Hausfrau Flashback!

First, allow me to introduce myself.

I am Scott Partee. Previously, I’ve written for Atlanta and Portland Metroblogs, and now I and my family live in Vienna. The Metroblog folks and our fine captain were courteous enough to let me in the Vienna club, so here’s my first entry.

Rather then a look ahead, or the typical “I’m so stoked to be here” type entry, I’m going to have a flashback, and then rant a bit.

For the past few days, I’ve been looking at apartments. As an aside, I must note that Vienna is a relatively inexpensive city when it comes to housing costs, but that’s not the subject of my rant. My rant is about:

The Wiener Hausfrau — Landladies

Years ago, I studied in our fine city and lived in a small apartment with an 83 year old Hausfrau and two other students. The woman was a menace. While she would occasionally cook for us and once took us out to her family’s vineyard and farm, she also lined us up for inspection and ranked us on occasion.

“You,” she would say in German, “are a good man.”

She’d poke my shoulder and move down the line. “You,” she’d shriek, “are so-so. And he — he is terrible!”

None of my other roommates spoke German, so I’d feebly translate her rants, regardless of topic. She hated that we dropped 10 Groschen pieces on the bathroom floor one time, accusing us of being “insane”. She loved Hasselhoff and thought Larry Hagman was one of America’s best exports. She left some cooked food out on the stove for over a week and when my roommate finally tossed the half-eaten piece of meat so he could use the pan, we were lined up and scolded for wasting “the best part.” She would yell at us for coughing. She went ballistic when we received a phone call. She despised that we studied in the same room together. She wouldn’t let us turn on lights during daylight even if we couldn’t see a thing.

In short, she made us miserable when we were home. On the plus side, Vienna is such a fun city, we never really felt like being at home anyway!

But like I mentioned before, today, as I was looking at apartments, I had a flashback.

We have viewed many apartments at this point. Most are very nice but, as with all things, none are exactly perfect. However, today, we toured one that was as close to perfect as I can imagine. The apartment had a functioning lift (important for those of us with babies in strollers), nice kitchen, large rooms, new appliances, beautiful hard wood floors, well-kept common areas, a great location and received abundant sunlight through the numerous windows.

In fact, this apartment was so great that I was tempted to take it on the spot. However, my “coaches” have advised me about the fact that verbal commitments are binding in Austria and I really need somebody to look over leases for me anyway as I don’t read German well enough yet to trust myself. The landlady rode the elevator down with us, where we had parked our stroller, and began to stroke her chin.

“My only concern,” she drew her voice out like a professor in deep thought, “is where you will keep your stroller”. She pointed at the baby pram parked next to the elevator. “Perhaps you could keep it here, but I’d need to find out from the person in charge of the house.”

“We could take it up in the elevator and park it in the apartment,” my wife suggested.

“No, I don’t think that would work”. She stared at the stroller, squinting.

“You don’t think it would fit in the elevator?”

“No, I don’t think you can take it up there.”

My wife walked to the elevator and pulled on the handle to size it up.

“Do not pull the handle! No!”

We froze for a second.

“I was testing the safety,” my wife said, referring to the fact that elevators in Vienna are under scrutiny due to accidents that happen when the doors to a lift do not lock when the lift is not present.

“It cannot withstand the pressure!” She exclaimed.

“Well, I guess we can just take the stroller up there. It’ll fit.”

“No. I do not want the stroller in the apartment. It is recently renovated and new in there, and it is not good with a carriage.”

So there you have it. We won’t be renting that apartment because the whole reason we need an elevator is verboten by the Hausfrau from being brought into our apartment. This is a big cultural difference for an American to swallow: having somebody you don’t know all up in your business and telling you what you can and cannot do. My wife attempted to talk to her about it, but finally I just whispered to my wife “give it up, we can’t take this apartment”.

In short, if we won that small battle, we’d be anxious for the next, which would, invariably, come to use quickly. Waiting for the next freakout is no way to be.

10 Comments so far

  1. daniela (unregistered) on February 12th, 2006 @ 9:09 pm

    welcome to the blog!

    what kind of landlady is that?! no stroller in the appartment. never heard about that. i heard about no pets in appartments, or too many people in the appartments, but strollers?!

