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I just realized I’ve been living in Beijing for five months and I still haven’t shown you my apartment! At first I was waiting to unpack and decorate… and then I just got lazy.
So last weekend I decided to take some photos of everything to give you a little tour of my place since (SURPRISE!) I probably won’t be living here much longer!
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I live in a sunny studio apartment walking distance from work. I have a large queen-sized bed which I decorated with a comforter I found at Carrefour. For some reason they don’t sell fitted sheets in China, so I finally bought a pair while I was home in Seattle.
My bed consists of a box spring with a thin, fuzzy pad on top. We all know how much I’ve actually grown to prefer hard beds, but thankfully my bed isn’t as hard as when I lived in Ningbo’s countryside and was sleeping on wood… or whatever that was.
Next to my bed is a huge window that lets in so much sun it’s impossible to sleep late in the mornings. I have a nice little view of my neighborhood, as well as a historic complex across the street from me. I love how bright my apartment is, especially on sunny days. It was one of the main reasons I chose this place!
Unfortunately, I don’t spend enough time in my apartment to really appreciate how bright it is, but now that I’m working five-day weeks (FINALLY), it’s nice to have a sunny apartment to lounge around in.
Near by bed I also have a desk, which I recently moved to face the window (I hate working while facing a wall). This desk is a nice place to get blog posts written, but I also sit here when I eat messy dinners (I don’t have a table) and I use it to hold my jewelry and perfume.
Is it kind of sad I’ve been living here for 5 months and still haven’t hung up my souvenir paintings? I could really use some artwork above this desk, but to be honest I was in my apartment so little this fall that I never got around to it. Now that I’m leaving next month I don’t really see the point!
The Living Room
One thing I really like about this apartment is that the bed is in a little alcove. Because the couch juts into the apartment, it partitions off the bed, making it feel like a little bedroom. However, the apartment is still really open, giving the whole place sunlight.
My couch is also ridiculously comfortable. Trust me, my Chinese friend slept on it for two weeks and she said it was amazing. It’s more comfortable than my bed!
I’m also really enjoying the kitchen in my apartment. Not only is there great cabinet space, the hot plate they gave me actually works! Last year I bought a bundled hot plate, wok, and pot from Tesco for $15 and it was a huge mistake. This hot plate is actually really good, and I bought a very nice pan to go with it. The hood above the hot plate is also really great, because it has a fan and a little light so I can actually see what I’m doing while I’m cooking.
I also have a mini rice cooker, which is perfect for making enough rice to feed a few people, as well as boiling water for pasta, and making soups. Believe it or not, this is actually the first time I’ve had a microwave in a Chinese apartment. While I don’t use it that often, it’s great for heating up leftovers so I don’t have to re-heat them in my wok. Now all I’m missing is an oven!
I also have a washer in my kitchen, which is a bit strange. However, I actually really like that my washer doesn’t take up any space. It’s also pretty convenient because my wardrobe and drying rack are very close by. I don’t have a dryer (they barely exist in China), but that’s fine with me. We all know I don’t like them anymore anyway.
The…. Other Stuff?
On the far wall I have my fridge and freezer, which is amazing compared to what I had at the University of Nottingham. Last year my three roommates and I split a mini fridge with no freezer, which was ridiculous, especially in the summer when we all wanted to cook since the campus restaurants were closed. Now I have a decent-sized fridge and freezer to myself!
Next is my drying rack. which unfolds to fit a lot of clothes. I actually really like this drying rack, as opposed to hanging my clothes on a pole using hangers. Not only does this rack stay clean, I also don’t have to waste all my hangers drying my clothes.
Next is the tv, which I’ve never actually used. It’s in an awkward place facing away from the couch, which doesn’t really concern me. I just watch tv on my computer! Apparently I have free cable though.
Finally, there’s my wardrobe, which is actually the perfect size for one person. I wish it had a few more drawers, but it definitely works.
Near the front door is the bathroom. I have a large counter, toilet, and shower. I’m sure some of you may be confused when looking at my shower situation. I actually don’t have an enclosed shower which is common in China (and many places in the world).
At first I was somewhat annoyed by it, but since the shower is in the back of the bathroom, it doesn’t soak the area by the sink, which is nice. It also means I have way less to clean, since I don’t have a bathtub or shower glass to scrub!
