Tell me about the roommate system in the US

You’re basing this on…what, exactly? :dubious:

It happens that way all the time. It’s very common for friends to find an apartment or a house and share it, to reduce their rent and expenses. It’s also common for people put out an ad that they need a roommate (or roommates) and will interview them to see if they’re compatible.

And, as others have said, this isn’t an ‘American’ thing, it’s most often a ‘person living in an expensive area’ thing.

In the 19th Century, Americans often shared beds with their roommates. I wonder when that practice finally died out?

Yeah, but when I look at for example the arrangement I had in Sweden, what I had was basically a largish bedroom with its own fridge and stove. The laundry room was shared and you had to sign up for it (for the second aparment, electronically).

Other than dorms in the US and UK, my shared living arrangements have always had larger kitchens and enough space to avoid running into each other.

The OP is not asking about housemates or apartmentmates or flatmates, the OP is specifically asking about sleeping in the same room with a non-relative. My freshman year in college, 1988-1989, I shared a room with a roommate. The only privacy was that we set up our desks and wardrobes down the middle of the room. The beds were also stackable, so we could have made bunkbeds if we wanted more floor space, and some people did. There were about 40 rooms on the floor. The building was L shaped, and there were common bathrooms and showers at the corner. There was one kitchen for the whole building, which was 3 floors high. After freshman year, however, you never had to share a bedroom again. When I left college and joined the Navy, it was a very similar arrangement, until I reached the rank of E-5, at which point I never shared a room again. Except on ships. On a ship I would bunk in a room with 191 of my closest friends…

Yeah, but it’s completely different. I shared a room in a dorm during my first year of university, but after that I lived here. Shared kitchen and laundry facilities, but we had our own bedrooms. Sharing a room and sharing a house really aren’t comparable.

I know people who have shared a bedroom due to lack of means. People generally want some private room, but if you don’t have enough money you may share a single rented room. I don’t think it’s all that uncommon among the young and impoverished.

Holy ****! I just googled my dorm name, and found a video tour of the floor I stayed on almost 30 years ago! they actually toured the room that was next to mine, they tour 218, I stayed in 216. It seems that I got the furniture wrong, we didn’t have wardrobes, that was in my Navy dorm. In college, we just had desks, but still my roommate and I put the desks down the middle of the room for privacy. Here is the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgdHu38UmBE

ETA, they also added separate Male and Female bathrooms, since now girls actually go to RPI. When I was there the girls had 2 floors out of the 15 available floors in the freshman dorms. Now there are males and Females mixed in on each floor. They turned what was the bathroom into a lounge.

I think there are plenty of US colleges where it’s typical for the dorm experience to extend past one’s freshman year, too.

I am kind of surprised by the OP. It just seemed normal to me since that is what people did. The first time I lived away from home I shared an apartment with someone who had become a good friend in the previous year (and still is, 60 years later). He had lived in a dorm the previous year, but we both worked in the same lab. It was a 1 room studio plus a kitchen and a tiny bathroom. We had two couches, one on each side of the room and slept on them.

When my daughter went to college, she was assigned a roommate (whom she is still friends with) but it actually consisted of two small rooms with a door between them they could close. But there was a shared telephone. Bathrooms were communal for the entire floor. Then she moved into a 7 bedroom suite, still in a dorm, that was coed and may have had its own shared bathroom, but each of the 7 had their own private sleeping space.

When my older son went to college, he was assigned to a double room, each of which had two students assigned with a pair of bunk beds in each one and a shared bathroom for the four of them. The four decided to make one of the two rooms a bedroom and the other one a living room so they moved on the pair of bunk beds into the common bedroom, so all four were sleeping in the same room. It seemed to work well enough, although they all changed dorms after one year.

My younger son had a tiny private room. But he soon met a girl who lived in a double room in the same dorm and who had the roommate from hell. I don’t know where she slept, but otherwise whenever we spoke to him on the phone she was in his room. They have been married since the year after they graduated, getting on to 20 years.

But, to tell the truth, none of this seemed in any way unusual to me and the OP surprises me. Especially the part about being fined for living with a roommate.

