Face masks are mandatory in the common areas of the Martinihouse. Photo by Reyer Boxem

One housemate is strict, the other isn’t

Quarreling about the corona rules

Face masks are mandatory in the common areas of the Martinihouse. Photo by Reyer Boxem
What if your housemates don’t want you to have a guest over, or they ask that you wear a face mask in your own home? Student houses struggle to keep the peace in times of corona. ‘There is a divide in our house.’
By Denise Overkleeft and Sofia Strodt
17 November om 13:31 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:16 uur.
November 17 at 13:31 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:16 PM.

‘The comments in our group chat got pretty vocal after one of our housemates brought a guest home’, says media studies student Eniko Gyopar. She lives with sixty other people at the Martinihouse, one of the student residences that is managed by housing corporation SSH. ‘There is a divide in our house, because some people didn’t want anyone from the outside to come in and others, such as myself, wanted to bring friends’, adds international law student Mustafa Utku Erdoğan.

The atmosphere in the student house has shifted significantly since residents of another SSH building hosted a party. After that, the rules were tightened for all SSH properties. ‘We used to have drinks together and organised movie nights, but now that’s not really possible anymore’, Eniko says. ‘The SSH even hired security guards that come by once a day to check whether we stick to the rules. In an email we received it said that not following their instructions or disobeying the new rules will result in a 250 euro fine per person.’ 

Attacked on WhatsApp

Many large student houses struggle with the corona rules these days. While some students prefer to be as strict as possible, their housemates may have a completely different opinion. And it’s not always easy to find a way out of the situation.

It seems absurd to wear a mask in your own home

Residents at the Martinihouse used to address disagreements over rules in their WhatsApp chat, but after a student got verbally attacked by multiple people for inviting a friend over and spending time with them in a common area, they agreed to discuss these matters in person. ‘We don’t want to humiliate people in front of everyone. I trust that everyone sticks to the rules now, especially since there is the possibility of getting fined’, Eniko says. 

Photo by Reyer Boxem

While some housemates openly share their thoughts and concerns with each other, others don’t communicate their interpretation of the corona rules at all. Giamfranco Bottone, an industrial engineering and management student who lives in an apartment with seven other people, hardly spends any time with his flatmates. ‘When they have people over, they announce it beforehand, but that’s pretty much it. When it comes to knowing who has symptoms, no, we don’t speak about it.’ They haven’t discussed any kind of formal agreement about the corona rules, he says. ‘Everyone just takes care of themselves. You can’t really impact what others do.’ 

Mask on 

Environmental and infrastructure planning student Alex Hayes, a housemate of Eniko and Mustafa, thinks along similar lines. ‘You have to be accepting of the fact that your health is in the hands of sixty other people’, he says. ‘Otherwise you have to move out.’

At  the Martinihouse, all residents are expected to wear face masks while moving around in communal areas. They don’t like that rule, says Eniko.  ‘People are angry about having to wear masks and I haven’t really seen anyone use one inside the building yet. It seems absurd to have to wear a mask in your own home. And to be honest, I also still forget to bring it when I walk the fifteen metres to the kitchen. It doesn’t make sense when you live in the same building and share facilities anyway’, she says. 

You have to accept that your health is in the hands of sixty others

At student house Frascati, home to 150 people, liberal arts and sciences student Begüm Emregül is happy about the stricter regulations. ‘Having the government tell you what to do to constrain a pandemic is better than letting people do what they want’, she says. Begüm and her housemates agreed on rules in their accommodation prior to the most recent press conference: ‘Those who experience symptoms, even when they are mild, message the others before going into the kitchen to make sure we can keep our distance. Also, people with symptoms wear masks everywhere, in common areas and even the bathrooms and clean all surfaces with disinfecting wipes after using the facilities.’

Photo by Reyer Boxem

There has been tension among the housemates at Frascati too, however. When one of them lost her sense of taste – one of the symptoms of covid-19 – and still interacted with lots of people, she was confronted with angry reactions from her housemates. ‘The girl got bombarded with angry comments in a group chat with 150 people. Afterwards there was an atmosphere of fear and there was not as much openness anymore’, says Begüm. 

Pushing boundaries

Journalism student Zsuzsanna Palotás, who lives in Upsilon, another SSH-building, hopes that students will start sticking to the rules. She often sees more than four people hanging out in the corridors together, which is against the national rules. ‘It feels like I try to keep the others safe, while they don’t care at all’, she says. 

It feels like I try to keep the others safe, while they don’t care 

Others are frustrated by the restrictions and try to push the boundaries. Roos den Boer, a human geography and planning student who lives with four other Dutch students in a house at the Korreweg, is one of them. Last week, she invited three people over, which is the maximum number of guests the government is asking people to have over per day. ‘In my opinion, we could have invited more people’, she says. Her housemates didn’t want that, though, and were surprised she even dared to ask. ‘At that moment I was pretty annoyed with their response’, she says. ‘But I understand them. I live with others and I have to take them into account.’ 

But that didn’t stop Roos from visiting a student association house, which her housemates weren’t too happy about. One of them asked her whether she thought it was a smart choice. ‘On the one hand, Roos put us at risk by going to such a house, social work student Mariske Terpstra says. ‘On the other hand, it’s not so bad. We already said that if one person has to quarantine, we are going to renovate the house and organise isolation-parties.’

‘One for all, all for one’, Roos responds with a smile. ‘If we go, we go together.’ They have agreed not to judge someone when they test positive, she says. ‘To keep the corona peace.’