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Old 10-23-2011, 01:57 PM
 
Location: The Netherlands
2,942 posts, read 4,375,451 times
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I'm not sure if this is the right forum but I guess it is. I know it's a long story but I would like to hear your objective opinions on this situation, because my family and friends say I have done nothing wrong but this couple I'm living with are making me feel very bad about myself, so I don't know what to think anymore.

I am a Dutch student who moved to Namur (in the French-speaking part of Belgium) a month ago in order to improve my French. I am staying here for one semester, which means until the end of January.

Since something went wrong with my application for student housing and I didn't have much time left to find a place to live, I decided to look around on the internet. I found an advertisement on a reliable website of an elderly couple who offered a spare room in their house for 400 euros a month (around $550). The room was quite small but fully furnished (bed, desk, closet) and the rent price included an internet connection and use of the refrigerator, washing machine and dryer. Although I thought the room was a bit expensive (almost double the price I would have paid if I had gotten a room via the University's student housing service) I was glad to have found something at the last minute, so I replied to their advertisement and we had several exchanges via e-mail and telephone. They showed me their profile on a social media network that featured hundreds of photos of themselves and their house. They seemed very open and friendly so I decided to take the room, considering I didn't have much time left to find something else. I went there with my father and the room looked good, so I moved in.

During the first week, everything went fine. They were very nice and helped me arrange several things, such as a subscription for the bus as it turned out I lived farther from the city centre than I had expected (about 20 minutes by bus). However, after this week we got into our first disagreement. I found out that they had taken the key to my room without letting me know. I asked them why I wasn't allowed to have a key to my room and they told me that was just a policy in their household; they never lock their doors, not even their car doors because they don't feel it's necessary. I told them that I would really prefer to have a key to my room, just to have a sense of privacy and ownership, and that I felt that I should be able to lock my door when I wanted to because I was paying rent. They replied that this was their house and they should be able to enter my room at any time in order to check if I was keeping it clean. I could understand their position so I offered to leave the door unlocked when I wasn't there and to only lock the door when I'm changing clothes or when I'm sleeping (because I feel they have no business being in my room at those moments). Still, they didn't agree and felt offended that I didn't trust them enough to leave my door unlocked at all times. I did not get my key back.

After the first week, they started to impose more and more rules. I could not eat breakfast, lunch or dinner in my room, even if there was nobody in the living room or kitchen. I had to eat in the kitchen at all times. Furthermore, they expected me to eat with them. I could choose to cook my own dinner or eat what they had prepared (the latter would cost me 5 euros per meal). Usually, this wouldn't be such a problem for me, were it not that I am used to having dinner at a much earlier time than them (I usually eat between 16:30 and 17:30, they eat between 19:00 and 20:00), which is a problem because I don't want to be doing the dishes late in the evening. Moreover, I find 5 euros per meal way too expensive, esp. considering the fact that I can prepare the exact same meal at a much cheaper price myself. So I continued to have dinner seperately, which caused some friction. I didn't feel it was my obligation to eat with them because they had made no mention of that in their advertisement or in our e-mail and phone exchanges.

They also told me that I was supposed to spend the day in the living room and kitchen when I was at home, since 'normal people' only use their room for sleeping (despite the fact that my computer, television and desk to study were all in my room). Since they themselves are often in their computer room, I usually stay in my room when I'm home and go to the kitchen to eat, and sit in the living room for a short while to have the 'obligatory' chat with them. I feel like I should have the freedom to do whatever the hell I want when I'm here as long as it doesn't bother them, I don't "owe" them anything except for the rent.

Finally, we had another major argument a few days ago on my birthday. Usually, I always clean my room every day before I go to school (put my dirty laundry in a bag, make my bed, etc.) and I get up a bit earlier for that, but that day my father and brother called me in the morning to wish me a happy birthday. I hadn't spoken to them for about a month so we had a lot to catch up, and we talked for so long that I didn't have enough time to clean my room. I figured I would do so after class. However, when I came home the 'landlady' was furious with me for the "mess" in my room (just some clothes on the floor from the day before and an unmade bed) and said it was unacceptable and they were going to kick me out if I continued like this. I told them they were unreasonable because my room was usually very tidy and they knew that. After I cleaned up my room and had dinner, I went to my friends to celebrate my birthday (they all live in the centre so it's more convenient to celebrate it there).

