You’ve arrived and you’re ready to teach English in China and the pressure is on to look for an apartment. You check out the first apartment, then second, then third. Maybe some of these apartments aren’t quite the living spaces you’re used to back at home. However, this guide will help you become more informed and set expectations so your first apartment experience can be a positive one.
What you get in most apartments in China are the basics; a bed, a couch, a TV, air conditioner and a washer and if you are lucky, a washer/dryer combo (especially in the south). Depending on the size of your apartment, the kitchen counter space and storage may be lacking.
With every problem, there is a solution. If you don’t have a stovetop, there are many options:
You can purchase an induction oven/ hot plate (you can find one for as little as 200 RMB)
Invest in a toaster oven (you can buy one for around 300 RMB)
Or you can eat out every night (meals can be as low as 10-15 RMB!)
If you are going to buy an induction oven, check the box, some induction ovens will have a pan included. If it doesn’t, then look for a pan with a magnetic bottom such as stainless steel, cast iron pans not aluminium. There are certain symbols that indicate they are usable on induction cookers.
Did you know that you cannot drink water straight from the tap in Shenzhen? Neither did I. Therefore, you need to BOIL YOUR WATER. (This comes from a reputable source, my uncle, who has lived in Shenzhen long before I was born). You can buy an electric kettle and boil your water, or you can also buy water as large as 25L at the supermarket. The other option is to get a water jug service to deliver water to your apartment by men on motorcycles.
If you need extra storage you can buy a shelving unit or bookcase at Walmart, Ikea or an online store like Taobao. Purchasing small hooks and baskets to hold knick-knacks also works as storage ideas. Just double-check to see if your building allows you to drill into the walls as you may not get your deposit back if you put holes in the wall.
A cheaper way to dry clothes is by hanging them. If you are lucky to have a balcony, most of the time, there is a bar for you to hang your clothes. Otherwise, you can buy a clothes rack. If you are in the south, the temperature is warm enough to dry your clothes even when it’s raining, unless it is a heavy material.
Some apartments will require 1 months to 3 months rent in advance as a deposit. At the time of this post, EF has a loan program for first-time teachers in China. It helps to cover the initial costs of your apartment. It is suggested to bring an extra 2000 RMB, although, I suggest to bring a little more maybe even 3000 RMB to cover the agent fee which is usually half of your months’ rent, as well as buying some things for your apartment.
Purchasing an induction oven, plates, cutlery, and all the small items including food tend to add up. Don’t forget you need sheets, a duvet, bathroom towels and laundry hangers or drying rack, laundry soap, and toiletries. I ended up spending a little more than 2500 RMB just on what I thought was the minimum for my apartment.
If you look around, you can find a place with everything you want, but you may need to compromise. My suggestion is to decide on a budget and stick with it. If your budget is 4000RMB, remember you may need to pay an extra 500 to 1000 RMB for maintenance and in utility fees. ASK! ASK! ASK! You never know what you can get the agent to add. A coworker of mine has internet, TV, and utilities included in their apartment, but their maintenance fee is expensive. Some apartments have a gas stove or microwave. Different rooms can carry different perks.v
These apartments tend to go like hot cakes. If you really like one, let your agent or landlord know ASAP. If you wait even a few hours or the next day, someone may have taken it away from you.