Tell me about the roommate system in the US

A curious difference between the Netherlands and the US, is how accepting American people are of having to share a dorm room or apartment.

Even the poorest of Dutch people are not expected to share living quarters with a non-family roommate. In fact, people on welfare get fined if they share living quarters. Our Dutch city dwellers may have tiny apartments, ( and I mean TINY!) and may have to be on a waiting list for decades to get one, but when they do, it is theirs alone.

Older student dorms may share a communal toilet, kitchen, living room. Very few have shared bathshower stalls. But everyone has their own room for living and sleeping.

How come everyone in the US is so accepting of having a bunk mate? I do think there are advantages to the US system, (no loneliness) but it just surprises me.

I think in the US the term “roommate” is used the way a Brit would use “flatmate”, i.e not neccessarily meaning that they share the sleeping area.

Isn’t it more, or at least as much, a youth thing rather than a poverty thing?

“Me and the bros are gonna get this sick pad together and we’ll throw crazy parties errrry weekend lol it’ll be so fucken epic bro!!!”

I know it is here (Copenhagen, Denmark).

I know. Students share a dorm room where they also sleep, right? But my point is that roommates/flatmates are adults sharing, not their bedroom, but all other parts of the house, right?

That’s the idea, but it never pans out that way, doesn’t it? In practice that rarely happens unless one of the bro’s has a rich dad who buys or rents the “sick pad” and then he is not likely to want “crazy parties” damaging his investment, or his son’s study result. I bet that is the same in Denmark?

No, young people have to apply for a room in an apartment like they have to apply for a job, right? So they move in with strangers.

In my experience it’s mostly a poverty thing. A study last June found that the average hourly wage needed to rent a $1,006 two-bedroom unit in the United States is $19.35 – or $40,240 per year. That’s more than two and a half times the federal minimum wage, the report noted, and $4 over the estimated average wage of $15.16 that renters earn nationwide.

In my area, you can find a 1 bedroom from $650-$800 usually, utilities not included (unless you are on welfare, then you can find low income housing and utilities are usually included in that cost). I’ll tell you that no one I know my age can afford to live alone - everyone either lives with their spouse or has roommates. Sometimes both.

The minimum wage didn’t increase with inflation, so the lower class is left with this.

It’s not a set-in-stone tradition or anything, but - I expect that most Americans would say that if you’re already sharing a toilet and a kitchen, it’s pretty silly to get all hung up about sleeping in the same room, as long as everyone has their own bed.

See, I think that’s a little odd. I’ve always had roommates, and have never shared a room. We share a bathroom and a kitchen, but bedrooms are separate. Each person has their personal space.

EDIT: Unless you have a partner/spouse living with you. Then they usually share a bedroom. Or if you live with your family, siblings will share a room and the parents will have their own. But I’ve never shared a bedroom with a roommate (except for once, and it was temporary), and none of my friends have either. Everyone has their own room.

Same here. In fact, my first college living situation was a 4BR house split 3 ways. It was very economical. It cost more to live in shared dorm rooms with no amenities. After I left school, my college town enacted some nutso zoning policy prohibiting non-relatives from living together, though. I got another house with 3 people after that, and then a 2 BR apt with my GF. Then I split a 2 BR with some other girl. Even with wives/GFs I’ve mostly had as many bedrooms as people. Until I got married and had kids, actually. I never worked anything other than low-wage (single digits per hour) hourly jobs.

As an Australian I’d say that’s not at all silly, because a private bedroom with a lock on the door provides some security for when you are most vulnerable. Even once you know your housemates that does not mean you know their friends, and I for one would not want to deal with the risk that one of them might steal my laptop while I’m at class or asleep.

It’s very common here in the UK. Not only for the younger crowd - people in 30/40s still share houses. Moreso in London then anywhere else.

