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I'm a master student (20+) that for the last 6 months has been renting a room in an older woman's (50+) house, that is we're living in the same house (just two of us). Unfortunately, I didn't have a possibility to check the house and room myself before I moved in (I only saw the pictures she made) so our only way of communication was email. She seemed a nice woman with a colourful personality (she's a yoga teacher) but as the time has progressed it turned out that she's a person that I don't quite get along with. As it turned out she believes:

  • everything is a floating energy (we can walk through the walls)
  • we're neither born nor die, we're floating energy (reincarnation?)
  • the weather and terrorist attacks are controlled by masons (Illuminati)

and a lot of other weird things, moreover she's super anxious. She's been divorced for a long time and living alone since then, and I have an irresistible feeling that she feels alone (although she has a son in my age). Whenever there is a possibility she starts to talk a lot, even when I'm not in the mood. During some conversations, she was unintentionally (at least I hope so) trying to talk me into believing the same things as she does. It was absurd as I'm not only an agnostic that doesn't believe in anything but science but also a physics bachelor so in effect, I started to spend as much time as possible at the university and friends' flats and basically avoid her. I'm a calm, industrious person that usually spend most of the time alone.

Right now my agreement is reaching its end and I'm looking for a new flat. Among the offers, there is one that is affordable (woman again) but its description bugs me a little bit:

  • she's 30+, willing to share her house with someone who likes to spend time together a little bit
  • it seems that she's a children therapist working with animals
  • she mentions that there's a yoga room in her house (whenever I see or read yoga I cringe)

The housing market is really tight so I can't be picky that much. Again, I can't check the room myself (only email) but now I have friends whom I can ask to do it for me. Assuming that she will respond to my message, how could I gently ask her if she believes the same things as my current house owner and if yes, inform her that I don't believe those things and I'm not willing to talk/listen about it at all?

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    Why does the description bug you (apart from the yoga that is)? It doesn't set off any "crazy" alarm bells in my mind, so I'm not really sure how it's related to the homeowner being a conspiracy theorist. – TheRealLester Aug 15 '18 at 19:45
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    Instead of trying to probe her beliefs, can you just indicate that you need to spend time alone and don't want to appear unfriendly but you won't be available for socializing? If that's a showstopper for her at least you will find out up front, and if she turns out to not be an oddball you can always discover a new talent for conversation. – DaveG Aug 15 '18 at 19:48
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    @DaveG The things is I will be willing to socialize (it's not like I'm a solitary maniac) but only when I feel that I talk to a person "on the same level" – Colonder Aug 15 '18 at 19:52
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    @Colonder I'm suggesting that rather than trying to determine via email whether she's someone you want to talk to, start out with the idea that you won't be talking, and then if she seems interesting, you can always start some conversations. – DaveG Aug 15 '18 at 19:57
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    @Colonder: the problem is that the list of "weird beliefs" (to use your terminology) is endless: if your new landlady does not believe in, say, the Illuminati, she may believe in Free-Masons, Elders of Zion, Majestic 12, Roswell, Atlantide, lizardmen, alien-made crop circles, fan death, homeopathy,... the other problem is that you cannot outright ask whether she has any weird (or more politely, esoteric/unconventional/non-politically correct/non-mainstream) beliefs, as most tenants of them beliefs would not find them strange and have arguments to justify them? – Taladris Aug 17 '18 at 2:07
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To answer your question: Respectfully, you shouldn't.

Imagine you're in her position and are searching for potential leasers/flatmates, and someone immediately starts judging you based on your outward appearance. If you begin the relationship with, "You don't believe in anything weird right? I'm not really interested in any of that hippy stuff." You're already framing yourself as someone unwelcoming to other lifestyles that don't correspond to your own. Regardless if this woman is the stereotypical yoga-enthused, peace/love/carefree type you may be anticipating, she rightfully may not want to live with someone who's going to consistently invalidate her lifestyle. While it seems you aren't compatible with this type of lifestyle, my guess is you're prioritizing finding housing over compatibility. This approach could jeopardize your housing situation with this potential home-owner.

So, what can you do?

Get to Know Her

If you have the time and opportunity, you should get to know her. Have a phone call, or get coffee, or show her that you're at least invested in the personal aspect of your relationship. Taking this approach shows her that not only are you a welcoming and friendly person, but will also give you an opportunity to gain some insight into her lifestyle and personality. If you really want to ask her, you could try to gauge the situation with something along the lines of:

"I'm glad I am able to get to know you! My last roommate tried to convince me one time that the weather was controlled by the Illuminati. How crazy is that?!

If she laughs along with you about that, then not only is she probably more level-headed than your previous homeowner, but also you've made a personal connection with her. I want to note that this could possibly insult her, if she does in fact agree with that notion. However, the silver lining is you're able to find out more about her. Granted, this won't reveal all the skeletons in her closet, but you'll be able to gain more insight into who she is and what she believes.

Find another Housing Situation

Ultimately, you know yourself best. If this housing situation has potential to be another year of stress and ostracization, then you should look into other housing options. You may feel more comfortable reaching this conclusion if you get to know her and realize it's not a good fit.

