Three apartment roommates enjoying the holiday season in a luxury apartment
Apartment Living

Roommate Etiquette for the Holiday Season


Festive fall and winter holidays are just around the corner! As you start thinking about how you’ll be celebrating this holiday season, make sure your housemates are a key ingredient.

Specifically, it’s important to think about the different holidays each of you celebrate and the related traditions. Maybe some of you are religious or have long-standing family traditions. It’s important to think about how you hope to celebrate and what that looks like in your shared living space.

Communicate Early and Often

Before any party planning or decorating happens, it’s important to communicate some expectations and lay some ground rules.

1. To Celebrate Together or Not

You may decide you’d prefer to celebrate separately—perhaps you prefer an intimate celebration with those practicing your religion, or maybe you don’t have the same friends. Conversely, maybe you decide to combine holiday parties and traditions. It can be a great opportunity to learn about and celebrate a holiday you’re not familiar with.

2. Guest Policies

It’s also important to make some group decisions around guests. Even if you share best friends, it’s important everyone is on the same page regarding the number of guests, whether they can bring plus-ones, and who might stay the night.

3. Health and Safety

Guest considerations are especially important given our current pandemic environment, and unfortunately, this time of year is also flu season. Host your party responsibly to make sure everyone in your party stays healthy this holiday season. Encourage guests to stay home if they’re not feeling well and decide how you want to practice safe gathering in your apartment. For instance, will you encourage guests to get COVID-19 tests in advance? Do you want them to wear masks? Consider making hand sanitizer available throughout the common areas.

4. Equitable Involvement

Lastly, if you decide to celebrate and host a party together, set a plan with your roommates to share responsibilities and costs. Parties can be a lot of work, and costs can add up quickly, so spread the duties amongst all of the roommates.

What’s Proper Holiday Party Roommate Etiquette?

Just like every other day of the year and in every living situation, it’s all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Living with others involves mutual respect and compromise, and the holiday season is no exception.

1. Respect All Holidays

As you consider the different holidays to celebrate, think about the timing, both regarding your schedules and when these holidays fall. Maybe your roommate always travels at the end of the year, or you don’t get as much time off work. Maybe your tradition is limited to a specific week, while your roommate’s celebration can happen any time in December.

Another thing to consider is decorations related to these different holidays. Will a Christmas tree and a menorah be gracing your living room? Or will your roommate have free reign of the common spaces during Hanukkah, and then your decorations go up for the 12 days of Christmas?

Lastly, it’s important to respect the traditions surrounding your roommates’ holidays. A good roommate gives their housemate space and time for these traditions. An even better roommate uses this as an opportunity to get to know their roomie better and learn about a different culture.

2. Respect Common Areas and Belongings

This involves cleaning common spaces in preparation for the party, breaking it down, and cleaning up dirty dishes afterward. That equitable roommate agreement above will come in handy if one roommate is less likely to pitch in or doesn’t have the same cleanliness standards.

In addition to furnishings in the common areas, make sure you respect your roommate’s personal belongings. Even if you two are close, make sure to ask before borrowing her cocktail dress or cherished Christmas cookie platter. And return it in the same condition, i.e., sans red wine stain or cookie crumbs.

Lastly, make sure it’s clear what food is up for grabs and what food is off-limits. This house rule is important year-round but is especially so this time of year when fresh cookies may be cooling on the counter, or the pantry is overflowing with snacks and beverages.

3. Respect Your Neighbors

Particularly if you live in an apartment community, it’s important to think about your party beyond your four walls. Other renters may be sensitive to your religious beliefs or may have nontraditional work schedules, for instance, so be respectful of sounds, scents, and traffic coming out of your apartment. Also, check if your community has set quiet times or guidance around outside guests.

How to Handle Disagreements with Roommates During the Holiday Season?

If you’re communicating honestly, openly, and early, and you’ve been showing each other respect along the way, then you shouldn’t encounter any holiday-related disagreements with your housemates. However, if a conflict does arise, it’s important to develop a solution that works for everyone.

1. Consider Compromising

If you can’t agree on a theme or appetizers, for instance, consider meeting in the middle. Perhaps each room has decorations for a different holiday, and you decide on numerous appetizers that accommodate wide preferences within your set budget.

2. Consider Alternating Weekends

If each roommate wants to have a party for different traditions (or different friends), consider picking different weekends. Then consider watching a movie at the theatre, staying at your significant other’s, or going out with your friends the night of your roommates’ parties to give them space.

3. Consider Hosting Elsewhere

Your apartment complex may have community spaces perfect for gatherings, such as a clubhouse, lounge, rooftop, or courtyard. Additionally, a local park, beach, or restaurant may be another good option to give you more freedom and your roommate more space.

At the end of the day, the holiday season is meant to be a joyous, special time for everyone. So, if your recipe includes equal parts communication, respect, and holiday cheer, the holidays with your roommates can be merry and bright.

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