So far my student exchange has been full of positive experiences and encounters except for one thing : the fact that I’ve moved in three different places. I have come to realize how hard it is to not only find the right place but the right people to live with. Let me tell you about my misadventures.
The first people I lived with were a 45 year-old woman and her 9 year-old son. At first I didn’t think it would be a problem because I thought it would be safer for me to live with a family rather than with a bunch of youngsters I don’t know. But soon enough I started realizing some things were wrong.
First of all, I had reserved the room in November while I was still in Quebec. I talked to the lady on the phone, she sent me pictures of the room, and I said yes. When I got there on the 2nd of January I realized I had made a few mistakes but I wasn’t regretful yet. I thought to myself I’d just deal with it. Though my room was the way it was on the pictures and spacious enough for me, I didn’t think about asking for pictures of the other parts of the apartment. For example, having known that there was a weird looking scary painting in the hallway between my room and the bathroom, I don’t think I would have taken it. Every day I would look down to not make eye contact with the painting. It would frighten me whenever I needed to go to the bathroom or just go out. Also, on the ad, in the “other commodities” section, it was written that the apartment had a balcony. Soon enough I realized there wasn’t any, but since I didn’t ask about every single detail I couldn’t know. I thought perhaps she had made a mistake while filling the fields and didn’t realize it.
The other thing I didn’t know about was the lady is a smoker. I didn’t ask her because in my mind smokers who don’t live alone go outside when they need to light a cigarette. Well she didn’t. She would open the living room window and smoke in front of it. The problem with this is that some of the smoke stays indoors anyway. I’m not saying that I’m the type who takes good care of her own lungs (I was a smoker for a while), but I felt concerned for the kid and I honestly hate the smell of cigarette smoke (go figure). Especially indoors. I would be in my room, which wasn’t connected at all to the living room, and still smell the cigarette smoke. Every morning I would wake up with a sore throat and spit huge amounts of green mucus. Even though she would tell me to let her know whenever I needed something or about any concern I had I couldn’t tell her “Please go smoke outside”. It was her place after all.
I started thinking about leaving this place when I realized I was, most probably, being robbed off. I would pay a rent of 390€ per month. I didn’t realize it was high because I was living in Croix-Rousse (basically downtown) and well, when you’re not from there, how can you tell whether it’s worth it or not? One of my friends lives with her boyfriend in a spacious, beautiful and well located apartment (pont Lafayette). She pays 650€ per month. I started thinking something was wrong when I realized I was paying more than half her rent for a room. Another one of my friends lives two streets away from the other girl, in a very luxurious apartment who belongs to an old lady. She pays 280€ per month for her room. Another girl I met lives in the 5e Arrondissement, 15 minutes away (walking) from school and pays 390€ per month. What she has that I didn’t : a big room, a nice roommate, a garden and a swimming pool. But then again, I thought to myself maybe the rent actually is pretty high in Croix-Rousse. It’s only when I told my French friends about it that they told me I was being robbed off. Actually, when I told them I was paying 390€ per month and living in Croix-Rousse, they thought I was living with a roommate. When I told them I was actually living with a mother and her son, they asked me if she was cooking for me or something. When I said no the look on their faces meant everything.
What really made me leave was the atmosphere. I know that providing for a child on your own is not easy. But as soon as they started feeling comfortable around me, there wasn’t a single day of peace. Every day she would yell at him. Every day he would disobey her. One day I came home and saw one the chairs of the living room lying on the floor with papers and books discarded over the place. I felt very uncomfortable the whole time I stayed there and even started feeling anxious and depressed. Whenever I could I would stay at a friend’s place just so I wouldn’t have to come home. There were also all kinds of little things that I found were just not okay to do when you live with someone that they would do. But I won’t bother talking about those things.
So I stayed there for two months. In March I moved in another place. This time I had visited the apartment and met the person who was renting the room. Located in the 7e Arrondissement, he only asked for 250€ per month since he owned the place and had already paid for it. All he was paying were the taxes. The place was nice looking, almost like the kind you’d see in a magazine. He wasn’t looking for a roommate because he needed money but because it’s something he has been doing for a while and it was a way for him to feel less lonely and meet people. Since his job takes most of his time and energy, he’s not home often. I thought we had a good connection and so did he, so I took the room. The only thing he was picky about was cleanliness, which is far from being a problem for me since I’m a very clean person and am conscious about others.
