Last September I moved to Beijing for my four months internship. After the first excitement, it was time to get things in order and find myself a place to stay, especially after my friends joked that I will be out in the street renting a cage, as they read, this is something a few people do in Shanghai.
Finding a solid place to rent in Beijing can not only be a little hard, it is an actual challenge! And Beijing being the capital of the world’s most populous country does not make it any easier. Somehow, I managed to find one. Even though it took me some time to get use to it in the beginning, I ended up liking it in the end. I found it so interesting that I even decided to do a little photo shoot there, cause I thought it had this creepy slash cool vibe. So apart from showing you these pictures, I will also tell you how the apartment hunt went.
Before I left for China for four months I read all these horror stories and honestly, I was freaking out a little. What happened next was that prior to my Chinese adventure, I successfully fractured my leg on a trip in Northern Thailand and realised that no, we do not freak out over small stuff. So being five days in with my injury, I not only had to find a room to rent but I had to find a well located one, as my transportation to work was so far a very blurred image.
What to do? Ideally, you have some Chinese or non-Chinese friends who live in whichever place you are moving to. Knowing Chinese, the culture and the place is a huuuuge advantage. Ask them, they could help you out a LOT.
If you are moving to Beijing to study, most likely you will be assigned to a dorm – take it. You might need to share your room with someone, but hey, it costs a lot less money and you will meet awesome people! If you are going to work, ask your colleagues – maybe someone is moving out or they simply have already built a network in the city and know how to help.
If all the above is not the case, you will have to search online. As Beijing is full of expats, you should join Facebook groups such as „Foreigners in Beijing“ and so on. However, bear in mind that Facebook as many other social media are banned in China, so your access to these groups could be impossible once you are there. Therefore join the Wechat groups as well. Wechat is something like Chinese version of mix of Facebook and Whatsapp, and it is an absolute must in China. Otherwise look for websites used by expats, such as The Beijinger, where you can look for offers to rent an apartment or a room. However, most of such offers are posted by real estate agents, who will eventually ask for money as they „helped you to find the apartment.“ Once you find an apartment which you like, make sure you go check it out yourself or someone will go for you – because as I heard, many times the apartment on the picture unfortunately does not match the reality.
This is how I found my place to rent in the end. I reacted to numerous offers until an agent got back to me, offering me a room in an apartment which was located in Dongzhimen – possibly one of the best locations you can get in Beijing. As there is not such a thing as „the city center“ in Beijing, I would say it is a great, central location. I also loved that neighbourhood, it was also quite modern:
So yay, I finally found the place! After I arrived, the agent was waiting for me in front of the apartment. What I did not expect was that he will bring the „landlord“ straight away to meet me and that the landlord would ask for a deposit plus three months rent by CASH. Yes, it is all about the cash there. Being totally unprepared for this, I had to somehow negotiate that I can only pay half. And no, they were not happy. Anyways, I said “landlord” because ever since, when I had to meet the “landlord” a different guy would show up. It seemed to me (and I was also told so) that there are a few landlords who have some kind of a deal between each other and I simply guess the point is, that everyone gets a slice of the cake by renting out that place. I hope this makes sense, cause to me, it did not.
Anyways, there I was, in my new Beijing home, waking up completely exhausted the next day, as apparently in China, the hardest matrasses you can imagine, are a thing!