It‘s cheaper to live in a shared apartment. And, it’s also more sociable. We visited Fredi, Andrea, Peter and Bono in their four-bedroom shared apartment in Klagenfurt’s Waidmannsdorf district to ask about the advantages and disadvantages of sharing with other people.
You could easily describe living on the second floor of a block of apartments as unintentionally retro-chic. Leading off the corridor, where guests can’t fail to see the tidily arranged row of shoes in front of the built-in cupboard, there are four bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom, WC and storeroom. The landlord had already defined the apartment as a home of multiple occupancy, so all four tenants were able to sign separate rental agreements and don’t need to worry about having to pay for any vacant rooms, as this may be the case for short periods.
In this shared flat, tidiness is important.
We had been invited by Fredi, from Germany, who studies and works at the University of Klagenfurt. Her mother was also staying at the time. Andrea came to Klagenfurt as an Erasmus student from Italy, found a job at the university and has now been working there for a year. Stefan is only in the shared apartment for a short while. He will stay for the summer to complete work experience at a radio broadcaster in Klagenfurt, after which he has a semester abroad. The fourth tenant is Bono, a graduate of the University of Klagenfurt, who works as a medic for the Red Cross alongside his studies. We asked who is in charge of the shared apartment and Fredi explained how tasks are shared out: “Each of us has a role. Sometimes I feel like everyone’s mum,” she adds laughing: “I enjoy sharing out tasks.” The guys are obviously happy with this setup. But formally speaking, they are all equals; even the rent reflects the size of each bedroom.
Fredi lives in the largest bedroom and has access to the balcony. “But I’m happy to give up my right to exclusive use of the balcony,” she explained, “and the others can also enjoy the view towards the Karawanken with the stadium in the foreground.“ In the summer, they hear concerts playing at the stadium and get to listen to mainly older big bands like Bon Jovi or international pop-rock stars like Ed Sheeran or Robbie Williams. “Depending on what kind of music you like, sometimes it can be great”, said Bono, “but other times it’s never-ending torture.”
“Sometimes I feel like everyone’s mum.” (Fredi)
All four occupants have previously lived in other shared apartments. Stefan, who came to Klagenfurt from Vienna, even once lived in a shared apartment that was home to 11 people: “It was chaos. There was always someone arguing with someone else.” In contrast, there haven’t been any over-the-top conflicts in Klagenfurt, perhaps because they pretty much agree on the same basic rules of living together. And that also applies to welcoming in new occupants when someone moves out. Bono explained: “We want to at least maintain a minimum standard of hygiene and cleanliness. There is no scope for compromise in this area.” When it comes to other matters, there are some things that individuals simply won’t accept: For example, Andrea really doesn’t want to share an apartment with cats or other pets (he does like animals but prefers that they run free); Bono would only move out if a rhinoceros or prehistoric dinosaur suddenly moved into his room. Fredi added with a smile: “I wouldn’t want to share with a musician, who is noisy and full of ideas they want to share with everyone else!” She is worried a musician would always decide to play their music at unsociable hours. “It goes without saying that we have a lot of respect for one another.” At this point in the interview, Stefan admitted that he had spent the entire morning singing. He had had the apartment to himself for a few hours while the others were going about their own business. And he had enjoyed the rare peace and quiet for a couple of hours.
The balcony room offers a view of the stadium and the Karawanken mountains.
How long can you stay in a shared apartment? Fredi had originally decided that she would like to live alone once she had a permanent job. She now does, but: “Your own apartment would be smaller and less fun.” None of the others wanted to pin down when it will happen, but none of them would want to live in a classic shared apartment if they had their own children. Finally, we asked whether it is difficult to find good people to share with: “Hmm, it’s not easy to find normal people who would fit into our shared apartment. But, what‘s normal anyway?”