We don't want to kick out our reclusive roommate, can we salvage this?
August 7, 2012 8:08 AM Subscribe
Need advice on dealing with a reclusive flatmate in a social and cooperative living situation. There may also be a cultural misunderstanding happening that I'm not picking up on. (She's Japanese)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (58 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
For over two years, I've been living with old roommate (OR) who is also an old friend and its been going great. About 8 months ago, new roommate (NR) moved into our 3 bedroom apartment as well, and that's been less successful.
We live in Berlin - OR is German and fluent in Japanese, I'm from the US. NR is the same age as me and OR (late 20s) female recently arrived here from Japan. She speaks fluent English and a bit of German. Me and OR are both guys. When we first met NR as a potential roommate, we thought we had a lot in common with her as far as cultural interests and were excited about finding her, especially OR because NR was a chance for him to exercise his Japanese. We didn't say "don't be a recluse" but we did say that we are very cooperative in running the flat, our doors are frequently open, and that the flatshare should be social and pleasant.
After a positive first few months, NR kind of dropped out. She has:
- Never bought toilet paper, taken out the garbage, etc. She doesn't participate in "flat maintenance" or "flat projects" like acquiring new kitchen paraphernalia, or the occasional painting project or furniture rearrange.
- I don't think she feels that anything is amiss with the above because she also rarely uses the communal space. She keeps non-perishable food in her room, barely uses the fridge, has her own coat and shoe racks in her room.
- If she does use communal spaces it's when no one else is there. By now if I bump into her in the kitchen I feel weird about disturbing her. As an example, I recently went to the kitchen where she was cooking herself lunch. She turned the heat off on her half-cooked noodles and left.
- Our doors require some force to properly close, and they make noise. When she's home we're constantly hearing her door slamming shut - if she leaves her room its only for as long as she needs to and then she's back in, and her door is never left open.
- She will talk to us and seem warm and friendly if formally invited for a beer, but it has to be an explicit invitation.
- She's not a shut-in. She works a fair amount and brings friends home, who are always Japanese and usually don't speak English. This makes me paranoid that she's not interested in me because I don't share her nationality - perhaps unreasonably.
- Me and OR are feeling, frankly, a bit insulted and/or rejected.
So, my questions are:
- Is there a cultural aspect I'm missing here? She is a recent transplant from small-town Japan. She also doesn't have much cohabitation experience.
- If this goes on we will eventually ask her to leave... and feel incredibly guilty about it. Is this situation fixable in any other way?
- Should we "warn her" before asking her to leave? I'm afraid if we do she will force herself out of her room against her will and it will be very awkward.
- I've tried talking to her about these things in general ways. I tend to be blunt and open, and she very politely agrees with everything I say, doesn't state her own opinion, and apologizes unnecessarily. I feel like this is a conversational wall, and I don't know how to get around it.