Understanding personality types, culture, and values

Before we dive into the process of choosing a housing companion, let’s take a few minutes to refresh our minds about personality types, culture, and values. We live in a time with greater cultural diversity than ever before. Having a housing companion with a different background can create a wonderful environment for learning and enlightenment. We all have biases. As we learnt in module 2, before jumping to any conclusion, take a moment to think about any biases that may be holding you back.

Let’s talk about culture

Canada is a multicultural country, accepting all from different backgrounds. Because of this, when searching for a housing companion, you may come across somebody with a culture that you are unfamiliar with. If you decide you would like to share your home with someone from another culture, it is important to learn about their culture to understand their norms and boundaries. Understanding this diversity can play an important role in how you will share a living space.

Many cultural traits are visible, such as food, fashion, and language. However, many traits exist below the surface and should not be ignored. Misinterpreting cultural norms may lead to the person appearing to be ignorant or disrespectful. It is important to talk about your cultural norms and to learn about the cultural norms of those you share a home with. You may be surprised how your assumptions differ from each other.

What are cultural norms? They refer to patterns or behaviours that are typical of a certain group. These norms are often invisible to those who grew up in the culture. Canada has its own set of cultural norms that are different from other countries.

Example: Punctuality! Canadians are normally quite literal about time and schedules. Scheduling to meet at 6PM means you should arrive by 6PM, preferably a few minutes early. Some cultures have very different norms, i.e. showing up at 8PM for a dinner party scheduled for 6PM may be completely normal to some, while seeming rude to Canadians.

A great analogy to understanding culture is an iceberg. We only see a small portion of an iceberg. Not until you look below the surface, then you start to understand the significance. 

Above the surface, there are many obvious differences between cultures. Examples include clothing, language, behaviour, physical attributes, or accent. It’s not until you go below the surface, then you start to understand who a person really is. Learning about others’ cultures allows you to understand their ideas, values, life experiences, talents, knowledge, world views, and much more! There is a lot to learn about each person below the surface; the more open we are, the more everyone benefits.

Cultural iceberg values you cannot see stereotype immigrants values beliefs

What other traits are you aware of that are visible and invisible? Do you often make assumptions based on these visible traits?

Personality traits to consider

It is nearly impossible to generalize specific personality traits, as there are so much diversity and variability in what constitutes someone’s personality. Psychologists have broken personalities into 5 main categories that may present some great talking points when getting to know your potential housing companion. The more “alike” you are in these traits, the more likely you will get along and see the world through the same lens. When differences arise in personality, it is best to communicate how you can work together to respect one another’s boundaries and avoid conflict in the living arrangement.

We will be using a personality assessment method called the Big Five personality traits. This method is the most commonly used and best-accepted model of personality in academic psychology.

Openness: A general appreciation of new experiences such as adventure, unusual ideas, and creativity. When comparing yourself to others when it comes to openness, you can simply ask if new experiences get them excited or if they prefer routine and comfort.

Conscientiousness: High conscientiousness indicates a preference for planned rather than spontaneous events. In comparison, low conscientiousness suggests that a person is more flexible and spontaneous.

Extraversion: This personality trait is usually easy to spot, as most people will be able to say right away whether they are more extroverted or introverted. Extraverts are typically full of energy, enthusiastic, and love to be around people. They do not feel tired after interacting with others for extended periods. Introverts, on the other hand, prefer less engagement with others and typically prefer more alone time. Generally, people are some combination of the two. Living with people with similar energies is important; if some people like constant activities while others always want it quiet and calm, there could be conflict.

Agreeableness: Agreeableness is related to how one values getting along with others. Are you willing to compromise your interests to help another person? Do you consider yourself generous, kind and understanding?

Neuroticism: Being vulnerable to stress, anger and anxiety. How quickly do you fall into anger in an uncomfortable situation? This is valuable to know when living with somebody, in case of conflict arising. If you live with somebody who angers easily, realise that they may need some space to think and calm down before discussed the issue.

When living with others, communication is vital. Communication is more than the words you say. Establishing a method to communicate what you want is essential for your shared living space’s success and enjoyment. We will dive deeper into communication skills in chapter 6.


Do you know your dominant personality traits? Take our simple personality assessment test to see where you sit on the spectrum.

Click the self reflection exercise below to begin!

Self reflection