The next day, the 'landlord' came up to me as I was doing the dishes and started to complain once again that I didn't eat with them, and he told me that they always give people 3 chances and I had already blown 2 (one for the discussion about my key and the other for the argument about my room on my birthday). He told me that I didn't fit in with their household and proceeded with a lot of negative (and completely unfounded) stereotypes about Dutch people. I found out this man hates Dutch people (and Germans, and French) because he is convinced that we have wanted to take back Belgium since the Belgian War of Independence in 1815 (). Anyway, he felt that I wasn't making enough effort to "integrate" into Belgian culture (even though I'm only staying here for a few months) and he thought that I should have celebrated my birthday with them instead of with my friends. He told me he expected me to be like their daughter and since we didn't have that connection, I had to leave before Nov. 11 (since I arrived here Sept. 11). Fortunately, I went to my academic coordinator and I found out that there is still one student room available at a much cheaper price and in the middle of the city centre, so I'm leaving next week

Anyway, they keep telling me that I am abnormal and disrespectful and I was even diagnosed 'autistic' yesterday (which I actually find quite offensive because my brother really is autistic and it's a serious condition) because I don't want to have a "family bond" with them and I don't feel the need to adopt all the Belgian customs as an exchange student. I am used to living by myself so I don't know what's "common practice" when you're living with an elderly couple as a student. Is it normal that they get so involved with your life? They never mentioned anything about this in the advertisement. Are their demands normal? I would really appreciate some outside perspective on this

Last edited by LindavG; 10-23-2011 at 02:11 PM..
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Old 10-23-2011, 02:47 PM
 
Location: Southern California
3,115 posts, read 7,222,501 times
Reputation: 3671
It's great that you get to move out soon! And it will be cheaper and in the city centre? Sounds perfect!

Quote:
Originally Posted by LindavG View Post
I don't want to have a "family bond" with them
Back when I had roommates the very worst were the ones who wanted more from the relationship than I did. And they NEVER let you know that ahead of time. No potential roommate every comes right out and says, "Hey, if you move in, I want to be best friends, and will be insulted if you don't spend all your free time with me." or "Hey, if you move in, I expect you to love me, and take the place of my family that rejected me."

I wouldn't even spend one moment worrying about it. You just experienced your first crazy roommate - and almost everyone has at least one crazy roommate story!
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Old 10-23-2011, 02:59 PM
Status: "busy" (set 8 days ago)
 
Location: under the beautiful Carolina blue
16,723 posts, read 25,695,396 times
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These people sound really strange. Be glad you are leaving before ending up a prisoner in a basement dungeon or something.
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Old 10-23-2011, 03:09 PM
 
4,800 posts, read 10,542,051 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LindavG View Post
Is it normal that they get so involved with your life? They never mentioned anything about this in the advertisement. Are their demands normal? I would really appreciate some outside perspective on this
I can't speak for how people rent out rooms in Europe and what the law says there but in the USA this would be very bizarre and illegal behavior. Renters have rights in the U.S.
It is illegal for landlords or apartment managers to enter a tenant's residence without their permission or a prior warning, unless it is an emergency, like a fire or something.
This old couple clearly wanted some things from you they didn't tell you about up front . Sometimes we take people to court too much in the U.S. but I can tell you that you would have the basis for a law suit here. I am glad you are getting out.
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Old 10-23-2011, 03:52 PM
 
1,237 posts, read 2,975,451 times
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Here's the thing - since you were just renting a room - it should be a renter/rentee situation. So no, you're not abnormal by any means.

However if they for some reason saw this as a 'student exchange' situation (I think you used that term?) then it's less weird that they were hoping for a familial arrangement. Even if this was the case, they took it way too far. When I was in high school any students that came for student exchange were like a son or daughter to their host parents - there were rules, curfews, family meals, ect - but they were also teenagers that went out with friends and didn't spend all their free time staring at each other in the living room.

Basically, just be glad you get to leave and be sure to leave a review if possible on the website (or contact your student housing) to help make sure no other student unknowingly rents that room out.
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Old 10-23-2011, 04:05 PM
 
Location: The Netherlands
2,942 posts, read 4,375,451 times
Reputation: 3402
Quote:
Originally Posted by bouncethelight View Post
It's great that you get to move out soon! And it will be cheaper and in the city centre? Sounds perfect!
Yes, now I just regret that I didn't find out about this sooner, it would have saved me a few hundred euros and getting up early every day to take the bus.

