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Reality of New York City Roommates

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What’s it like to live in New York City? If you’ve seen any TV show set in NYC you may think you already know. And if you've ever watched one of NYC's iconic roommate shows, you'll probably expect roommate reality to be the same.

Spoiler alert: it's not. We've unpicked five key themes from one of the most popular NYC apartment sharing shows, to show the reality behind the sitcom glamour.

1. Roommates to Friends - Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt 2011-Present

The first time someone gets a roommate they may assume that sharing an apartment guarantees you'll be friends. Kimmy Schmidt shares the same idea. After 15 years in a bunker, 29 year old Indiana-born Schmidt finds her opportunity to start a new life in the Big Apple. Her spontaneous decision means she needs to find a place to stay, and fast. Enter the fabulous Titus Andromedon, an aspiring actor living in Harlem looking for a roomie to help pay the rent.

Reality of Roommates:

Meet a stranger and becoming roommates is a common arrangement - it'll give you a room in a new city, and helps pay the bills easier. Other people (like Kimmy) actively choose to have roommmates because they're used to having others around. In either case, it's best to establish your expectations from your new roommate from the offset.

Are you like Kimmy who expects to be best friends with your roommate? That includes going out together, sharing items, and getting to know each other well. Or are you like Titus who sees their roommate as a source of money with no strings attached? Outside of the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt world, a Kimmy and Titus might have tougher time living together.

What the Show Gets Right:

The show does portray how new roommates have to figure out how to share a space together, understand each other's habits, and sometimes teach each other new things. These lessons create a balance between roommates and ultimately make living together more enjoyable. Times have changed from the bright 90s world Kimmy remembers. She, like many new New Yorkers, learn things won’t be as easy as it is on Friends. But Kimmy finds a way to befriend Titus and acts as a good friend/roommate during times when Titus is full of doubt. She often gets him out of the apartment when he’s been inside for too long, despite his excuse of “I already did something today” and continues to push him to consistently pursue his dream. Kimmy and Titus show viewers the possibility to transition from roommates to friends.

2. Living with Your Best Friend - Will & Grace 1998-2006; 2017-Present

Will and Grace have been roommates on and off throughout the show’s 10 seasons. During the series first eight year run, viewers saw the comedic and dramatic relationships encountered by the title characters. Despite ups and downs, Will and Grace proved to be strong support systems for one another, and their dynamic hasn't changed in the recent reboot of the series either.

Reality of Roommates:

You may imagine living with your best friend to be a dream - you’ll work well together, hang out all the time, have loads of fun, and just get each other. It could be the perfect living arrangement. But for some, it's actually the worst - sometimes even the best of friends can find heir living habits clash. Even Grace moves out of Will’s Upper West Side apartment on occasion...

What the Show Gets Right:

Living with your best friend can bring lots of good times - you can comfortably vent to them, help each other other, and call each other out too, because you know each other so well. Running into your roommate’s date the morning after can be awkward, - but as a bestie you know you’ll end up getting all the details, and the added joy of having something to tease them about later. Will & Grace show you don’t have to feel alone when you choose to live with your best friend.

3. Living with a Couple - How I Met Your Mother 2005-2014

For nine seasons, audiences followed Ted Mosby and the story of how he met his future wife. Sharing an Upper West Side apartment with his former college roommate, Marshall, and Marshall’s college girlfriend, Lily, Ted realizes he wants to settle down with someone himself. Not only does How I Met Your Mother display the struggles of the dating life in the city, it also shows what it can be like living with a couple. As Ted knows: it can be the best and the worst.

Reality of Roommates:

Ted is at an advantage, because he knew Marshall and Lily before he moved in. But this situation can be hard if you only like one of the pair. If you’re fighting with one of them, it’s more likely their partner will take their side over yours. They could also become withdrawn, and less inclined to hang out with you because they've got each other.