Bite the Bullet

Having struggled through the grind of finding university housing, I empathize that time is always of the essence. If you don't feel like you have the time to find another housing option, it may be in your best interest to accept this housing situation for what it is. Rarely to people find the perfect person to live with, and the caveat of sharing rooms with others is being accepting and respectful of other's lifestyles.

I hope this helps!

  • This sounds good, but based on experience from many years ago with a tight housing market in a college town, there simply isn't time to get to know a potential landlord before renting. Usually there are three other people checking out the same location and if it looks good at a decent price, it will be gone rapidly. – DaveG Aug 16 '18 at 18:00
  • @DaveG I understand that, I just recently graduated and my college town also had a cut-throat housing market. I tried to focus mainly on a more pacifist approach to this question rather than suggest OP should try to find other options – BFG95 Aug 16 '18 at 18:09
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Yoga is one of those things that means one thing to one person and something completely different to another. It started out as a Hindu religious practice, but these days has become just another exercise routine for many.

For this reason many would tell you not to assume that your new prospective house mate is into all the tinfoil-hat stuff that your current one is simply because she does Yoga.

Personally, I'm of the opinion that the origin of things really does matter, and shouldn't be ignored. These days most people seem happy to wear clothes designed by the same people who made Nazi uniforms, or buy computers built by the same company who built the death-camp ovens, and if you try to point these things out they would rather not know and remain in blissful ignorance. But I just can't separate Yoga from its religious roots and while I have nothing at all against anybody else's beliefs, I believe it would be hypocritical to practice something that I personally don't believe in.

If a housemate practicing Yoga for fitness only doesn't bother you, but a house full of pseudo-spiritual stuff does, then you do need to find out which she is. Is she just someone trying to improve their core-body strength, or is she trying to achieve enlightenment and reach nirvana?

You need to meet her and talk to her. Arrange a viewing. Ask all the questions about the house you would want to and be friendly from the outset. Then, when it seems right, ask her about herself. Ask her about her work. It does sound a little unusual, so show an interest and draw out of her exactly what it entails.

From talking to her and looking around the house you'll soon get an idea of whether or not you will get along, and you shouldn't need to ask her outright what she believes in.

For balance, I should add that getting along with people who believe different things to us is actually a really good life skill. Surrounding ourselves only with people who we agree with can actually lead to feelings of superiority and intolerance. I'm sure that isn't the case with yourself, but do have a look inward and see if you can't overlook a few things in an otherwise decent housemate. Her "therapy" work with children and animals sounds a little bit hokey to me, but if it helps some people then who am I to say it has no merit? So even if the Yoga isn't a thing in this case, you might need to be a little more accepting of people who are less guided by science than you believe yourself to be.

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    I appreciate this answer as well. Indeed, yoga itself doesn't bother me at all, even the house as you put it "full of pseudo-spiritual stuff", which in fact, the house of my current homeowner is exactly that. I have many friends from different cultures and backgrounds but the only thing that I'm allergic to, regardless of the person, is stupidity. I can handle people talking weird stuff but claiming (while being sober) that we can walk through the walls is just too much for me. – Colonder Aug 16 '18 at 10:48
  • @Colonder Thank you. And sure, I get that "stupidity" is not something we want to surround ourselves with. There are some things that scream naivety when you look into their origins, like homeopathy; but don't be quick to dismiss everything that doesn't fit into a test-tube. – Astralbee Aug 16 '18 at 12:37
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One question I like to ask prospective housemates, which may help in this situation, is: "Can you tell me about any previous house-shares you've been in that haven't worked out, or where you've had housemates that were difficult to deal with?"

The answers to this question I'm usually looking for would concern cleanliness, housework, life schedules, etc. For example, if they complain that their ex-housemate never cleaned up after themselves, then that's a good indication that they're a tidy person, whereas if they complain that their ex-housemate was always nagging them about cleaning, then that's a red flag. You may also get answers about how they were uncomfortable about their ex-housemate often having a partner over, or vice-versa, which may indicate compatible expectations (or not) with you.

You could steer this more towards beliefs by adding examples to the question in order to lead their answer. E.g. Adding to the question, "... like where they turned out to be too messy, or too controlling, or just bigoted or closed minded?", might draw out answers about an ex-housemate who refused to believe in their crystal healing practices. Or you could go the other way, and add a humorously exaggerated example of crazy beliefs, where the exaggeration is unrealistic enough that the person won't identify with it (and so won't be offended by you putting it in a negative light), but it may open them up to discussing beliefs of past housemates. This might add something along the lines of "... like where they turned out to be too messy, or too controlling, or tried to convince you to join their human sacrifice cult?" to the question.

It's not guaranteed to get you an honest answer to the question you really want to ask, but offers a good chance of gaining some insight without offending the person you are interviewing. You'll probably need to think a bit about how to word it to best steer the conversion towards what you really want to know about. Also, I recommend avoiding specifically asking about one's "worst" ex-housemates, as this can get awkward if they've had any particularly bad experiences (e.g. violence). Asking about housemates "that were difficult to deal with" is much safer than asking "what was your worst house-sharing experience?".

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