  2. gibarian (unregistered) on February 12th, 2006 @ 9:56 pm

    I’ve been following your photostream on Flickr for the last few days. Seems like you’ve already seen quite a few places. Welcome to Vienna!

  3. scott partee (unregistered) on February 13th, 2006 @ 5:09 am

    I think I might just have a little bad luck with elderly landladies. No worries, though; we’re seeing plenty of good apartments.

    If anyone has any District/N’hood recommendations, send them my way. So far, we have a great option in the Fourth, near Wiedner Hauptsrasse and another on Burggasse. Both are extremely nice apartments and only lacking an elevator.

    Oh, and we like another very nice place on Gumpendorferstrasse, just a couple blocks from Mariahilferstrasse and the Naschmarkt.

    Anyone have any feedback on those places?

    And thanks very much for the welcome.

  4. sam (unregistered) on February 13th, 2006 @ 5:55 am

    hey, awesome flickr!

  5. nex (unregistered) on February 13th, 2006 @ 6:20 am

    Hi Scott, it’s good to see the Vienna metblog gaining momentum again, so I’d like to thank you for helping with that.

    In the case of the nearly perfect apartment, all you’d have had to do was make something up to circumvent the landlady’s crazyness. E.g. “We have a big car with a big trunk, we’ll just keep the stroller there.” And once that’s off her mind, do with the stroller as you please. On the other hand, you’ll probably find a good apartment with a sane owner, and you’ll be glad you didn’t take that one.

    Maybe I misunderstood something, but in case this helps: ‘Hausfrau’ means housewife, very straightforward. A landlady is literally a ‘Hausherrin’, but depending on context other terms are better translations, most often ‘Hausbesitzerin’ or ‘Vermieterin’.

  6. tina (unregistered) on February 13th, 2006 @ 9:03 am

    Hey Scott, welcome to Vienna and the Metroblog. I recently moved here – I live in the Fourth, and it’s a really nice neighborhood I think. Especially if you’re anywhere close to the Belvedere and the Botanical Garden – it’s wonderful walking there when the weather permits.

  7. teemu (unregistered) on February 13th, 2006 @ 5:59 pm

    scott, I won’t take an appartment rented from a private person – as your described landlady; I’ve lived under such cirumstances (my last two flats) and must say it is not worth the stress ..

    professional apartment-management-companies tend to be much more pleasent to deal with (although you have to spend more money in the beginning of an contract)..

  8. nex (unregistered) on February 14th, 2006 @ 7:26 am

    teemu, your warning has to be qualified a bit, because renting from a private person and dealing with a management company are not mutually exclusive. the owner of the house i live in had put up the for rent ad for my apartment herself and showed it to me in person. thus i had to pay no provision and i have someone i can call directly when something is wrong or needed (her husband helped me set up my satellite receiver and they made sure i had access to a ladder when i installed my window blinds). but guess what? i’m paying my rent to an ordinary building management company, and when i forget to do that, i get an automated letter from their accounting computer instead of a visit from an angry landlord. they don’t give me any stress at all, actually they’re very friendly.

  9. teemu (unregistered) on February 14th, 2006 @ 2:42 pm

    you´re right nex; (but what you describe is not what I mean – I thought that Scott described the Landlady as the owner of the flat):

    my first two flat-contracts were always kind of more direct – the landlords only owned the flat I was living in (not the house – actually the house I’m living in is also held privatly). they tend show up every now and than and insited in inspecting the flat (I was young, I didn´t have that much money), they forbid me leaving my bike in the flat (it was stolen out of the place I was allowed to keep it), and so on..
    The second landlords (I was a bit older, more experienced) went in the same direction; the good thing about both flats was, that I could move out instantly without taking care of finding someone moving in afterwards.

  10. nex (unregistered) on February 14th, 2006 @ 5:19 pm

    you mean subletting, or a condo? i guess i wouldn’t call the owner/renter a landlord/-lady either way, so i didn’t think of that.

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