mercredi 18 septembre 2013

Not your everyday houseshare

We all know how difficult it is to find affordable, and acceptable, housing in Paris. It is so hard that many people are scammed in the process - I've read some blog posts written by expats who have been cheated out of their money. Finding a place to live in Paris is a long and expensive process, one that I am relieved to not have to go through.

I'm not here to talk about finding housing in Paris, though. I'm here to talk about another "type" of housing. One that I never imagined existed, at least not in cold Paris.

A few years ago my husband's friend was looking for a place to live in Paris. This friend came from Algeria and had an Algerian name. It's already hard enough for a Frenchman to find accommodation in Paris, but it's even harder for somebody who has a foreign name (especially for someone from Africa or Asia).

When my husband's friend would call a potential landlord, the conversation often went like this:

Husband's friend: "Hello, I'm calling to ask about the room to rent. Can I have an appointment to come and see it?"

Potential landlord: "What is your professional situation?"

Husband's friend: "My name is .... and I work as a scientist at the ..." (gets cut off)

PL: Rambles off some excuse to get off the phone and get rid of my husband's friend.

Two months go by like this. My husband's friend is getting tired of crashing at friends' places. One day he sees an ad for a room that looks promising. He calls the number and the person who answered the phone was surprisingly friendly. He feels that something is not quite right, but he goes over to visit the property anyway.

A café in Paris. Author of photo: Den Nation.
He is interviewed by a friendly couple in the apartment's living room. The apartment was clean, the couple was friendly, the price wasn't too expensive (for Paris), the location was all right. Everything was too good to be true...

"Oh, by the way, we are nudists," the couple mention at the end of the interview.

"Nudists, what?" said the friend.

"That's right, we believe in nudism, this is a nudist apartment."

Our friend is silent, obviously confused.

The couple continues, "Yes, there is a no-clothes allowed rule here." "As soon as we enter the apartment we remove all of our clothing and the clothes stay off." "We know what you must be thinking, but we are serious and this is something we really believe in."

Our friend is speechless.

"There are 3 of us living here now and we are totally comfortable with being nude and you would have to be too." "So what do you think?"

"I'll have to think about it," responds our friend.

He really did think about it. It's not that this kind of living arrangement bothered him, it just really caught him off guard, but ultimately he decided against it. He found a place to live shortly afterwards.

A Parisian residential building. Author of photo: Den Nation.

I'm not against this type of living arrangement either, but a few questions come to mind. What do you do if you want to have company over? And what about the winter? I asked our friend about this and he didn't ask the first question, but the answer to the second question was that, yes, they kept their clothes off all year, even in the dead of winter. I just can't imagine that! When I think about how cold some apartments can get in France, I can't imagine living nude in January in a freezing apartment. Either their heating bill must be really high or, in the case of shared heating (where the temperature is controlled by a central source so the apartment units of a building are all at the same temperature) there are some elderly people living in the building that have managed to convince the building's management to keep the temperature high. That, or the building is insulated quite well. Can you tell I suffer during the winter here in cold apartments?

So, I wonder, has anybody else had any experiences like this, in France or anywhere else?

12 commentaires:

  1. I've heard so many horror stories in Paris... parents of a friend of mine moved there a few years ago. The landlord asked for THEIR parents to be guarantors! Seriously... (my friend's parents are in their sixties...)


    I'm pretty comfortable with my body and being naked and all but I like wearing clothes. Being naked is not that comfortable actually!

    1. A few years ago when my husband was still renting he needed a guarantor. I don't understand why because he was already a fonctionnaire at the time. I can't believe that a fonctionnaire has to ask his mommy to be his guarantor! It's so ridiculous I'm laughing.

      Even worse, he actually became the garant for our friend at the same time his mom was still his garant. How can this be? So apparantly this fonctionnaire is so high risk he needs his mom to be his garant, but yet he can still be counted on to be somebody else's garant? This blows my mind away!

