I am an Asian female college student. This semester, I'm placed to live with two American female roommates in an apartment suite, so we all have separate bedrooms and share a kitchen and a restroom. I just moved in two days ago, but one of my roommates already started gossiping about me. Here's what's happening

First day (Move-In): I said "hi" and introduced myself to her. Then, I was busy moving in.

Second day: After I met her on the first day, I didn't see her until the second day evening. On the second day's evening, while I was on my way out to grab dinner, I saw her sitting in a kitchen. She seemed to be working on something on her laptop. Since I was in a rush to go outside because it was getting dark and also me not knowing her well, I didn't want to disturb her task. I just left without talking to her. When I came back, I wanted to use the restroom but I couldn't find a way to lock the restroom. I asked her if it was possible to lock it, and she said probably not.

Third day: I was chilling in my own bedroom. Then, she just got back from outside, as I heard someone opening the suite's door. She went to the kitchen and started calling someone (later identified as her mom). Since the wall is very thin and she spoke pretty loud, I could hear what she said (she didn't know I'm in the suite). At first, I didn't pay much attention to what she was talking about, but eventually I realized that she was talking about me. She complained about her roommate (me) for being very bad for not even saying "hi" to her (on my way out on the second day) and only talking to her about the restroom's lock. She emphasized that I'm certainly "not American." (I don't know what she wants to imply for saying that maybe twice) I just sit in my room quietly for maybe an hour listening to her talk about me. Then, I went to the restroom and she saw me. She seemed to change the topic a bit, but once I got back to my bedroom, she continued to complain about me and noted that maybe she spoke so loud that I overheard.

So, after she finished her call, I just went outside to talk to her. I frankly asked her if she was talking about me, but she avoided my question, saying that she was talking with her mom. So, I said I'm sorry that I didn't talk to her or started a conversation because I'm not good at starting talks with someone I don't know. She monotonously said "not a big deal, I hope we can get to know each other better" and just cut off the conversation right there, plugging her earphones and resuming her Netflix.

Honestly, I think it's even ruder to gossip than to not say "hi". I don't understand how not saying "hi" comes out as rudeness according to her standard. Additionally, if she wants to talk and I didn't start the conversation, she could initiate the talk with me instead of making the issue complicated by gossiping. If she did, I would talk. But she never made such an attempt. I tried talking to her frankly but she also just put the chance I gave away.

So, I have options: to stay here or to ask to switch my room (no success guaranteed). Honestly, I wouldn't want to live with someone who gossiped about me from the very first days that we had met and hadn't even become "friends" yet. However, I'm not sure if it's the right way to solve the issue (by escaping from the issue).

How should I deal with this situation? My only goal is to maintain a peace of mind at home throughout this semester.

Extra information 1: I can certainly comfortably speak English in conversations with an accent, but the fluency is good enough to, say, be a tutor.

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    Your question is very broad. Is your objective to make friends with this girl? You don't specify what you're trying to "solve". Her talking about you? You guys getting along better? You need to tell us exactly what you're trying to accomplish. – AndreiROM Jan 16 at 20:13
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    @AndreiROM I just added this to the question! Thanks! So, my only goal is to maintain a peace of mind at home throughout this semester. – user7921 Jan 16 at 20:17
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    Please don't write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don't use them for other purposes. – Arwen Undómiel Jan 16 at 20:43
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    We don't really know what would give you peace of mind, and there could be many unrelated ways to achieve that. You should probably decide what you want to do, as @AndreiROM mentioned, and we can help you with that (although you can't exactly get her to stop gossiping about you, the most you can hope for is for her to do it outside of earshot). You should probably also think about whether there's a line between gossiping and just having an honest conversation with a family member about how things are going (although I'm personally not quite sure where that line is). – NotThatGuy Jan 16 at 22:06

You guys got off on the wrong foot, which is not to say that things might not change for the better (or worse).

Very few of us actually stop and try to look at things from the other person's point of view. You're not really doing that right now either.

You know you were busy for those two days. You know you had good reasons to not interact. So how dare she say these things about you?

Now look at things from her point of view:

Her new roommate gave her the cold shoulder for two days, and only interacted with her when she needed something.

Add in a teen-age/young adult propensity for drama, and away we go. I'm not saying that she's right, but do be aware of how other people may perceive your actions.

