13

I live in a large shared house with with several roommates. The company that owns the house tries to rent it out to international people (however I am not international myself). Many people I live with do not seem to make an effort to speak English, though several of them speak it fine when they do. I had asked this question and I know several answers say it's a bad idea to even try changing this.

I am unsure if any of the above information affects the following question, but I wanted to set the background. Several couples have been bringing laptops into the kitchen/living room and listening to videos or podcasts on them. I find the additional noise, often in a language I do not understand, unpleasant. Also the fact that they seem to be occupying a table in the middle of the room for their personal meeting for an hour+ just gets in the way.

How can I ask them not to do this? I would also like them to try to be a bit more discreet in the sense it's not very comfortable sitting down to eat dinner beside a couple who appear to be having a business meeting.

I tried bringing up the subject by saying "what are you watching" and they replied "why" (which btw I find rude) and I said "curious" and they said "a youtube video"

In my old home sometimes roommates would put on music in the kitchen but I guess this is different because everyone enjoyed it without speaking the language and it wasn't done excessively.

EDIT: I think what I find uncomfortable about it is I don't know how serious their business is (since I can't understand any). For example, if I had a roommate watching the Avengers movie, I would feel I could use the kitchen more freely and make a bit more noise than if e.g. they are having a conversation with their boss. BUT the point I was trying to make is they're doing this excessive and I didn't mean to focus the question on language. Also there's the aspect of physical space where they sit I have to walk behind their chair all the time. Also I personally find it awkward sitting at a table to eat my meal when the person beside me isn't eating anything (also one's a vegetarian and has said he's sensitive to smells).

EDIT: I got new roommates who seem to be more mindful of others :D !!

  • 5
    I assume from your question they aren't using headphones? – Azor Ahai Apr 26 '18 at 16:14
  • @AzorAhai they are not – bighouse Apr 26 '18 at 20:33
  • 3
    I think tha's the only issue here - using a common space isn't a problem, nor is speaking in a foreign language. There' already plenty of answers, though. – Azor Ahai Apr 26 '18 at 21:32
41

I live in a large shared house with with several roommates. The company that owns the house tries to rent it out to international people (however I am not international myself).

If the landlords like to get international tenants, then you can fully expect the others to not speak English. From the point of view that this is one of your "issues", the simple answer is: Don't live in an environment such as you do, if you find it unpleasant.

Many people I live with do not seam to make an effort to speak English, though several of those who seem not to want to speak it fine when they do.

Unless they have a reason to need you to understand or are speaking to you, why should they? If whomever they are speaking to is the sole intended recipient of their conversation, there's nothing wrong with this.

Several couples have been bringing laptops into the kitchen/living room and listening to videos or podcasts on them. I find the additional noise, often in a language I do not understand, unpleasant.

Firstly, unless this is a case of them taking up all of the space, for long periods of time, with the noise being excessively loud (i.e loud enough that it can be heard in your own room or other communal areas to such a degree that it cannot be blocked out or avoided during a period in which you can't go somewhere else)- then this stops being an issue of being unfair, but of your personal preferences.

If it's too loud, ask them to turn it down. If it's in another language, this is a moot point- you aren't involved. If it's for too long, speak to them about fair usage of the common areas.

Also the fact that they seem to be occupying a table in the middle of the room for their personal meeting for an hour+ just gets in the way.

If this is a common area being used up daily for an hour, or even two- unless this is affecting you, is this actually a problem? Unless there's a scheduled activity you need the space for, is this actually a problem?

How can I ask them not to do this?

Like you would with any other person- reasonably, fairly and politely. But first, ask yourself- do I have to? as a lot of this seems to be more down to you being uncomfortable with the shared living arrangements with people that don't speak English rather than an actual "issue".

I would also like them to try to be a bit more discreet in the sense it's not very comfortable sitting down to eat dinner beside a couple who appear to be having a business meeting.

It doesn't matter what they're doing, if you're eating Dinner at the same time each day while they do this you have two options- either change the time you have dinner, or speak with them about possibly altering the time they do this activity.

Appearances can be decieving, could it not be that they're talking with friends and family? Bear in mind that from their view, if it's actually that- it could be the only time of day they can speak to them- see both sides of the story here.

I tried bringing up the subject by saying "what are you watching" and they replied "why" (which btw I find rude) and I said "curious" and they said "a YouTube video"

From their point of view, someone who doesn't speak their language who could well appear generally irritated at them in general who then starts for all intents and purposes poking their nose in, you would be the one who is coming over as rude.

In my old home sometimes roommates would put on music in the kitchen but I guess this is different because everyone enjoyed it without speaking the language and it wasn't done excessively.

