Sunday, March 15, 2009
After almost two years of living in the apartment the company assigned to me, the lease is ending and I'm off on my own to find a place.
There are many listings geared towards expats (ie more expensive) on the Beijinger website, but after a while the same ones are repeated over and over again which is tedious.
I've also enlisted the help of an agent who came recommended by a friend as she helped him and his fiance get a nice apartment.
However, probably like many other cities, you have to see many before you find something half decent or better.
While Chinese buildings have flats that are cheaper, it can be a dizzying experience going through endless hallways that all look the same until you reach your apartment. I think I could easily get lost in there.
The hallways are also very dark and while the flats themselves may be "renovated", it usually only means relatively new appliances and everything else looks old.
Other buildings follow the Hong Kong style of having a flashy-looking lobby with lots of marble, but upstairs, the apartment is nothing special.
Some of the flats I saw had bathrooms where there was no divider for the shower, which meant water would run all over the floor and toilet.
I don't understand why people have refrigerators in the living room -- my agent suggests maybe it's for people who want to have snacks and drinks within easy reach. But in some cases, the kitchen is too tiny to fit the fridge in.
While I've told my agent I want a place that's a short walking distance to the subway, she's shown me places that are in the middle of nowhere and would take a good 20 minutes to get close to the subway. That's how desperate she is for a deal.
One of the worst-decorated places she took me to featured a collection of seashells in two glass boxes complete with lights on the floor by the door. The nautical theme continued in the living room with thick rope wrapped around one of the railings.
There were also pumpkin-shaped orange lights for the bedroom...
In the other extreme, I've seen a practically brand new apartment complex where developers have decided to cram in as many studios or one-bedroom flats in as possible. The hallway looks like a rabbit warren with several doors along it.
And inside, one has to practically fold himself into an origami shape to get into the studio apartment that's just over 50 square metres (around 500 square feet).
Except that it looks much smaller than that, with a hallway kitchen, bar fridge and the bed right next to the kitchen. There's no storage space and the bathroom too doesn't have much of a divider for the shower despite having glass walls.
It's ideal for a male tenant who's in Beijing for a short stay and won't be cooking much. It's definitely not for long-term stays unless one is really living the minimalist lifestyle.
So the hunt continues... it's tiring and frustrating, but really, it's where you're going to live for at least 365 days. But it's interesting to see what Chinese people consider great versus your own living standards. There is quite the divide...