Towards the end of the month, basically the day I came back from Zürich, he comes to me and tells me I have to find another place. Well he didn’t say it like that. He tells me we need to talk so we sit down. He tells me he was disappointed in me for a few reasons. First of all, I apparently wasn’t clean enough. He said I should have made the effort to clean the shower glass. What the motherfucker didn’t know is I would often put things back into place after him and clean the bathroom mirror. I also scrubbed clean the bathtub because there was a lot of soap accumulation. I almost told him “I never saw YOU clean the shower glass” but I didn’t. Second thing he mentioned was about the dishes. I remember washing all my dishes and even the stuffs he used for his breakfast that day. Apparently it wasn’t clean enough. What do you mean, not clean enough? I have been washing dishes since the age of 10. Third thing was about the toilet. Now you have to know that every time I poop, I actually clean the toilet with a brush. I know I would not want to see marks of poop in someone else’s toilet and so I don’t leave marks of my own poop. Apparently, the weekend I left, he found some traces of poop under the toilet seat. Now tell me how the fuck would there be poop under the toilet seat? Especially since I brush it every time I use it? And even if there was, so what, I’m a girl and I don’t put up the toilet seat often so I couldn’t realize there was poop there. The worst part is he said “traces”. Traces usually refer to a very small amount.
I felt very insulted. He’s far from being perfect and yet he would stick to very small details. He said he never had a roommate like that before. I honestly didn’t know the roommate he was looking for was a maid. I was mad because I remember picking up after him sometimes, I would sweep the floor twice a week, I would clean the stove tops every day, etc. But what killed me was the other reason why he was asking me to leave. Apparently, while I was in Zürich, a policeman came to the apartment because a neighbor from the block on the other side of the street filed a complaint about someone walking around naked in the apartment. I was flabbergasted. I never walked around naked. The only time I wasn’t wearing much clothes was the day I had to do laundry. Yeah, I spent that day in my undies because I had nothing to wear. I apologized and told him I didn’t know it was perceived as such an issue in France because it’s a habit that I have back home (stay in my undies). He said he knew I didn't do it on purpose, that it could have happened to him, that some of the people who live in this block are old prude people, but “since I’m also in the army and I don’t want to get into trouble with the law, and you’re a foreigner and you don’t want to get into trouble, it’s best you find another place to stay”. Motherfucker. Tells me he talked to the police and told them it was nothing to worry about and they were cool about it but wants me to leave? The guy walks around wearing only a slip all the time. But when I walk around once in my undies it’s an issue? I’m starting to think the complaint was filed against him, not against me.
I was pissed. When I told my friends about it, they all thought something fishy was going on. Obviously this is not a reason to kick someone out but they all think he’s been wanting to kick me out for a while but didn’t have a legitimate reason to do so. My friend’s boyfriend thinks he wanted to be alone after all. The guy I’m seeing thinks he took me as a roommate in order to have sex with me but realized soon enough he wasn’t going to get anything. Now I know that might sound like jealousy, but he might be right. He talked to my roommate a lot one night (I invited my friends over for a small party) and learned he only had female roommates. Strange much? Maybe. My mother thinks he’s actually a greedy person and realized he could make more money, and so he will soon put up the ad again, this time asking for way more than 250€. Whatever people’s opinions are, everyone thought that was strange and pretty unfair.
On April 1st I moved my stuffs to my friend’s place, stuffed my backpack with clothes and beauty products and spent a few days at my so-called-boyfriend’s place. Now I live with a girl, I’m a bit far from everything but the rent is only 285€. The past days were hard for me because most people wouldn’t reply my emails or return my calls. Not many people are interested in renting for less than three months. When I visited her place she seemed to like me a lot. She actually hesitated a lot before taking me in because she knows she’s going to have to look for someone else at the end of June. Still, she knew I was in a shitty situation and thought to herself she’d rather spent two and a half months with someone pleasurable and clean than take someone for six months she’d want to rip their head off.
And so that is it for today! I don’t like talking about negative stuffs and would rather focus on the bright side of everything, but I guess I kind of needed to let everyone know that my experience of living with people other than my family has been quite a hard one so far. What makes it harder is being 5000 km away from the people I love. I know if this had happened in Montreal I would have dealt with it easier or just went back to my mother’s place. But here I can’t. It saddens me to have met such dishonest people and I hope my new roommate is not like the others.
Anyways, have a nice day everyone!