I refer you back to the very first thing I quoted- you are living somewhere with people that are, apparently, predominantly not speaking English, they are internationally diverse. You can't expect people from other countries, with other languages, to necessarily co-habit somewhere without some friction unless you deploy some understanding and a reasonable attitude towards it.

I find since they are speaking a language I don't understand I don't want to interrupt at a bad moment or be insensitive, since they could potentially be discussing something very serious or sensitive.

It doesn't matter if they're discussing private, personal and delicate things or just waht they had for breakfast- the important thing is from how you've phrased things, it is coming over as you being very insensitive.

You need to modify your expectations of living with international tenants if you want to continue living where you are comfortably, you also need to speak with them and in a way that is fair and understanding.

So far it's come over very much as though you are offended that they choose to speak their own language when not talking to you- which let's face it, is rude of you. If you're intolerant of it, then you need to consider somewhere else to stay- if this isn't possible, you need to alter your attitude or learn to tolerate it more.

Unless there's a regular, unfair and loud use of space in common areas and the conditions are such that you feel you can't reasonably relax in your own room, you don't have much of a case here for being upset. All of this can be resolved by speaking with the other tenants- it doesn't need to even bear thinking of the landlord in this equation unless the tenants are being deliberately unfair on you.

  • Then speak to them- effort works best when both ways and if you've, however unintentionally, left them with a bad impression they won't want to talk with you openly. You do state however that the podcasts and youtube videos noise are in another language and unpleasant, so this needs clarification. Cohabiting places isn't easy and it could be that in this case, they're quite insular. Generally nobody wants to live in unpleasant circumstances though, so try speaking with them about it, properly and not when they're busy. – FeralSquirrel Apr 26 '18 at 11:17
  • Well, I would appreciate it if they tried a bit harder to communicate and this isn't going to happen if they never speak English. I don't mean to come across as prejudice. – bighouse Apr 26 '18 at 11:17
  • 1
    Do they never speak english? Even if you aproach them for friendly conversation? I can't imagine that they would respond badly if you start out with "Hi, sorry if I have given a wrong impression before but i'd like to get to know you (/you guys) better, is now a good time to have a chat or should we talk later today?" – Imus Apr 26 '18 at 11:24
  • 6
    Have they ever complaint about the noise you are making? Maybe they watch it in the kitchen because they are aware there can be noise but they don't care. You could just ask them if it's ok with you making noise because you also need to use the kitchen or that common place. – Marisa Apr 26 '18 at 12:19
  • 2
    @bighouse Why should they change languages to accommodate your presence? It's a shared space, and so they may be using it for conversations you're not a participant in. If you wind up in an awkward situation where they're speaking across you, maybe just suggest trading seats so you're not in the middle of someone else's conversation? – Zach Lipton Apr 27 '18 at 0:55
20

After your edit, I think your best course of action is to address this part first: I think what I find uncomfortable about it is I don't know how serious their business is (since I can't understand any).

That would bother me too. Using a common area for serious things from time to time is ok, but since you don't know if you need to be quiet or not each time, you end up trying to be quiet every time. You can't ask them to stay out of the common room, but you can ask them to let you know when their business is serious. I think you can try saying something like this to a roommate:

Hey! A few times lately I feel like I've been banging around in the kitchen while you've been having a meeting. Would you mind letting me know if you're planning a business meeting or something similar so I can make sure to stay out of your hair?

If I were you, I wouldn't even bring the language barrier up. Regardless of language, it's good practice for a roommate to let people know when they need a certain room.

From here, you just have to operate under the assumption that they're not doing something you can't interrupt unless they tell you otherwise. A common space is a shared space; if your roommates are watching a youtube video, it's perfectly reasonable to use the kitchen. If you need to be mindful of what they're doing though, hopefully they should let you know now! At the very least, you've put the ball in their court. It's their burden now to keep you in the loop.

8

I have the impression you are mainly inconvenienced by their meetings because you are trying not to disturb them and the foreign languages bother you because you feel you need to socialize with your room mates. If this is true, then the simple solution to this is to just

  • use the common room as you would otherwise. It's a common room. It's your good right to use it and make a normal amount of noise (like washing the dishes or whatever you need to do)
  • don't try too much to socialize with people who knowingly speak a language you don't understand. If it's just convenience and they have interest in talking to you, then they'll switch to yours when you try to join the conversation. If they don't, they clearly have no interest in socializing with you at that time. Try at some other time when they show more interest

It might be that you aren't living in the right kind of shared house. Some people are just in it for the money (maybe against their will because they simply don't have enough to live on their own), while other people are in it for the company. You sound like the latter kind, the behavior you describe in your room mates sounds more typical of the former.

