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Want a room in Copenhagen? You'll have to pass the audition

Want a room? Forget about hippies from the 70s - this is hipster. And though you shine on paper, it won't get you in. It won't get you in to ... the collective

A pungent stench hits Brian as he enters the kitchen in the collective, ‘Hegnet’. Just minutes before, Laura — who has been living in the palace-sized apartment (250 square meters!) in inner Nørrebro for the past year and a half — had opened the fridge and pulled out an Old Odin: a cheese with a smell so penetrating, it makes an entrance all on its own.

But Brian probably doesn’t notice. He is here as one of ten people auditioning for the free room coming up in July. The room, about 16 square meters with a large closet, comes with a living room fit for a ball, a kitchen that could host an Italian family, and a restroom large enough for a member of Real Life Housewives.

Collectives are becoming more of a lifestyle-choice than a practical housing concept. The modern version of a collective is usually a group of well-educated and culturally openminded people – mostly in the age of 20-35. They usually share large apartments like a family, sharing costs but more importantly day-to-day life.

This collective comes with five other residents – Lasse, Claudia, Laura, Agnete and Villads – and five sets of high demands. They are looking for a new roommate to take over Nick’s duties: not only as roommate but as a friend for party times, confidant for quiet times and everything in between.

From morning coffee to new years champagne

“You all seem like very nice people,” Brian says. “Do you hang out together a lot?”

They do, explains Laura. “Say Agnethe has friends over, unless it’s super-romantic, they will probably hang out in the kitchen and whoever else is home at that time will join”. That the daily affairs take place outside the privacy of the residents’ rooms is self-evident for everyone who lives in Hegnet.

“We mix friends a lot”, a voice adds. And the same time another insists: “And we do a lot of stuff together, cultural stuff, we go places together, we play football together every Monday, we watch TV and hangout in the mornings for coffee if it’s possible”. “We even travelled together” a third voice adds.

Some of the residents have been living together since the collective was established by three of the remaining members four years ago. They share the weekday’s rush and holiday’s happy times, they celebrate birthdays and special occasions and chill in communal boredom on quiet weekends.

Why I’m hot

Time is up for Brian. The guest cup is quickly washed as Brian is walked out and the next candidate is welcomed. The cup – half the size of regular cups – is a strategic choice. “That way it doesn’t get awkward in the end, when people have to leave but didn’t have time to finish their tea” reveals Claudia.

Esben is on and the residents are getting more effective.
“Why do you want to live in a collective?” shoots Claudia, her face in folding in ponderous reflection.

“Well”, he starts, “I just graduated recently and I have been living in a dormitory throughout my time as a student. This just seems like a great opportunity right now” he explains.

As Esben states numerous reasons why he finds it appealing to live in a collective, the door bell rings. “Shit”, says Laura. “That’s probably … Sebastian … who was supposed to be here earlier. This is so awkward”.

Agnethe rushes to greet him.

The remaining residents move towards closure. Esben speedily sums up all his hobbies, “I spend too much money on music, I play a lot of sports, any sports, I do the stuff most people do, you know, hang out with my friends, drink beers, cook food and so on”, using the last valuable seconds to plant a memorable impression and sow seeds for future friendships.

Finding Mr. Right

So far, auditioning in Hegnet seems to be a daunting task. Claudia, an anthropologist specialized in asking questions and analyzing answers, wants to know : “Why do you want to live in a collective?”

This is not multiple choice. Saying that the room is cheap, location great, furnishings are nice and oh, you don’t have a place right now so you are basically desperate – however honest, will not get you far.

Laura, a medical student/jazz-lover wants people to show interest in them. “They should ask us some questions too”. And Claudia adds: “We want someone to interact with, someone who inspires us but also someone who we can be an inspiration to”.

The residents got a lot of applications when calling for a new roommate. Many of them wrote how and why it would be convenient for them to live in Hegnet right now. “Many people are just looking for any place to stay”, Laura says, revealing that living in Hegnet is much more than getting a roof over your head.

Not just now

The residents are not bound together by hippie-ideology or financial scarcity. In fact, for most, living in Hegnet is more expensive than many other places.

“When you tell people you live in a collective, a lot of them automatically think mandatory, communal dining, dumpster diving, a lot of lentils, feminism, lots of parties and less structure and order. Many people also assume we live together because we are broke” Agnethe says about people’s perception on collectives.

But in Hegnet, the real driving force are the people living in it and a desire to share life as it is on a day to day basis.

“What binds us together is that we want to share day to day life with each other. And we have chosen out each other for that” explains Claudia.

Lasse is one of the founders: “I think I would always like to live this way. The collective can change, develop into different forms. But I really like living with other people like this”.

Could he be the one?

Kasper is up. He and Agnethe know each other from Tanzania. “We did a lot of fun stuff together”, she smiles, as she introduces him to the rest of the residents.

Kasper is living in a dormitory as well, however looking to escape it for different reasons than Esben. “I have lived there for quite long but most people that moved in at the same time as I did, are moving or have already moved out”, he tells them.

As he explains to the residents how he longs for a more homey feel when he returns after a long day in school or at work – the feeling you get when coming home to a family. That thi is the motivation behind him appliying to Hegnet, the atmosphere seems to change. Hearts are melting.

The late-evening low energy levels suddenly increase and residents pour curious questions on Kasper. Could he be the one?

It’s in the yes

Now a short time for thought starts, as Kasper says goodbye and leaves. The residents plan to make a decision and inform the right candidate sometime the next day.

The group will discuss all ten candidates they have interviewed over two days.
“When it all comes down to it, it is really a matter of chemistry”, Claudia says.

“And when you call them up and offer them the room, that’s when you can hear it. If you got the right one. It’s in the yes.”

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