  2. Yikes, that would be a definite no for me. And I don't think I'd invite friends over either.

    1. I know, how could you ever have friends over? You would always have to go over to their places or they would have to be on board with the whole nudity concept.

      What happens if one day you just want to put some clothes on? Nope, you're out of luck, house rules.

  3. Several years ago I was looking for a place to stay in Paris just for a couple of month, I was told to look at some ads from the Chinese students in Paris. Well, they were subrenting their living room.

    1. Yeah, I actually sublet a living room a few years ago when I lived in Boston. A living room that was infested with mice. I had to lock up my food in my suitcase. Fun times...

  4. Oh my...I'm not sure how I'd react to that! I mean, my first thought wasn't even about being naked around others, it was, "but it's always so cold in Paris! Who'd want to be naked there in the winter??"

    Which café is that a photo of? It's beautiful!

    1. I know, isn't it beautiful? My husband surprised me and took me there the last time we were in Paris. Guess where it is?

      In the Gare de Lyon. Yup, that's right, as we were waiting for our train down to Grenoble he took me up there and we had a drink. From the outside it looks like nothing, but the inside is amazing and it also has the price tag to match. The name of this restaurant/café is Le Train Bleu and it is located right in the station. If you are standing in front of the long line of trains, look towards the exit to the waiting hall and you will see a staircase leading up to it. It has nice views of the square in front of the station and paintings of major cities and tourist areas that the Gare de Lyon serves. I hope you make it out there on your next trip to Paris.

      I hear you about the cold apartments in France. Sometimes I feel like it's warmer outside than inside!

  5. Funny story, except for the "looking for an appartment in Paris" part. I used to be a renter and I can tell you that finding an appartment was hell in Lille :Caution, agency fees. My husband didn't even know his rights when he was a student. The landlord kept the "caution" and took forever to give it back minus some ramdom fees. Last time I rented, I sent a registrated letter to remind them that they have only 2 months to give back my deposit according to the law.
    The government passed a law to regulate rents but I'm not sure it is going to help renters. On the other hand, my in laws used to have renters who didn't pay their rent for 6 months, and the mairie was backing them.

    1. This happened to us as well. A few years ago when we left an apartment the agency we rented from kept some of the caution (100 euros) because there was mould around the caulking the shower. I can't believe they took 100 euros for around 20 cm of mould! The worst of the matter was that the mould was already there when my husband moved into the apartment. He should have taken pictures.

      When we moved into our studio in Copenhagen, we took pictures of everything. The agency provided us with a piece of paper to write down any problems with the studio and we ran out of room. We went into the agency constantly in the beginning, telling them that we forget to add this or that to the list. They finally told us that we were being too exact, that they didn't want to know about every single scratch that was on the floor. French conditioning I tell ya...

      My neighbour's grandfather has a tenant that hasn't paid his rent in over 5 years. He has tried to get the tenant out but he can't because the tenant is very elderly.

  6. I would definitely NOT go for that! One of my questions was what about ladies who don't use tampons for that time of the month. I don't always and would be damned if my roommates controlled how I managed my monthly friend! I'm almost annoyed now for your friend. Why did HE have to be naked? And yeah, in the dead of winter...these apartments get chilly!

    We had trouble finding a place too because I was the American girlfriend who didn't make enough money. For some reason they were comfortable telling us that.

    I hope that he found accommodations where he is allowed to be himself -- and fully dressed!

    1. I didn't even think about that! What are you supposed to do, walk around in your underwear so everyone knows you have your period?

      Yes, those apartments are really chilly. Whenever I go to Paris in the winter, I would rather stay outside than sit around shaking in my father-in-law's studio. Even if I sit right by the radiator, it's never enough.

      I am so glad that I don't have to go through finding a place to live in Paris. There is just so much demand and not enough offers. Well, actually I think there is are a lot of offers, but many available apartments are being rented out to tourists. My husband's scientist friends cannot buy in Paris even though they have BAC +8 and are fonctionnaires. I am sorry you have go through all that.