Patrick Hyland

The Next Step: Hunting for an Apartment in China

So it's been about a month since landing in Shanghai to teach English in China. As I briefly mentioned in the last post, a lot has changed, and much has happened in that relatively short space of time. It has been an incredible couple of weeks settling into this exciting new environment, and it all began with onboarding training.

This was an opportunity to learn more about EF and to get an idea of what to expect while living and working in China, but more importantly, it was a chance to meet some new teachers who were in the same boat.

I soon realised that the primary focus of this training- apart from obviously signing on the dotted line- was to prepare us for the arduous task of hunting down our dream apartment in China! Of course, it makes sense to make it a priority. If you're like me, your living quarters is your sanctuary. A place of rest and recuperation; a peaceful haven of solitude and comfort where you can happily retreat to after a long and productive day.

Whatever the case may be for you, it will be your home away from home for the foreseeable future, and it's important to find the right space to fit your needs. That's all well and good, but how the hell do we actually find a place in Shanghai, I hear you ask.

Well, you can start by using your resources and the networks available to you, which is exactly what I did for the purposes of this post. In reaching out to some of the amazing people I have met both through onboarding training and from being around EF HQ, I received some incredibly helpful tips for finding the perfect apartment in China.

I've even put them in a convenient list, just for you. Here it goes!

"Be prepared to move into a situation outside of what you are used to." Jared Chok -USA

“Check everything on your first visit. Are there any broken pipes, or leaky facets? Does the toilet flush, and does the AC blow cold air? Is the fridge clean? Test the mattress, and even go so far as to flip it over! Don't leave anything to chance with an apartment in China.” Tuyen Pham -Canada

"Always keep an open mind. The best apartments can sometimes be in the worst looking buildings. And never settle for an apartment that you aren't 100% happy with; remember you'll have to live here for the next year or so." Victoria Waller -USA

“Make sure you know which area you wish to live in, think of what you want out of this in terms of the bigger picture. Are you ready for a full on local experience, or is there some place you could possibly have a bit of both? Also, free up some cash for the initial deposit and contract signing, as it's probably going to cost you more than two months' rent to seal the deal.” Dané de Vlamingh -South Africa

“Don't stress too much about living near your workplace; as long as you're on the same metro line, it's quick and easy enough getting anywhere. Instead, choose which area you like best, and although Pu Dong (East side of the river) is newer, the old West side definitely seems to be the place for expats.” Michael Kleynhans -South Africa

“Use as many agents as possible, and ask them to send photos with prices and locations before you agree to meet. This ensures two things: that the info they sent you beforehand matches up to reality, and you will find an agent that you can trust. Also, keep in mind that landlords often want to rent to foreigners. This gives you some negotiating power- don't be afraid to use it!” Cait Lees -UK

“Roam the streets in your desired area, and go to the agencies in person. Try a few different places, tell them exactly what you want, and they will get you the best deal. This will allow you to consider many options while avoiding the high commission rates that online agents charge. It helps to be able to speak some Chinese, or bring a Chinese friend along with you when looking for an apartment in China- and always ask for a discount!” Mar Riera -Spain

I'd like to thank everyone for their input, and for offering some insight into their experience. I hope this helps you in your quest; I'm sure you'll find an amazing space to suit your needs.

Until next time…

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