I live in a flat in Christchurch, New Zealand, with four other women. We're all in our early-mid twenties - some of us are students, some of us are recent graduates - and we love our flat ... well, we love it in summer, and we tolerate it in winter! The picture below is my idealised vision of the flat, as I would like it to be all year round, viewed from the snug confines of my hammock:
But, you may ask - what IS a flat?
Flat noun /flæt/
According to my ginormous "Penguin English Dictionary", this is a "self-contained set of rooms within a larger building used as a dwelling. NAmer APARTMENT". However, in New Zealand this doesn't have to be within a larger building. In my case, I live in a detached house. We figure out bond and tenancy agreements with a single landlord just as anyone renting a house would, although sometimes property managers are involved.
In New Zealand, "flatting" is the experience of living away from home and not in a hall of residence, but with other students, youngish people or graduates. It would not be uncommon to find single people in their thirties still flatting.
"I live in a flat with four other girls."
Some of the famously derelict student flats of Dunedin, New Zealand. The couch pictured will probably, at some point, be burnt.
Flat verb /flæt/
It is perfectly acceptable to say "I flat with Ben and Annie" as an expression of the fact that you live in a flat with Ben and Annie. Likewise, "I am flatting in a house near the university."
Flatmate noun /flætmeit/
This is the equivalent of the NAmer "roommate", which I have always found to be a weird expression, because it doesn't actually mean you share your room with them.
"My flatmate is sooooo like totally annoying."
Flatwarming noun /flætwɔmɪŋ/
A party thrown on the commencement of life of a group of students in a flat. Students flats are just going to be cold - there's not really any alternative - but if you can get enough people to come round, they'll warm up pretty quickly.
Variant: Flatcooling. Which doesn't make as much sense because if you want to cool the flat, surely you would get people to leave it, but this is basically another excuse to throw a party, this time on leaving the flat.
Flat date noun /flæt deit/
In which flatmates go on outings and organise special occasions for each other. Flat bonding, awww.
The ten commandments of flatting
1. Try not to date your flatmates. It can get very messy.
2. Institute a roster for chores. It may seem unnecessary at the start of the year but you will appreciate it later.
3. Do your chores.
4. Label anything edible that is yours with your name, in big black letters, unless you want to share it with everyone.
5. Do not eat anything that is labelled with someone else's name.
6. Be considerate, be nice, be honest, try and get along.
7. Do not hoard half-eaten cartons of ice cream in your room so that rotting dairy products impregnate the whole room with a horrible vomit-inducing stench that prevents everyone else getting their bond back. (This is from my own personal experience, by the way.)
8. Unite against rodent invasion.
9. Unite against unprincipled landlords and don't let them screw you over.
10. Remember birthdays. (Sigh. I failed once at this and I would not recommend copying me.)