We signed a rental contract without reading all the clauses. Do we really have to watch our landlord eat soup?
By Wise Expat Sage
Oh Wise Expat Sage,
When we moved to Luxembourg four months ago, my boyfriend and I found a charming one-bedroom rental apartment in the center, at a really great price. Apparently we didn’t read the contract closely because, just a week after moving in, our landlord showed up and announced that as per the conditions of our lease, he was there to eat green bean soup while we watched.
Sure enough, every other Tuesday evening, he shows up with a thermos of traditional Luxembourgish Bouneschlupp. Sometimes he’ll make chit-chat about the weather or local issues, but usually he eats in silence. If we try to leave the table before he’s finished, he’ll take out a copy of the contract with the relevant clause highlighted and gives us a rather unnerving look.
He’s a pleasant enough eater, i.e. watching him isn’t particularly gross or annoying. He’s also really quiet, brings his own spoon, and he never leaves a mess, but after a long day at work, my boyfriend and I want to be alone. My grandparents lived with us when I was growing up, so I’m used to being around older people and watching them guzzle all sorts of liquidy stuff, but this whole situation is just weird.
We want to end this arrangement without losing our deposit or getting evicted, but we did sign the contract. Is there a way out? Help!
You might think that your situation is unusual, but half of all rental agreements in Luxembourg contain a so-called “You Must Watch Me Eat Bouneschlupp” clause. You should count yourself as lucky. Your landlord only stops by twice a month. Some tenants wake up every morning to find their landlords already slurping bean soup at the table or in front of the television.
By their nature, Luxembourgers are a highly tolerant people. In recent years, for better or for worse, they’ve allowed a large influx of foreign nationals to live and work in the Grand Duchy. While Luxembourgers are happy to welcome newcomers, even going so far as to speaking their languages, Luxembourgers don’t want to see their culture, including their culinary heritage, get swept under the rug. The “You Must Watch Me Eat Bouneschlupp” clause is one way to compel newcomers to learn what Bouneschlupp is, and how one eats it.
I’ve lived here long enough to know that in cases such as yours, courts always side with the soup-slurping landlord. Unless you’re willing to forfeit your deposit or pay for a good lawyer, there’s little you can do.
My advice: get a welding helmet or some very dark sunglasses, such as those designed to be worn during an eclipse. This way, even if your landlord is sitting at your table, you won’t have to really acknowledge him. Another option: deny him the use of a chair. Standing while eating soup gets quickly tiresome. Believe me, I’ve tried.
Wes is a wise expat sage who has lived in Luxembourg for precisely eight months longer than you, and therefore knows more about life here than you ever will.
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