Unless I'm wrong, there's also a cultural element to the situation. You see her gossiping as incredibly rude, whereas your own actions are justifiable. However, from the prism of her own upbringing, it's you who's in the wrong, and she's "just venting" to a family member, which she's fully justified to do. It's incredibly important to keep in mind that you're not interacting with this person using the same yardstick to measure the gravity of a situation.

First things first, you should work on not letting her opinion of you affect your well being too much. Who really cares what this person tells their mother about you? You'll be sharing some living spaces for a very short period of time, relatively speaking.

Second, try to build a better relationship going forward. If she's rude, call her out, otherwise try to get along to the greatest extent possible. Wave hello/goodbye, even when you're in a hurry. Ask to sit down and have conversations around how to share the spaces you'll be using together. Establish expectations as to noise levels in the apartment, etc.

If she seems bothered by something you've done, sit down and discuss the situation. Explain that you come from a different background, and that you may not see things the same way, but that you're always willing to talk about it, and maybe come to a compromise.

When she does something you don't like, give her the benefit of the doubt - at least the first time. Don't assume that she's doing it to spite you unless there's evidence to the fact. Maybe she has a habit that really, really bugs you. Understand that she's not going to change who she is for you. But perhaps she's willing to moderate her behavior, even if you do need to remind her not to do "x" from time to time.

At the end of the day this is a life lesson. In the future you will, largely, not get to choose exactly who you work with, etc. This is good practice for the future.

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    To expand on your "first things" a bit. Unless the mother is going to be visiting often, who cares if she has a slightly less positive impression of a person who may well live hundreds of miles away, she wouldn't recognize if they ever did meet, and has no influence over the OP's life? It would be one thing if the roommate was "gossiping" to other suite mates and people in the same social circle, her talking to her mother might as well be her recording an audio diary for the significance it has for the OP. – Derek Elkins Jan 17 at 0:35
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    Great answer, I would suggest a little more emphasis on the fact that many people consider it basic politeness that when sharing a living space you say basic greetings and keep eachother at least somewhat apprised of your comings and goings, i.e. 'I'm going out for a few hours'. You don't have to justify what you're going to do or even mention what you're going to do, but it's a good idea to make it known that you will not occupy the shared space for some amount of time. – Cronax Jan 17 at 12:53

I hope you're finding your time in America enjoyable overall. As far as your situation goes, I think the main thing I want you to take away is this:

There are many reasons to request a new roommate. This is not one of them.

Please do not pursue this. You might have bad luck and get paired with a roommate who is much, much worse. Rudeness is something that you deal with when you're living with someone.

The first step is decide if you wish to make things better between the two of you.

If you want to be friends

Try not to let this gossip get to you. This can, unfortunately, be very common. Young college kids can be extremely rude, for no reason. If this becomes a common thing with this person, you may want to try telling her how you feel about it, and maybe explain why it makes you feel uneasy.

Try not to be too obsessive about it or put this other person on the defensive. It's still technically possible she did not mean to cause that much harm (though she needs to learn that behavior isn't okay).

Just be friendly and don't exclude her from anything. Maybe offer to do new-student things like checking out the food or events. See where this relationship goes. You don't have to calculate your entire experience with this person so soon!

If things aren't looking good

Here's the tough part. No one wants a roommate that they don't like. However, a roommate that you don't like is by far better than a roommate who is hard to live with. What if you were to change roommates to one that keeps the room trashed, stays up until 5am, is really loud, or doesn't respect your personal belongings (food, clothes, etc).

Getting a new roommate is a gamble that you really don't want to take. You can live with someone and not like them. Here are a few tips for doing that:

  • Always be polite. Say Hi when you see her and Bye when you're leaving the room. Not complicated.
  • Don't let opinion get in the way of living. Settle roommate matters as unbiased as you can. Maybe even a "roommate contract" if your school does that (mine did).
  • Don't stoop to her level. Don't gossip about her. It will make things worse.
  • Don't aggravate her on purpose. She can't gossip about you if you guys don't ever interact.
  • Make use of public facilities. Most schools have private study areas, places to hang out, etc. You never have to be with this person if you don't want to, other than to sleep.

"How should I handle this?"

First of all, you need to step back from the idea that you are 100% in the right, and that you are the victim here.