What the Show Gets Right:

If you're friends with your roommate couple then you get to live with two of your friends. Win, win, right? A great gang for movie nights, dinners, and an experienced pair to get relationship tips from. But like Ted, it may sometimes feel like being a third wheel in your own place. But overall, you're happy living with two great friends.

4. Roommates as Family - Living Single 1993-1998

Before Friends and before Sex and the City there was Living Single. In a 90s kind of world Living Single shows the importance of having friends and roommates in the city. Set in a Brooklyn brownstone, the series represents a group of successful young women living together: an editor-in-chief named Khadijah, her fashionista childhood friend, Regine; and her aspiring actress and quirky cousin, Synclaire. Often found in their living room or kitchen are their ever-hungry friend Max and their upstairs neighbors Overton (the resident handyman) and his childhood friend, Kyle.

Reality of Roommates:

Privacy can be hard with a big group under one roof. But for Khadijah this extends outside her apartment too. The brownstone's hallway constantly hosts chats between diverse visitors and neighbors - who often eavesdrop through doors to find out each others' business. Fear not - as typically New Yorkers like to keep to themselves and won’t pay you much mind. And while Living Single shows what it’s like to have a community within a building, it might be a little harder to create one yourself. New residents might find it takes more of an effort to integrate and make friends.

What the Show Gets Right:

Living Single provides a small reprieve from the romantic image of living in the city - sometimes you have to hassle your roommates to pay their share of the rent, other times you may struggle to pay it yourself. Living Single also reminds viewers that living with family can be an option as well. Living with a close family member can be a different dynamic from living with a friend, because your relationship is already pre-established from experience and events beforehand. For some, this makes the transition to roommates easier.

5. Going Out in the City with Friends - Friends 1994-2004

You can hear the theme song in your head as you picture six people dancing in front of a fountain with umbrellas...yes, it's the totally iconic opening credits of Friends Ross, Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler, and Joey were always hanging out in one of two apartments across the hall from each other, making their homes a prime backdrop for the show's drama. Ignoring the question of how any of these characters can afford their apartments, especially in Greenwich Village, Friends shows what close friends and roommates do daily.

Reality of Roommates:

Where do you go to claim a booth or couch big enough to fit your crew, grab a drink, and hang out? For these six friends, the place to go was the coffee shop below their apartment: Central Perk. While Central Perk continues to be an iconic TV coffee shop even in 2018, they don’t make them like they used to. Today coffee shops have become a little tighter. Look at any of the NYC Starbucks located just a block or two away and it might be a little harder to imagine the Friends characters ordering a venti or grande there. Finding a spot in the city with enough seats for your gang may take a bit of walking and a lot of luck.

What the Show Gets Right:

Money can be hard to budget. The episode titled “The One With Five Steaks and an Eggplant” sees the group split in two halves, with one wanting to cut back on paying for expensive dinners and concerts. It happens. Your roommates might earn more than you but that's okay - what's Netflix for after all?. It’s okay to stay in. After all, Netflix didn’t exist for these friends. If it bothers you, have a chat with your roommate and try to arrange activities that suit a lower budget, like movie night and meals in the apartment.

The Overall Roommate Expectation

The Real World:

TV can make it seem that you’ll never be alone - if it's not a roommate, you've got a neighbor casually wandering through the door. But in reality, finding alone time isn't hard in the average apartment share. Living in NYC means a faster pace of life, constantly moving or going somewhere. The reality of city life is that sometimes your schedule won’t be the same as your roommates', and finding time to hang can be hard. Remember: It's okay to do your own thing sometimes too.

What TV Gets Right:

Having good roommates and places to go is great, but make sure you find the right people to hang out with. If you aspire for your roommates to be your best friends in the way TV suggests, you have to make time to get to know each other. Make time to have a drink together, invite them to hang out with your friends, stay in and watch a movie or show, have a meal together, etc. You don’t have to be best friends with your roommate but it’s important to have a good relationship that makes you both content with your living situation.


Now we've got your attention, how about we get to know each other a little better? We'll start, with something you probably don't know about us...

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