It’s not poverty-related, it’s just that London is so effing expensive - not just buying but also renting. The rents in London are so out of whack compared to wages that for many folks sharing a house/apartment is the only option to live within reasonable commuting distance (under an hour on the tube)…

Here in DC, it’s pretty common for people to share housing until they start living with an SO. A small studio in a bad location is easily around $1200 a month, while for around $800 you can rent a room in a nice row house with a large kitchen, living spaces, etc. Its purely a financial decision in most cases, though some people like the social aspect.

Houses vary. Some are true “group houses” with shared food budgets, frequent parties, etc. Others are more impersonal.

Yeah I lived in DC for two years and we paid about that for a studio. Prices are insane there compared to everywhere else I’ve ever lived. No wonder it’s surrounded by ghettos.

My eldest kid works in the DC area. For a while he lived in a boarding house arrangement. Each room had two beds, and they all shared a common kitchen/bathroom. He’s currently commuting from Dallas, but is looking for an apartment in the area. I think he said he’s looking in small towns like Winchester since prices are lower there.

To the OP, the norm (ime) seems to be roommates sharing a 2 or 3 BR place with common living areas, but separate bedrooms. My youngster had to deal with the boarding house arrangement for a few years because he was based in really expensive areas (NY, DC, NJ).

I should have done that when I moved here, but I didn’t think of it. Almost everyone I know under 30 does it, and quite a few over.

To the OP, I don’t think bedroom sharing is very common outside of college dorms. And I’m not sure how many students stay in those.

Same here in Belgium, at least when I was a student in the early 90s but I don’t think it’s changed fundamentally.

I had a room in a long hall - about 40 rooms in total. We had shared toilets and bathroom stalls as well as two kitchens per floor. The room itself, however, was all mine. And it was not that small either: there was a big bed, a nice desk, a huge cupboard, a sink, a small fridge and I still had more than enough room to walk around confortably in the middle. You could probably have easily fitted a sofa in there.

The idea of sharing a room with a stranger has always seemed odd to me, too. Actually, you had to pay extra if you wanted to share your room and it was almost exclusively with someone you knew, like your partner for instance. I’m not even sure that the double rooms were bigger than the single ones as the building was relatively old, dating from a time when living together while not married was just not done. The managers most likely “improvised” double rooms out of a few single ones to keep up with the changes in society.

Where do they live for decades while waiting on an apartment? At what age does the average Dutch city dweeler get their first apartment on their own?

Agreed that the only place where having a person share a bedroom is in college dorms.

But American undergrads typically only stay in dorms a year, so this really only happens for 9 months of someone’s life. For students who want to stay a second or third year on campus, many schools offer on-campus apartments where you’d have your own room or share with a friend or SO.

Single dorms also exist, and I think that more schools are transitioning to them as they build. But singles are much more expensive for the student, so it comes down to what you can afford.

I’d guess the tradition comes from when universities acted in loco parentis- in the place of parents. 60 years ago, dorms were strictly sex segregated and had rigid rules about when you had to be in at night, who could visit, when lights went out, etc. It was more like living in a boarding school, with little independence. In the 60s, with the student movement, campuses started offering students more independence. But roommates stuck around- probably due to overcrowded housing, costs, and a sense that a roommate can help a person adjust socially.

At least we don’t live in China, where 8 students per a room is the norm

Oodles of people in Ireland flat/house share. I do it myself. I pay €450 per month for the privilege of living with three other people. We all have our own rooms and bathrooms though. Ages 33-43.

Interestingly enough, the pendulum has swung back that direction since the early-mid 1990s, according to some friends who work in student affairs/housing at several universities (was an RA in college with a few folks who do it professionally now)

Anyway the situation in the US, put simply, living on campus in college, or at various times/places in the military are the only times you’re compelled to share a room with anyone.

A lot (majority?) of young people share houses/apartments with others as a fiscal choice- it drops one’s cost of living significantly, and has the added benefit of reducing loneliness if you happen to be on friendly terms with your apartment/house mates. It’s not mandatory- I lived about 3 years out of college in my own place before moving to a different city and into a 2 bedroom apt. with a college buddy of mine. Great decision, in that my spare cash went up dramatically.