I’ve been stuck inside for about a week after an over-ambitious walking day messed up my ankle pretty good. To be honest, it’s been tough trying to get anything done on the blog when so much of what I want to write about demands going out and taking photos. At first I tried to make up for it by working on other projects – art and design stuff, some creative writing, some new recipes – but not being able to go out hasn’t been great for keeping inspired. Or, you know, enthused. But there’s one thing I can tell you about without going and experiencing things, and that’s what it’s like to stay three weeks and counting at one (shared) AirBnB.
There were pretty much two factors influencing my choice to stay in Glasgow as the first stop on my trip:
- I wanted to deal with all the culture shock issues without language coming in as even a small factor, which meant staying somewhere that speaks English. (To all you jokers out there about to tell me a Scottish accent is barely English, I invite you to converse with someone from North Ireland for a day. Scottish accents are fine.)
- Among the countries where English is the first language, Scotland was the cheapest one. And among the cities in Scotland, Glasgow was the cheapest one.
Also for money saving, my apartment isn’t as conveniently located as it could be – technically I’m in Glasgow, but really it’s a little suburb, sort of equivalent to living in Hoboken while you visit New York. The main city is in range for a lengthy but pleasant walk, a pretty quick train ride, or a very short bus ride (if, unlike me, you aren’t completely terrified of buses for some reason). I have to say I’m actually really enjoying the distance now that I’ve come to terms with it – the AirBnB listing implied that it’d be closer, and I don’t like to feel lied to, but now that I know, hey! I love walking. I get a lot of exercise (or I did prior to hurting my ankle, I guess. And will be again very soon).
In the three weeks that I’ve been here, I’ve had, hm, maybe seven roommates. Some come in pairs: the North Irish fellows who were here during my first week to work construction, or the two fellas I knew absolutely nothing about who responded to my self-introduction with a bemused, “…okay.” Others come alone, for all kinds of reasons. One came here to take a certification not available in his own country, in the hopes of being a better doctor. He introduced himself to me two times as “Dr. (a last name I couldn’t quite make out)” and later signed a note to me the same way. I still couldn’t tell what it said on paper, so I suppose he’ll be a very good doctor. Another is visiting the UK from Lebanon for work, but extending the trip a few days here to go see the highlands. He’s the closest thing to another tourist that this particular AirBnB has seen besides me. I’m very bad at getting their names. I’ve picked up, generously speaking, one and two different half names among my seven different roommates.
I do know the name of my AirBnB host; it’s Ruth. I’ve met her once. She seemed fine enough. One of my first roommates told me he got a weird vibe from her, and ever since I’ve wondered why, but I haven’t seen her again since then, so all I know is that she seems fine. She had two dachshunds who were the friendliest of their breed I’ve ever met, including one who was too fat to be able to jump onto her hind legs, which was adorable. There’s also a woman who comes to clean the common areas twice a week. She’s Greek and speaks very little English, so I haven’t learned her name, either. Ruth referred to her only as “she”. She seems nice though. Maybe nicer than Ruth, if I’m honest.
The apartment itself is fine. From the outside it doesn’t look like anything much. When my cab from the airport pulled up, the driver exclaimed, “This place dinnae look sew good, did yeh pay up front?” I think that about sums up everything you need to know, but to drive home the point, here’s a shot of the building behind mine, which is identical to mine, because yeah, it’s that kind of neighborhood:
The inside is lovely though. The common area is simply furnished but in a way that looks sort of like a person has actually lived here at some point. The living room is a place you’d willingly sit down with your friends over pizza and a bad movie, and I’ve spent one or two days hanging out on the couch.
The kitchen is better than just fine. I’ve done a lot of cooking since I arrived, much more than I ever did at home, and I’m pretty in love with it. I’ve also been pleased and amazed at how well kitchen usage lines up such that you never need a space you can’t access – with at least two other people living here at the same time as me, you’d imagine some overlap, but it’s only happened maybe twice since I arrived, and both resolved easily. In general the other houseguests are always respectful of space and quiet needs. I don’t know if this is something that comes with using AirBnB, or if it’s just a pleasant coincidence that everyone I’ve lived with so far is so chill, but I all kinds of appreciate it.
I think that’s been, in a sort of polite, low-key way, my favorite thing about doing a shared AirBnB for a long-term stay. People are mostly friendly. They want to talk to you! But if you’re hanging out in your room, they’re not going to press it, and in general don’t seem to even make enough noise to remind you they’re there. Roommate AirBnB breeds a nice balance between the inherent familiarity of living together, and the constant awareness of potentially looking like a jerk in front of strangers that everybody shares. Friends and strangers. Folks you talk to all night and never learn the names of. Best of both worlds.
I have to say I’m actually very glad to be sharing a space, as well! I don’t socialize much here. I work, or I go out and walk and take photos, but I don’t make a lot of plans. It’s something I’m slowly improving on, but in the meantime, roommates are my company. On a day where I don’t have a roommate around, I may just not say anything at all. I’ve even noticed I talk to myself less here than I did at home, as though my subconscious has decided I need less practice with my words now that I have fewer people to use them with. I have to say, I don’t expect many people to be spending several months in a loosely open-ended travel engagement in a single country, but if you do, I’d heartily recommend doing an AirBnB that has roommates. Your privacy will still be intact, but the option to socialize will be there too, and you can’t exactly replace that quite as easily if you’re living alone.
Long story short, is my place in Rutherglen some phenomenal little slice of heaven? No, it’s not perfect. It could be prettier. That one light on the stairwell outside could work. The oven could come with instructions because it has an extra dial and I don’t know how it works and I’m very confused. But home is rarely perfect, and I can say in only a few weeks I’ve already started to feel very at home.