Quote:
I wouldn't even spend one moment worrying about it. You just experienced your first crazy roommate - and almost everyone has at least one crazy roommate story!
That's true, at least I'll have some great stories to tell when I get back home

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Originally Posted by twingles View Post
These people sound really strange. Be glad you are leaving before ending up a prisoner in a basement dungeon or something.
Trust me, you don't know half of it! The woman is OK but the man has some seriously strange ideas. My study is related to politics and economics so he always wants to discuss his crazy theories with me. He is anti-semitic (and when I disagreed with his comments he suspected me of being Jewish LOL), racist (he told me that all Africans are thieves and profiteurs as that is engrained in their culture) and borderline communist. I don't agree with his ideas and that is one of the reasons he doesn't like me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kanhawk View Post
I can't speak for how people rent out rooms in Europe and what the law says there but in the USA this would be very bizarre and illegal behavior. Renters have rights in the U.S.
It is illegal for landlords or apartment managers to enter a tenant's residence without their permission or a prior warning, unless it is an emergency, like a fire or something.
This old couple clearly wanted some things from you they didn't tell you about up front . Sometimes we take people to court too much in the U.S. but I can tell you that you would have the basis for a law suit here. I am glad you are getting out.
Well, usually it's the same in Europe (at least, in my country) but this case is different because I am living with this couple in their house and using their furniture and appliances. I don't really feel like I 'live' here, it feels more like I'm just a long-term house guest. I didn't pay a caution fee (thank God!) and there is no rental contract (which I should have insisted upon because now I would have had no leg to stand on if they had kicked me out and I couldn't find another room in time).

I'm glad everything worked out the way it did!

So you guys don't think their expectations of me are normal? Cause they act like I'm crazy for disagreeing with them and they talk about me with their friends, who also seem to think that I'm the one that's unreasonable. Is it really weird to want a key to your room, to be able to eat a sandwich in your room once in a while and to prefer being in your own room with a tv, radio and books instead of spending time with an old couple when I'm home? They think I'm unsociable and even "autistic" (I was diagnosed with that yesterday because I usually sit at a specific place at the dinner table, namely the one that's closest to the stove i.e. the most convenient, and apparently that makes me autistic)
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Old 10-23-2011, 04:11 PM
 
Location: On the sunny side of a mountain
3,181 posts, read 7,022,099 times
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I'm so sorry this is happening to you, they are not nice people to be treating you this way. My niece was an exchange student in Argentina and had a problem with her second host family being very mean to her, luckily her first host family was happy to have her come back and stay with them.

I'm glad you'll be moving into a student room, and I'm sure your experience will be much better there.
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Old 10-23-2011, 04:22 PM
 
Location: The Netherlands
2,942 posts, read 4,375,451 times
Reputation: 3402
Quote:
Originally Posted by swmrbird View Post
Here's the thing - since you were just renting a room - it should be a renter/rentee situation. So no, you're not abnormal by any means.

However if they for some reason saw this as a 'student exchange' situation (I think you used that term?) then it's less weird that they were hoping for a familial arrangement. Even if this was the case, they took it way too far. When I was in high school any students that came for student exchange were like a son or daughter to their host parents - there were rules, curfews, family meals, ect - but they were also teenagers that went out with friends and didn't spend all their free time staring at each other in the living room.

Basically, just be glad you get to leave and be sure to leave a review if possible on the website (or contact your student housing) to help make sure no other student unknowingly rents that room out.
I'm not a high school student, I'm in University. I'm an exchange student because I'm doing one semester abroad as part of the Erasmus programme. I wasn't looking for a host family or anything (I am used to living on my own) and there was no mention of that in their advertisement. They just came across as a couple that offered one of their spare rooms on a housing website, I figured it would have been more or less like living in a student house except that the roommates were a bit older () but boy, was I mistaken! I am a fairly independent person anyway, I don't like to be treated like a child and be told what to do all the time. When I see them in the morning, they'll ask me what time I went to bed and at what time I got up, like it's any of their business? They expect me to have breakfast with them on Sunday at 08:00 AM I usually get up at around 10/11 AM in the weekend and then I get those accusatory looks as if it's a crime to stay in bed a little longer
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Old 10-23-2011, 04:59 PM
 
Location: Nebraska
4,179 posts, read 9,387,002 times
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Honestly, I started reading this post assuming that there was just another young person whining about being 'expected' to do basic things like rinse out the washroom sink after they shave, or whatever.

Wow.

They are creepy.

I'm glad you got out of there. From your posts, it sounded like they - especially the male - wanted a surrogate "son" to discipline and on whom to impose their political and social beliefs. When you didn't turn out to be that "son" they were angry, insulting, and resentful. Like a previous poster indicated, you're lucky they didn't put you in a dungeon or basement to "larn you yer manners"!

I can't imagine anyone normal insisting that a 'mere' lodger spend his/her birthday with them instead of friends! Heck, I didn't do that to my own kids once they reached 13!

