Looking for a room in a flat-share it is not easy. Especially in Brussels. The time spent on a room research is quite comparable to the time for a job application. The procedures are standard: sending a short cover letter about yourself to the future flatmates, showing all your motivation to obtain the room, undertaking one or more final interviews. Visits, appointments, being really on time otherwise you lose the room, collective or individual flat’s tours.
That’s how I found myself suddenly involved in an adventure that I could not imagine so complicated. My experience included flatmates who were examining my level of French, a final interview about my hobbies, unusual questions on your favourite dish and different reactions to your answers : if you are Italian people assume you are actually going to cook -then kitchen will be dirty-, or that you could be useful to cook for all. A potential flatmate asks you to leave your shoes at the entrance and to walk on tiptoe, an other one will try to rent it a living room to ask you a monthly payment extremely high to cover his expenses as well. Some others will try to understand if you are more a “party mood” person or a serious one, and according with the age of flatmates you should pay attention on showing yourself more in a way than in another one. At the end, like in a real job interview, you have to show your full motivation to obtain the room, grabbing at straws thinking on your abilities on cooking your favourite dish and without making them understand that last time during a friends dinner, you completely burnt everything.
So you buzz on the door and the flat tour starts: first the room, then the kitchen, the services, the washing machine if there is one, the hoven or microwave. At the end you have to force yourself asking questions otherwise you dangerously show you are not interested about the room. That’s why even if you already know all the answers from the advertisement you should ask some questions: “Is there any washing machine or should I go to the public laundry nearby? All charges included? Is the heating centralised ? Do you have an hoven? Ah that’s great so finally I’ll cook!”. Sentences that you are going to repeat at every single visit, adding or omitting something.
The rooms and flats on renting vary a lot: some of them have surprising prices and some buildings are really in bad conditions. You can find a room that of course will have an independent access from the street, but it could also be underground, in the basement, and communicating with the other three rooms of your flatmates, separated from each other by glass doors. My imagination suddenly goes to somebody stopping and sitting on my window with a beer, since it is on a very busy and “movida-oriented” street , or to a dog finding my window as a perfect place for peeing. No that’s not possible, I cannot stand that, and the price is too high: 500 euro or more for a room like that one. So I move on and I visit another flat, in which the flatmate wants to rent me his living room as a room at an excessive amount of money. The flat is wonderful but he’s giving away day by day every kind of furniture: “There was a washing machine but I decided to give it away because every weekend I go back home to my country”. Another potential flatmate tells me not to pay attention to a wall that is falling down at the entrance, because it will be fixed soon. The tours come to an end and then there is the questions time or, as I call it, the interview time “So , what is your favourite dish? What are you usually doing in your free time? At what time do you usually take a shower? Do you like to organise parties at home? But are you quiet , or not? Are you tidy? What is your typical day? What is your timetable? Do you prefer watching movies on a sofa or going to the cinema?”. By answering to these questions, on one hand you discover sides about you that you probably ignored or you did not want to discover, on the other hand you feel like you have to grab at straws and understand what your interlocutors expect from you before answering them. If they have different ages, some of them are students while the others work, and you have to make yourself appreciated by both of them: so you should appear as a professional and a party person . Especially, you do not have to burn your favourite dish.
Once, before visiting a flat, I received a message: I have been advised from a flatmate that they were going to test my French during the visit because the other flatmate she wanted someone speaking French at home. When I did my tour all the visit went well, included my French, but then in the kitchen there was another Italian guy who admitted he knew very little French and he started to speak Italian with me. So even this room has gone at the end. I have never done until now so much networking as I did in the past weeks.
Check the Italian version on the article on EastWest