican. They enjoy living with a foreigner and make an effort to speak slowly. And if I don’t understand a word now and then, they correct me or explain it.
Was it like that from the start?
No, during the first weeks it was difficult to get in contact with the two girls. In Germany it takes a while for people to open up to you. They want to get to know you first.
How does living together function in your shared apartment?
We have a division of labour that changes daily. When Svenja goes shopping, I cook for everybody and Maja washes up afterwards. The next day it’s my turn to do the shopping and Maja cooks. And we have a cleaning schedule for the bathroom, which we do every three days.
What is a typical morning like in your shared flat?
There are fixed times when one can use the bathroom. Normally, I get up at 7:00 AM and eat my breakfast while the girls are using the bathroom. Each of us has his or her fixed place in our daily routine. That can be a problem if one oversleeps (laughs).
And what do you do in the evening?
In the evening we often turn up the music really loud. Or we cook dishes from our homelands for each other, we share the money for the ingredients. One of my housemates comes from Stuttgart, so I now know what spaetzle (home-made noodles) taste like.
What are the advantages of living in a shared apartment for you?
I grew up with two siblings and am not used to living alone. If I am feeling a bit down, my housemates listen to me. And vice versa, they tell me about their relationship difficulties. It’s as if we have created a new family.
What gets on your nerves in your shared apartment?
Sometimes it gets on my nerves when I come home and find the dirty dishes stacked up in the sink and it’s my turn to do the wash-up. But my housemates are very cooperatively-minded in this and now and then offer to trade turns doing the wash-up with me.
How do people your age live in Mexico?
Practically all of them live with their parents while they are studying, and seldom move to other cities. And if they do, they move in with uncles, aunts or grandparents.
So there is no apartment sharing in Mexico?
Hardly any. We Mexicans are absolutely family-oriented. In some families, the whole family lives under one roof, including Granny and Grandpa. The Germans are more independent in this respect. And in Germany, a move to another city doesn’t mean one sees one’s family less often, because public transportation is more available.
What typically German characteristics have you noticed living together with your housemates?
We don’t talk about money. For example, my housemates never talk about how much money they get from their parents each month. And politics and religion are dicey topics about which they react very sensitively if differing opinions collide in discussions. On the other hand, I have learned a lot about German politics since I’ve been living in a shared apartment.
What other things have you learned in your shared apartment?
I have learned to organise my day meaningfully and to manage money. I know now what my cost of living is, and how much I must set aside for rent and health insurance.
How are living with your family in Mexico and life in a shared apartment in Germany different?
I will always associate our house in Mexico with my family. But living in Germany above all means freedom to me: I can plan my time myself. I can come and go when I want and don’t have to be home by a certain time.
is a free-lance author and teaches German as a foreign language in Munich.
Copyright: Todo Alemán