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Doing time with strangers - Student housing in Copenhagen

Six international students face each other down over the bathroom, kitchen and cleaning

(Editor’s note: Here is our 2014-updated Guide to housing in Copenhagen)

You apply for student housing in Copenhagen. You wait. Then one day you get the e-mail about the flat and room that you will spend the six months of your life in.

Catherine Hepp was in Vancouver when she got the e-mail. Immediately, she thought to herself with optimism, »somewhere out there in the world there are five people that I am going to be living with«.

Across the Atlantic in Iceland, Hrefna Palsdottir, received the same e-mail.

»My friends told me there is definitely going to be someone I like and someone I really hate.«

Breaking the silence

At 08:00 on a Saturday, at a shared flat on the Faculty of Life Science campus in Frederiksberg, powerful operatic notes break the morning silence. A melody, originating from the bathroom, fills every corner of the six-bedroom flat.

»Do you realize that everyone is sleeping!« shouts Anna Santorska, a Polish exchange student, whose bedroom is unfortunately located across from the bathroom.

She steps into the hallway, disgruntled, still drunk from last night’s party.

Bryan Gonzales, a student from the Philippines, is known to sing loudly in the shower. In fact, he is known to take 25-minute showers while his roommates anxiously wait their turn.

»In the morning I have to pee, but the bathroom is occupied by a singing Bryan,« says another flatmate, Mindy Danial, from the Netherlands.

»I always wonder what he is doing in there. He keeps turning the water on and off… and the singing!« adds Santorska, frustrated with Gonzales’ strange behaviour.

Gonzales defends his hair washing regimen. According to him, a good hair wash requires a waiting period of several minutes.

But not everyone cares about the correct hydration of Gonzales’ wavy black hair. As a result of his showering escapades Catherine, from Canada, started to wake up at 06:00. Now, she has resorted to showering in the evenings to avoid the bathroom bottleneck.

Used to everything

Hygiene customs and cleaning standards are apparently a theme that keeps cropping up.

»When we first arrived the place was so dirty. There was a lot of grease and stuff all over the place. It stunk!« complains Catherine.

According to their Dutch roommate, Mindy Danial, a strange musty smell of old age pension home and cabbage still lingers.

»Anya cleans better than all of us. Everyone else has a lower cleaning standard,« chuckles Gonzales.

Later, in the tiny kitchen, Danial and Hepp argue over the recycling. In the opinion of Danial, the system is too difficult to figure out. She gives up and leaves. Raju Poduttori, from India, comes to the rescue. He rolls up his sleeves, and tediously helps Hepp sort the paper from the plastic.

For Poduttori, living in a confined space is nothing new. He shared a room with two other people, within a 300-person residence in Hyderabad, India.

»I am shock resistant. If I see something strange, or if something goes wrong, I am not sad about it« exclaims Podduturi.

He is the quietest of the roommates, and his demeanour is noted, maybe earning a secret respect.

»Raju is always the silent one. Maybe he secretly hates us!« jokes the Canadian.

Fundamentalists and meat eaters

The six international students share a narrow kitchen. This is the source of daily conflict, as each student clamours for utensils and space.

»At first we all would come in at 18:00 to make and have dinner together, but now everyone eats dinner at different times,« remarks Hepp, who once had to make her dinner on the windowsill.

The flat is divided when it comes to food: Half eat meat, and the others are vegetarians, Santorska adds.

Or maybe not.

»Hey wait a second! What was in your sandwich today?« accuses Hepp as her Polish flatmate places layers of meat between two slices of bread earlier in the day.

Apparently Santorska’s boyfriend, a hunter, was visiting for the weekend and brought some of his bounty from a recent expedition to Poland to share.

»She’s a fake!« shouts Hepp, a jihadist vegetarian, and pointing her finger at the accused.

Dealing with it

Calmed down, and now sipping tea in the living room, Hepp claims that she deals with roommate conflict by addressing it right away.

Gonzales from his seat on the couch, then suddenly lightens up as he realises a striking cultural difference.

»You white people are good at that. If you go to Asia people don’t say anything! We’re too polite«.

It nears 23:30. In the corner of the room Poduttori remains silent. Santorska sprints from the room, yelling something in Polish at her boyfriend cooking in the kitchen. Danial, Palsdottir and Hepp argue over an action plan to avoid the shower queue. And Gonzales sits smugly, thinking of the next ballad to belt out while he conditions his hair in the early morning.

Also check out our article on Collective living in Copenhagen.

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