  1. Your level of contact with people you are going to be living with throughout the year was very, very cursory. Yes, I get that the time was not right for a full "get to know you" conversation, but there is a vast gulf between that and blowing by or only seeking out and engaging that person when you had an issue with trying to lock the bathroom door. We are talking about over two days, and you guys live together. Note, also, that you were able to make the time to seek someone out, and have a brief exchange with them when faced with the task of needing to seal yourself off from them. The fact that you could not find it within your abilities to even say "Hey, I'm looking forward to spending some time getting acquainted, off to class now, hopefully we'll both be free to talk soon." - as you blow by on your way out the door does send a message of disinterest or inaccessibility. Again, I'm not saying you have to be some kind of babbler, but there certainly are a lot of degrees of middle ground that you chose not to explore.

  2. You have no idea what the person on the other end of the phone was saying, so any rudeness you are projecting onto that person over specific language is a completely voluntary and uninformed choice you decided to make. You opted cast this person as the villain and yourself as the aggrieved victim. Keep in mind, mothers are going to ask very personal questions and probe feelings, and children are more likely to not hold back when talking to a parent. Contrast how you viewed it, with this possibility -

Mom: Is your new roommate really friendly?

Roommate: Well, not really. She's barely said a word to me.

Mom: That sounds like a really unfriendly and rude person, what's her problem? Or is it cultural, perhaps?

Roommate: She's not American.

Mom: Where is she from?

Roommate: Like I said, I've barely seen her and she hasn't spoken to me. I just know she's not American.

Since we don't know what was said on the other side, this scenario, or any of thousands of others with less malicious intent, are equally possible vs the interpretation you put on it.

  1. So, now, based on you listening in on a private conversation between your new roommate and her mother, NOW you have the time, the energy and the inclination to have a confrontational discussion with her.

I'm not trying to cast you as someone to deserves to be blamed here, either. I slanted the perspective to illustrate that there are many different perspectives in any situation, and now, potentially, you've both staked one out where someone who is a stranger, and you don't actually know anything about, but you have to live with for a year, is a jerk.

Step back, drop those assumptions, and re-start. You should apologize for confronting her like that based on assumptions, and for paying attention to a conversation you should not have been listening to. After apologizing, explain your perspective - you did not intentionally avoid talking to her, things are a bit frenzied with the move to a new situation, and, perhaps, you were looking to find an opportunity to start a conversation when you guys would have a chance to have a nice, full chat. Also that it was not a situation where you were intentionally trying to hear everything she said, but your new place has thinner walls then you are used to (also good information for her to know). Explain that what you heard gave the impression that she didn't like you and you felt a bit attacked, and reacted, but you want to start over with a clean slate.

Age, culture, personalities, personal judgments all mean that you guys might not be able to completely patch things up after starting on the wrong foot. You guys might not have become close pals even if you guys had chances to chat and nothing potentially negative was said, for the same reason, but it's important to at least try to have a roommate who does not dislike you, because that makes for a miserable living experience. Indifferent is very manageable.

Getting along and not irritating each other with different living habits is usually not the outcome for people living away from their families for the first time. If you wind up compatible and being great friends that's a bonus. Hope for it, but consciously attempt to at least get it to casually friendly indifference.

You want to maintain peace? Make a connection to her. Food is a good possibility to break the ice.

Maybe you observed her drinking coffee, eating some sweets or pizza. Try sharing something with her. And then say something to clear things up. You both made mistakes but if you want to resolve this, let it go. Do not focus on what happened before. Just say you both had a bad start and you would like to have a good connection to her. If she denied to share with you maybe you can try again after stating your intentions. "Please help yourself."

Maybe you know some exotic sweets or dishes she does not know? Tell her what you like food-wise and maybe both of you have something in common.

I don't see too much issue with the "venting" of her anger to a family member whom you'll likely never meet and who won't have any bearing on your studies or social life. It's probably better for both of you if she does this to an uninvolved party than to a co-ed or neighbour or let these feelings escalate towards a potential later outburst. It fulfils a similar function and is certainly cheaper than a professional therapist. (Source: I'm 30 and still talk to my parents about minor annoyances with my friend and mutually chosen flatmate that aren't worth a confrontation because it makes me feel better. They do the same with me about their co-workers.)

This doesn't address any other aspects of your (pretty broad) question, so consider it a partial answer.

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    She was venting to her mom, while the OP is venting to strangers on the internet. – user24582 Jan 18 at 7:21
  • @user24582: Great point! – David Foerster Jan 18 at 12:20

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