I had never lived in shared flats until very late in my life – during my Bachelor studies I lived in a student dormitory, with contained kitchen and bathroom. Interaction with my direct neighbours was consequently scarce and limited to a few incidences where my music was (allegedly) too loud.
So my first real experience of living in a somewhat communal sense, was my semester abroad at the Sokoine University in Morogoro, Tanzania. Somehow, despite six months of phone calls ahead of my arrival with the help of a Tanzanian friend, any my student fees being paid already, no-one knew of my arrival when I stood in the vice presidents office – but they were flexible and even gave me a room for myself, although I had not asked for it (Despite being the size of single rooms or smaller, the other rooms were occupied by up to 4 people).
Although I was sleeping alone, we had a shared toilet and a shared bathroom. The toilet consisted of a hole in the ground in a room, which had a slight slope – this resulted in the fact that all the urine which did not reach the hole (which were surprising amounts), slowly started flowing into the shower. The bed was quite a bit too short and I had to ask for a second mattress, which made the bed incredibly soft – but at least I was able to leave my feet hanging over the borders of the bed now, and I glued two bottles to the bed to keep the Mosquito net from touching my feet, so that the Mosquitos cannot sting me at night. The first night I still had not tucked in the mosquito net closely enough and woke up when something walked over my back. Admittedly that caused me to be wide away, but after finding my torchlight, i saw that it was just a cockroach. But I guess I was a bit tense after one of my flatmates had told me how he left his room one night to go to the toilet, just to find a cobra curled up in front of his door – luckily that never happened to me until I left, but I did see a run over green mamba close to our flat and a puffadder that had recently been stoned to death by some schoolchildren on the compound, and one student showed me some stones under which he claimed, a black mamba lived. So that was always a bit a scary thought for me. But while the flat had obvious downsides, the upsides outweighed by far! First of all the price was unbeatable, at less than 10 USD / month.
Secondly, and most importantly, the people! I have met some incredible people there, with some of whom I still am in touch with on an irregular basis. The help I received with bureaucratic hurdles (yes, they exist there too, and plenty of them), when being sick or just anything else was really something. Also it was really nice that we cooked dinner with together every evening and sat together in the candlelight, when the electricity was off or cued for water together when the water was switched off. Generally, this was much more of a communal living experience than anything I had in any shared flat after that, with the exception of course, when I moved in with my at the time girlfriend, now beloved wife.
So basically, my opinion on flats is this: You can live very basic (as long as you can cover the basic necessities of food and personal hygiene, admittedly) and still enjoy life much much more, than living in a fancy flat with annoying people (in those cases I rarely ever wanted to go home after work).