I also went to RPI, but was in Crockett Hall. A floor plan is shown here. Both it and Nason Hall, where tonyfop stayed, were built after World War II to address the need for additional housing for the many students who were former military now attending school on the GI Bill. The construction is quite spartan; cinder block walls, no elevator and very few amenities. As you can see, most rooms are doubles (two people in one room slightly smaller than 200 sq ft). This is, I think, common for American college dormitories. By contrast, here is the floor plan for the second floor of one of the newest, fanciest dorms at RPI. (And here are photos.) The trend in American colleges is definitely towards more luxurious accommodations. But American colleges do often put freshmen especially in shared rooms (although usually not upperclass students). I think partly this is so that people are forced to socialize a bit with someone. (Thirty years later, I still am friends with my freshman year roommate.) Keep in mind that the typical college freshman in the US is 17 or 18 and might be living away from home for the first time in his or her life.

No cite, but from accounts I have read, in roadside inns, you might even share a bed with a stranger.

Yes, I stayed in a dorm all four years. But only in a double for two. I’m not sure what’s typical. Many schools don’t have the dorm capacity for more than a year or two of students.

Echoing that I really don’t think that most Americans share bedrooms unless they are really really poor, and then they’re most likely sharing with extended family. “Roommates” to most people just means sharing an apartment/house.

Even most colleges don’t require students to live on campus, so living in dorms (ie, sharing bedrooms with a stranger) is only a single year, or even a single-term proposition until you make friends and work out a better housing arrangement.

Once a student makes friends or joins greek society, then there’s a built-in pool of friends and acquaintances and housing options - all you need is two-to four people to make it affordable, and lots of people rent specifically to students.

There’s no huge barrier to entry for renting - if a pair or a quartet of friends pool resources, that’s usually enough to pay the safety deposit and the extra-month(s) rent, and then to keep up with utilities and rent ongoing. You make it sound so complicated and stringent with talking about applications and comparing housing to finding a job. It’s not like that at all for most people.

Now, sure, people do advertise for roommates all the time, and yes, you’d have to go and meet them and see if you all can basically get along, but it’s still not nearly as formal and difficult as you make it sound. Either you mesh (or are indifferent) or you don’t.

I technically lived on campus all four years (it was required for the first three, and strongly advised for the last) and shared a bedroom with my previously-established best friend for the first two years. The college encouraged friends to note who they wanted to room with.

Junior year we had more like a townhouse or a condo - a quartet of bedrooms with a shared kitchen and living room. The school encouraged students to register for housing with friends or fellow study majors, or shared greek affiliations, so all four of us were friends.

Most of my senior year I spent housesitting for a wealthy friend, and our quartet (sometimes six of us) mostly lived in that house instead of our dorm rooms. We were a pair or a trio of couples, and we lived together like a family, with bedrooms divvied up, but sharing the living quarters and just hanging out.

Later, we moved on to an actual rented house, and there were up to eight of us (and all our cats…) living together for a few years. All of us were friends or lovers, and we managed quite well. Several of us actually did poorly once we had to move away (for jobs or into actual married life) because we were lonely living by ourselves, or just as a couple.

I don’t think it’s strange at all - you just get used to the fact that “your” area is just your bedroom, and the shared areas are general social spaces. I can see that it would be weird living with someone you didn’t already know well, but as long as people are polite (and you have a lock on your bedroom door) it works fine.

Inhad roommates in college dorms for several years, but the last year, at least, was with my girlfriend. Otherwise, I hated sharing a firm room. I even had a room mate during my first year of law school. I also hated that. My kids had the same type of dorm experience at the colleges, and we’re assigned a roommate for first couple of years, until they moved off campus or gained enough senority to get a single room.

I share the OP’s dismay. It’s a terrible thing. But still pretty common I think.

Many Americans, especially in previous generations and/or from large families, shared a bedroom with a sibling when they were growing up. Or, they have sleepovers with friends, or spend time at summer camp where they share a cabin or tent with fellow campers. Having a roommate in college can feel like an extension of this.

Yes, there’s a classic scene in the beginning of Moby-Dick about this.

I guess mattresses must have been expensive back then.

Probably with the development of reliable winter heating.

Similarly in the beginning of The Virginian.

Many people own homes that are expensive and to earn some money, rent out an extra bedroom or maybe the attic to someone.

I once owned a 3 bedroom home and rented out a room to someone and that paid half of my mortgage.

For most of the last 500 years, a bed would have been the most expensive thing a householder owned. Obviously that’s not true today with cars and mass production.