From the cramped conditions to the thievery and the lurking menace of the tea towel. Oh, the tea towel ...
The dreaded tea towel
For some reason, in every shared house there exists a rag so indescribably revolting it can barely be described as a tea towel. It was probably from a souvenir shop and it will be alive with more bacteria than the bin.
You will have seen it dragged across the floor as a makeshift mop, used to absorb microwave explosions and also to polish glassware. If you ever wondered why you were getting ill a lot, this tea towel will be the reason.
The kitchen shuffle
If you've ever attempted to cook more than one meal at a time in a shared kitchen, you'll know this dance off by heart: "excuse m ... " "sorry can I just ... " "are you ... ". Elbows in ribs. Elbows in tomato sauce. The agonising wait at the sink to strain your pasta. Oh dear, it's full of washing up. The impossible overhead stretch for the pepper grinder ... and SMASH! peppercorns scattered across the floor like a plague of beetles.
By the end of your cramped stay in a shared house you'd learned to cook an entire meal with your elbows flush to your body. Now THAT is a skill. Useful for what? Only time can tell.
It's been a stressful day at the office and you're standing on a cramped train visualising the bumper pack of all-butter viennese fingers waiting for you in the cupboard at home. As soon as you get your hands on those bad boys (and after you have put on your pyjamas) you will be dunking them ALL in a hot cup of tea.
You get home, shake out your umbrella, head straight for the cupboard but what horror: they are gone. Even worse, some sicko has had the cheek to put the empty packet back in the cupboard. Why would they taunt you like this? You storm around the house like a banshee brandishing the packaging and yet no-one can shed any light on the mystery. All protest their innocence. This is the crime that will never be solved.
The sort of human being who leaves a tiny dribble of milk in the fridge instead of just buying a new pint knows no mercy. They are the devil incarnate.
Living with more than two people kicks off a predictable and enduring game of "who ate my cheese". If you care for your own sanity you factor in a couple of extra blocks in every weekly shop for this eventuality. If you're sensible, you don't let it get to you. It's just life.
However, you may have lived with someone who can never come to terms with the thievery. Someone who relentlessly labels their stuff, tries in vain to make a fridge shelf their own and takes an aggressive Magic Marker to everything. Think of the kitchen as a Lord-of-the-Flies-type experiment: the labeller will not last long in this climate. This person did not come here to make friends and will not leave with any.
Back seat cheffing
If one of your cohabitees fancies themselves as a bit of a Ramsay in the kitchen, then you'll have faced the inevitable stress of them looming over your shoulder. This person is a culinary smartarse, there to laugh at you when you fail. "Wow, interesting," they say down your neck "is that how you make your roux?" Their presence in your subconcious remains long after you leave the house. Now every time you use the wrong spoon to stir the onions you can hear their voice: "you really shouldn't use steel on Teflon, you know."
If you just happened to be the back seat chef, the incompetence of your housemates was truly astounding wasn't it?
There's always a weird one
Away from the prying eyes of strangers and judgmental restaurant staff some people have some seeeeriously weird eating habits. You'll have lived with someone who you struggled to imagine stayed alive on their nutritional intake. Frankfurters chopped into Pot Noodles; multiple crisp packets folded into tiny corners around the house; cheese for every meal.
There's the one who you never saw eat anything but toast and cereal, and the one who seemingly eats all their meals at 4am. There's the microwave champion, the one who gobbles the same set menu week on week and there's the one who doesn't like things to touch on their plate.