Share houses in the Time of COVID19
If you’re thinking of moving into a share house right now, chances are that you have some real questions about safety, practicality and protocol.
I moved into my share house just as the first wave of COVID19-panic began to sweep Tokyo. My friends thought I was crazy to be moving in with a big group of strangers.
I had also been looking at apartments and was leaning towards living on my own, which is a process I’ll talk about in future posts. But for now I’ll walk you through.
We’ll start off with the most obvious drawback of group living.
CON: Increased Human Contact
If the age of Coronavirus had a marketing slogan it would surely be More People = More Problems. So there’s no way to avoid acknowledging that living with more people means putting yourself at greater risk. As of now, each house is responsible for deciding on it’s own COVID-19 protocol.
Most houses have instituted common sense rules like washing or sanitizing hands on the way in and out of the house and electing to restrict visitors.
However what jobs your housemates have and how much they are willing to socially distance themselves is a variable that you may not be a fan of – and visa versa. This can lead to our next con, but first.
PRO – Endless Entertainment
If you read my About Me, you already know that I can’t stand to be bored.
Living in a share house means that no matter how long you’re confined to your house, you won’t run out of things to do. Of course there’s the social aspect.
Wanna play a board game? Great news! You have captive opponents that are just as bored as you are! Want to learn a new skill? Perfect timing. You have built-in instructors for hobbies like painting, woodworking, cooking and probably at least 2 different languages.
More of a lone wolf? No worries. Skip ahead to the next Pro: More Space.
CON – The Peanut Gallery
I mentioned in the intro that my friends gave me a really hard time about moving into a share house. So did my boyfriend. So did my family. So many conversations echoed with refrains of “Are you sure?” or smacked faintly (and not so faintly) of judgement. As well-intentioned as their criticisms and doubt may be, it can be stressful for you as well as misguided.
It’s not easy making a decision that your friends and family don’t agree with. But, at the end of the day, they don’t have to live with the decision – you do. So if (once you’ve finished this article, of course…) the pros outnumber the cons according to your personal analysis, then you have to make the choice that you are the most personally confident.
I will say that after all the chirping I endured, my friends and family 180’d pretty hard once I’d moved in and started telling them how glad I was that I’d chosen to move in with roommates. In the end, they just want you to be happy and safe, so once they see that you are, their criticisms should subside.
PRO – More Space
Japan is famous for its ability to maximize small living spaces. because most living spaces are incredibly small. Imagine being stuck inside of a room narrower than a walk-in closet with only a hot plate and your desk? That’s the reality for most folks living here on their own.
If the equation of people = more problems, is true then the variable of more space definitely divides that sum into a significantly smaller number.
Besides reducing the likelihood that you die of cabin fever before COVID, more rooms means more opportunities for projects that will help you keep active and stay sane. An Unoccupied Bedroom is Just a Dreamatorium Waiting to Happen.
Deep-clean a room and score infinite brownie points with your roommates. Plant herbs in the garden and reep the benefits all summer long. Redecorate the living room. Use your full-sized kitchen to cook a fancy meal. Take advantage of all that glorious space to make your time in isolation as fruitful and fulfilling as humanly possible.
Even if you just stay in your bedroom, it’s nice to know you’ve got options, right?
CON – Potential Conflict
People aren’t exactly at their best right now. Some folks are going stir-crazy stuck inside while others are shouldering the anxiety of having to go to and from work each day. That means that folks can be a little on edge.
When you mix that cocktail of fraying nerves with communal living, it can lead to some interpersonal conflict that might not normally occur. This is particularly true if/when disagreements arise over COVID-era expectations.
The flipside of the everyone-is-stressed-about-the-situation coin is that…. Everyone is stressed about this situation. Your housemates know what you’re going through. They’re going through it, too. They’re also worried about their loved ones back home and maybe about their future in Japan. Which leads me to my next pro… (see what I did there?)
PRO – Built-In Community
Living abroad can be a lonely business. Add to that loneliness and anxiety that are inevitable during a pandemic and you’ve got a recipe for real misery.
What’s great about living with other people who are going through the same struggles as you is that you have people to share your concerns with and understand where you’re coming from. So whether you want to vent about something stressful or someone to keep you accountable so that your Community marathon doesn’t last a full 5 days… you’ve probably got it.
VERDICT: It’s your call.
At the end of the day, whether the pros outweigh the cons are up to you. For me, boredom and loneliness are as deadly as any virus. And, on a serious note, your mental health is important to your overall well-being. So, whatever you choose, it should be the thing that you think will be best for you in the long-run.
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