7

About occupying common spaces: are they preventing you from using this space when you need them often? Then you should politely tell them, and politely agree to fairly distribute the usage time, fairly sharing the space so you both can do what you need to do at the same time...

About unpleasant additional noise: is this noise really loud? Then you should politely request them to reduce the volume. Is not too loud but it is preventing you from doing something you want, such as watching TV? Then you should politely speak with them to find a solution, such as any of you using headphones.

Being in a different language doesn't matter, because it is not your business what they watch or listen, and you are not doing a shared activity.

Maybe you feel wrong because you would like to share some of these activities with them? Well, I think this is not a language problem. Maybe they don't want to share activities with you, and they could have good reasons for it, or not. If you have been kind with them and they seem to refuse you anyway, probably it's their fault, but you don't have so much to do about it.

Are you sure that you have been kind enough with these people? Maybe I am wrong, but I find your concern with the language quite annoying and it makes me think that you could have prejudices against them, and this is something that the other people can detect easily.

If you want to share some activities with them, try suggesting any one to them: maybe you can start watching a series on Netflix (but if they don't speak fluent English they may not want to), or playing table games... If you try twice or three times, they will see you want to share activities with them. If they refuse and don't try to find an alternative activity, they certainly don't want to be your friends nor be kind with you. This feels bad, but sadly for you they have the right to do it.

EDIT: responding to your edition about you find uncomfortable because you don't know if you are disturbing: in this case, you should't be uncomfortable about this. You're living in a shared house with many people, if they want some privacity or silence, it is them who should go to their rooms and avoid shared spaces for this stuff. Moreover, they know you can't understand what they're saying/listening, so they can't expect you to know when it is not a good moment. They can politely tell you if it is such the case, and if they don't and they get upset, it is their fault.

  • "Being in a different language doesn't matter, because it is not your business what they watch or listen, and you are not doing a shared activity." I feel sometimes it does affect me, for example they were pointing at the table I was using while speaking another language. And I think often times they are angrily fighting with each other in front of me but I can't be certain as I don't know the words. – bighouse Apr 26 '18 at 11:44
  • 6
    In that case I understand you feel uncomfortable (I would feel uncomfortable if they fight in a language I understand, too), but it is still not your business if they decide to have a private talk. If you want to speak with them, you can say something like "guys, is this a bad moment? I don't know for sure because I don't know what you are saying." – naggety Apr 26 '18 at 11:52
3

Let me give you some personal experiences I had:

I have lived in two types of flats with internationals. The first one was for only a month, and all the others where Chinese people. Naturally, they spoke chinese with each other, and of course they met up in the common area (also with TV and videos). While they were all kind and polite to me, I always felt like an intruder if they switched to english, or ignored if they did not. That led to me not using the social areas much, and then to searching for a new place.

In my current setting, there are only internationals as well, but with a wide span of different nations. Thus, we all speak english to each other, and the feeling of living there is amazing.

I could have spent more effort into sozializing at the first place, but I honestly don't think it would have helped. Making them not use the social place for watching movies together would have been impossible (and quite rude).

So the answer to all your problems there (that worked out really well for me): Move to a new place, make sure there is high diversity of nations, and enjoy all the experienced from different cultures they might share with you.

  • 1
    Oh really? I find this more polite. If they switch to a language that you understand when you're around. Why did you feel bad about it? – bighouse Apr 26 '18 at 11:39
3

How to ask roommates not to use so much of common spaces for personal meetings

An interesting question. The best way common areas are used is by people showing respect to one another. But to show such respect one has first to to know and interact with others.

With a community where people come and go it is often a moving situation depending on who is in and what is going on.

I have found by simply interacting, and asking about people, where they are from etc. it soon becomes obvious these areas are not private and cannot be used for exclusive activities.

If one behaves like the other parties are dominating the situation and one just withdraws, they can easily get the impression there is no problem with their exclusive behaviour.

After making contact with the individuals, you could raise the question of the difficulty of common areas, and how your group has resolved it. Shared use of the fridge, cooking is often a good starting place. One could also talk about who is in when, and how the spaces tend to be used over the week. You could emphasis the security risks, you could advise them not to leave valuables around because often visitors come and go, and things have gone missing in the passed. This should be enough to give them a real idea about what is expected and what is reasonable in a polite way showing concern for their welfare.

  • You have interesting points in your answer. One thing that confuses me is every other person on a working visa or studying abroad I've met wants to meet new people and experience the new place, these seem to be the opposite. I feel like I put in the effort to speak to them but it's not reciprocated when they don't try to speak English. – bighouse May 1 '18 at 7:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.