But I have to say that the really creepy part was the male renting to you when he didn't like 'Dutch people' and was resentful of them. What was he really planning to do - convert you to "Belgiumism"? or make you a scapegoat for all of his racism and fears? I can't imagine what would have happened to you if you had been forced to stay there, as they were busily turning their own friends against you... it sounds like a setup for a horror movie!

You're well out of there. And calling you autistic was just another example of their childish selfishness and cruelty. Like a layperson can diagnose that! Sadly, not all adults are grownups!
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Old 10-23-2011, 06:01 PM
 
Location: The Netherlands
2,942 posts, read 4,375,451 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SCGranny View Post
Honestly, I started reading this post assuming that there was just another young person whining about being 'expected' to do basic things like rinse out the washroom sink after they shave, or whatever.

Wow.

They are creepy.
Yeah, I have to keep reminding myself that they are the crazy ones, not me.

Quote:
I'm glad you got out of there. From your posts, it sounded like they - especially the male - wanted a surrogate "son" to discipline and on whom to impose their political and social beliefs. When you didn't turn out to be that "son" they were angry, insulting, and resentful. Like a previous poster indicated, you're lucky they didn't put you in a dungeon or basement to "larn you yer manners"!
Make that a "daughter"

Yes, he really does want to convince me of his political and economic beliefs. He even sent me a link to a political activist group that he supports via e-mail. In short, he believes that the state should provide every citizen with 800 euros basic income per month and those who want to earn more can choose to work. However, over every euro you earn on top of this basic income you pay 50% (!!) taxes. Furthermore, the state decides which products are "primary goods" and which ones are "luxury goods", and the primary goods are not taxed but the luxury goods (e.g. a car) get a VAT of anywhere between 100% to 200%. That's what I meant by borderline communist

Quote:
I can't imagine anyone normal insisting that a 'mere' lodger spend his/her birthday with them instead of friends! Heck, I didn't do that to my own kids once they reached 13!
Oh, that's not the worst he said. He also expected me to celebrate Christmas with his family, LOL. And on my birthday, my friends offered to carry some bags with left-overs from the party to the 'landlady's' car (she came to pick me up cause the last bus leaves at 21:00), I said they didn't need to but they insisted because it was my birthday. Anyway, that was construed to "you are too lazy to carry your own bags, your friends have to do it for you!" I swear, there is no reasoning with these people.

Quote:
But I have to say that the really creepy part was the male renting to you when he didn't like 'Dutch people' and was resentful of them. What was he really planning to do - convert you to "Belgiumism"? or make you a scapegoat for all of his racism and fears? I can't imagine what would have happened to you if you had been forced to stay there, as they were busily turning their own friends against you... it sounds like a setup for a horror movie!
These people are full of generalisations, I have never met anyone so narrow-minded as them. According to him, "all Jews" are rich and powerful, "all Africans" are thieves and take advantage of you because that's part of "their" culture (I asked him to define "African culture" which was kind of funny because he admitted that Africa is diverse in terms of race/ethnicity, language, religion, cuisine and development, but other than that... their "culture" was the same, LOL). He still holds a grudge against the Netherlands because we were at war with Belgium in 1830. I am not making this up, that's literally what he told me. I asked him what his problem with Dutch people was and he said "you people are still trying to take over our country". Talk about delusions, LOL, we put that stuff behind us some 200 years ago. In all fairness, we'd have nothing to gain from taking back Belgium anyway, the country is an economic and political mess (still no government after almost 1.5 years). It's a nice and charming country, don't get me wrong, but there's no way the NL would take them back in the condition they're in. He also hates the Germans btw, due to WW1 and WW2.

I have no idea why he decided to rent his room to me in the first place if he hates Dutch people but maybe it's to 'confirm' his own stereotypes, if that makes sense. They have been criticizing me for every little thing I did since the beginning and everything negative was "typically Dutch". Like I was too "lazy" to carry my own bags? Well, that's cause I'm Dutch. I am "unsociable" and "disrespectful"? That comes from being Dutch. I don't believe in nationalism (I think it's a backwards concept) so I'm not really offended by what he's saying, I just think it shows his ignorance.

Quote:
You're well out of there. And calling you autistic was just another example of their childish selfishness and cruelty. Like a layperson can diagnose that! Sadly, not all adults are grownups!
Yes, and he just throws that word around as if it's nothing.

It's a good thing I can vent my frustrations here They don't speak a word of English (or any other language besides French for that matter) since they're too proud for that, so I don't have to worry about them reading my rants either

Last edited by LindavG; 10-23-2011 at 06:13 PM..
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