Saturday, January 22, 2011

Open letter to my flatmate


I know that being a overseas student, your English is not the best. So I just want to clarify if there has been some linguistic or cultural misunderstanding between you and I around the definition of "flatmate".

Webster's Dictionary defines flatmate as "someone who shares an apartment with a person." It is seemingly different to what you think it is, which is closer to the definition of servant, or "one who labors or exerts himself for the benefit of another, his master or employer", with the master/employer in this case being yourself. Confusing I know. But that money that you belatedly pay me every month is rent. It's a different thing entirely from the monthly salary that you would pay to a butler. As you are aware, I already have a job, so being someone's butler is not convenient for me in terms of my schedule, as well as incommensurate with my academic qualifications.

The upshot of this is that in our financial arrangement (in which you pay me money in exchange for having a place to live), there is an expectation that you actually have to clean up after yourself. This is a fairly broad concept, but it includes such activities as washing dishes that you have used, and wiping up any drinks you spill on the table. It also includes not leaving pubic hairs and nail clippings all over the bathroom, or little spots of urine on the toilet floor. People who visit my house are a bit precious with those sorts of things, and for some reason don't really enjoy seeing them.

On top of that, it is generally considered good form to do housework once in a while in order to maintain general cleanliness. Now I know you may be confused about what housework is, since you've apparently never actually done it, but this should clarify things for you. You know when you've seen me pushing around that loud machine which sucks things off the carpet? That's called vaccuming, and it's a form of housework, like when I scrub the mould out of the bathroom. Contrary to what you might think, I don't actually do those things because they are hugely enjoyable to me.

Of course, I understand you're busy. Playing computer games for a whole day is a demanding pastime, and someone's gotta do it; it's not like the games are going to play themselves.

Oh, and another matter: your room. I don't know if you've noticed, but it has acquired a distinct fragrance which it didn't previously have when either of my previous flatmates were staying there. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what the smell is, but my closest approximation is that it smells like a homeless person. Now, I have nothing against the homeless. They are generally good people, and I appreciate that the reason they sometimes smell a bit is because they don't have much access to clean running water, not to mention shampoo, soap and exfoliating scrub. But here's the thing: you have a home. If you have a home, and yet your room still smells like a homeless person, I can only come to one of two conclusions. Either (A) you have filthy personal habits, or (B) you are secretly co-habiting with a homeless person without my knowledge.

I'm leaning towards (A) at the moment. But if it's (B), well I appreciate the charitable sentiment, but you need to let me know so I can add his name to the rental agreement.

Compare and contrast my room. Now I'm well aware that my bed is covered in clothes and there is various junk on my floor. But here's a difference: it doesn't stink. If it does start to get a bit whiffy, I open the windows, blow a fan, light some incense, and surprisingly enough, the smell goes away. I do this because of my personal belief that a residence's value is reduced, rather than improved, by having a repugnant odour. I'm surprised they didn't teach you that in the Bachelor of Property and Real Estate that you are currently studying. If you want an empirical indication of how much your room smells, try this: I can be on the other side of the house, and I can tell when you've opened your bedroom door. Not by sound, but by having the misfortune to inhale the odour that lurks within.

Speaking of smells, when using the toilet, there are a few things it would be good for you to know. Firstly, while you may like the smell of your own faeces, it's unlikely that most other people would share that opinion. I don't mind my own, but I don't assume that you want to smell mine. And for the record, I don't wish to smell yours. So to deal with this issue, centuries of scholarly wisdom have shown us two simple ways to limit the smell of said faeces after you are finished defecating and wiping. Firstly, close the lid. Yes, there is actually a lid on the toilet - you know that thing that you lift up before you go? Yeah that. By closing it, it actually reduces the amount of fecal odour emanating from the toilet bowl. I'm not exactly sure how the science works - I'm no physicist - but just take my word for it. Secondly, closing the door as you leave the toilet also helps, for much the same reasons.

Since my bedroom door is less than 3 paces from the toilet door, I would find it beneficial if you adopted these strategies. I'd settle for even one of them. Even just once would be a start.

In addition, regarding the concoction of frozen seafood, tom yum paste, fish sauce and vinegar that you eat almost every day... I'm sure it tastes great, but you may also be aware that it emits a rather strong smell. Now, I'm sure that the smell of a Saigon fishmarket is quite normal when you go to, say, a Saigon fishmarket. Unfortunately, when I come home and go into my bedroom, it's not the sort of smell I prefer to have inundated my clothing and bedsheets. For example, you know those incense sticks I sometimes burn to mask the homeless-guy odour seeping from your bedroom? I have rose, lemongrass and neem varieties, yet not a Saigon fishmarket variety, which is not a popular brand. So when cooking, pressing the button that says "Fan" above the stove is a good strategy to employ in this instance; it's the button I'm referring to every other day when I ask you "Can you please turn on the fan?" Another good strategy is opening certain doors and windows (the outer ones) and closing some others (the inner ones).

Finally, I do like having guests over sometimes, and I understand that when you moved in I said that it was no problem for you to have friends drop by and hang out here. However, I didn't mean that you should regularly go out for the whole day and leave the back door wide open. Or for that matter, open the front door and leave the key hanging there for several hours. Because while I am mostly in favour of helping the needy, I don't necessarily wish to donate my computer and flat-screen TV to heroin addicts.

If there's any part of this letter that you didn't understand, you are welcome to take it up with me for further clarification.


your flatmate.


  1. do you actually told your 'flatmate' to read these, because if not, the problems would forever persist. there are some pampered people who never have to live with others other than their own family to keep tidying their mass before, so they need to learn, and unfortunately you have to have the patience(till a certain extent) and great communication skill.

  2. @ Pearly:

    I wouldn't give my flatmate this exact letter of course - it's too snarky and he wouldn't understand the nuances anyway. This is just me venting.
    But I have raised all these issues with him, more times than I can remember. I would love to say it made even a tiny impression, but expecting him to think of anyone other than himself seems to be too much to ask.

  3. quit your fucking bitching, jesus. honestly, the guy was obviously a bad choice, end of story. if you're going to go to the effort of spell checking this diatribe and putting it on the internet for all and sundry end the stupid gripe with some action and stop prevaricating. i need a happy ending if i'm going to invest myself in a story like this.

    here's some steps to get you through this tough time.

    step 1: advertise your place and let people know you're pretty anal ahead of time. you can take anal to mean whatsoever you wish, but be clear about that shit so that you don't get some retard who smells it up while mashing his skin-flaked keyboard. common phrases you might want to use are "no mouth breathers", "no gaming addicts", "nobody who can't go halves in dishwasher rental because i bitch people out about dishes on the internet", "maybe a woman, because, you know - i'm clean and shit, and that would make sense".

    step 2: boot this kid to the friggen curb. the words you need to use are "move your shit out of my place you lazy troglodyte (i'd go ahead and define that shit just for fun), I don't want you living here anymore - you're messy and you're not doing your fair share - live and learn - adiós". Also include "fuck off" if the guy doesn't get the message. either than or start charging a fee for cleaning shit.

    step 3: no more eurasian sensation posts about the self-righteousness of your way of life... and the frankly rather pretentious claim that your flatmate doesn't understand things because their english is poor. why? because you're now happy with your clean as a whistle tenant.

  4. @ Richard:
    I'm sorry this post seems to offend you so.

  5. I needed this letter like years ago. Where were you?