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Intercultural Challenges
Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3
45.748149, 4.860552999999982
Topic Solving a conflict with a French landlord

The situation I felt most uncertain in took place almost two weeks after I had arrived in Lyon. I had already organized to move to a shared flat in the city center before I arrived in Lyon. I had received the contact of a French landlord from a student who had already studied in Lyon 2 years before and who had lived in the apartment so I trusted his judgement of the apartment being appropriate. Unfortunately, some things in the apartment had changed in the meantime and the landlord turned out to be more focused on his financial benefit of renting out several flats in Lyon to students who were desperately searching for accomodation in Lyon (which is not an easy task, especially as an international student not having a French guarantor) instead of the satisfaction of his tenants. When I first arrived in Lyon and met up with him to hand over the deposit (in cash!!!) and move in, he seemed to be in a hurry and only had planned to spend 30 minutes with me to get the paper work done, show me the apartment and explain the house rules to me. Even though the apartment was empty when I arrived (none of the other five rooms were rented to anyone yet) and it was very dirty and things were broken, I accepted the room he presented to me because it was rather big and had a window facing a little backyard. After he had received the deposit which was a very big sum he left and I started cleaning right away after buying some cleaning supplies at the store. The state of the room was very bad and it was clear that he did not care about the living conditions of the students living in his flats. After three hours of cleaning, the landlord called me again and told me he had showed me the wrong room "by accident" and that I needed to move to another, smaller room in which the light and window blinds were not working. I tried to protest, but he insisted that room #3 which was written in my contract was not the one I was in at the moment and that the bigger nicer one was already promised to a French girl with a French guarantor. Of course, the rooms did not have numbers on the doors so I had no proof that he was lying, but I am very sure he just prefered to offer the better room to the French girl who would have her parents see the room. Long story short: I did definitely not want to stay in the room he wanted me to move to. Also because I already had cleaned everything in the other room. So I told him I wanted to move out and wanted my money back. Fortunately, he spoke some English which made it easier for me to communicate with him. However, during the following days and many discussions and also fights over the phone with his French speaking assistant they finally agreed to meet up with me, but had threatened to not give me back my deposit. I was very scared to go to the meeting by myself because they had shouted at me on the phone several times and accused me of not being cooperative. Also I was afraid that I couldn't defend myself enough since my French was not good at all in the beginning. 

So what did I do before the meeting? One of the strategies Brasher mentioned was "seeking social support". The first thing I did was exactly that. I called my father and asked him for advice. Even though he did not know all the context since he was not with me in France, I counted on his life experience to have some valuable ideas. He advised me to definitely not hand over the room key before I hadn't received the money and to not go by myself by any means. I also used another of Brasher's strategies, namely: "seeking information". I asked my new roommate (I was very lucky to find a new shared flat rather quickly) to accompany me and asked him all about the rental situation in Lyon. He explained to me that many students get exploited because there is such little living space in Lyon. I also talked to other international students who had experienced similar situations so it helped me estimate the situation I was in and I organized to have a local supporter (my new roommate) and another international student to come with me. In the end, the meeting was a very uncomfortable situation but I managed to receive all the money back and even did not need my French roommate to support me in speaking. However, I think it was the best thing I could do to have two people to increase the "manpower" on my side of the argument and to be very clear that I would not return the key unless I received all my money back.

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