Above my shower are two very warm lights as well as a fan. I love the lighting in my bathroom with these lights on, and they help keep me nice and toasty while taking a shower! I am definitely going to miss these when I move.
You may also be a bit confused by the huge tank above my shower. Many bathrooms in China actually use a hot water tank to heat up water for the apartment. Rather than paying for hot vs. cold water, you merely pay for the electricity needed to heat up the tank!
My apartment in Ningbo was like this last year. When you wanted to take a shower, you’d just turn the hot water on and wait for the tank to heat up. In the summer this would take 10 minutes, but in the winter it could take a solid forty-five minutes! This was because our apartment was basically an ice box due to China’s regulations about central heating in the South.
This year, I don’t actually have to use the water tank because I have central hot water in my apartment. This is great for washing my hands, and washing dishes in the sink. Two years ago my kitchen sink didn’t have hot water which was really shitty. I’d have to boil water just to wash my dishes, otherwise my hands would literally fall off.
So why do I have a huge water tank in my bathroom? Well this October a pipe burst and the city of Beijing took almost three weeks to fix it. My company basically bullied my landlord into buying a tank so that my coworkers and I could shower. At the time, there were four of us living in this building! Let’s just say the girl in HR was stressed out that week.
Thankfully I only had to live without hot water for a week since I went to TBEX in Thailand for part of that time. Those showers were COLD though, especially since it was nearing Beijing’s winter.
I haven’t asked my landlord to remove the tank mainly because I love the shower head so much. It’s probably the best shower head I’ve had in my life. I don’t even have to heat up the tank to use the shower either, I just have to turn on the two taps instead of one, which is a price I’m more than willing to pay for those good showers.
I won’t tell you exactly which building I live in, because I don’t want any stalkers showing up at my door, but I can tell you I live in a very international building in the Zhongguancun neighborhood of Haidian district.
I have a large lobby with a doorman who helped me when my sink exploded that one time, as well as a convenience store in the building, which is… convenient.
There are also many package service and shipping companies on the first floor of my building, which creates a huge backlog of trucks unloading packages in the evening. Since the road in front of my apartment is actually an “alley”, the honking can get a bit ridiculous.
Most of the people in my apartment are young Chinese professionals and couples. There are some children living here as well, which I think would be a bit tight since every apartment I’ve seen here is a studio. I have seen a few foreigners in the building as well (in addition to my coworkers); however I haven’t seen anyone more than once, which has made it difficult to make friends with people in my building.
As I said before I live in the Zhongguancun area of Haidian district, which is full of malls, businesses and restaurants. I also live very close to Peking University, which I’ve visited a few times on walks and runs.
I live about 7 minutes walking from the subway, which is super convenient and something that’s definitely necessary if you want to live in Beijing. The subway is my life! I also live about 15 minutes walking from work, which is pretty great since I can roll out of bed at 9:15 and still make it there by 10am.
Thankfully there are a lot of great small restaurants around me. I’m a regular at a malatang place across the street from me, and every week I buy groceries at a small Chinese grocery store a block away.
I also live walking distance to a famous street full of cafes and tech startups. In the warmer months, I even see hordes of tourists posing for pictures there!
This is the only downside of my apartment. I pay an average of 7,000 yuan a month ($1,076 USD), which is pretty steep. I wasn’t explained this when I signed the lease, but basically I pay 6,500 ($1,000 USD) for the first six months, and 7,500 ($1,150 USD) for the second six months.
My company actually gives us a housing stipend of 6,000 yuan ($925 USD) a month, making this place pretty affordable, but I still think it’s ridiculously expensive for me as a 24-year-old. If I had a boyfriend or something, this place would be great, but for a single person without a housing stipend, it’s pretty steep!
As I said in my first monthly recap, my company told me they’d help me find a place. I just assumed it would be easy to find an apartment near work under the stipend, but the agent had other plans and our company didn’t seem to take me seriously when I said I wanted to spend under 6,000. I think they just wanted us all in the same building to make their lives easier.
The reason my apartment is so expensive, is because it’s in the district of the top high schools in all of Beijing, which basically means all of China. Parents move here so that their kids can go to schools like RDFZ (High school affiliated to Renmin University), which is where all my students come from.
I’m also really close to many businesses like Microsoft, Tencent (Chinese Twitter), Youku (Chinese Youtube), Sinosteel, and the tech startups. People that work in these companies want nice serviced apartments for single people, which is where I’m living.
The great thing about Beijing apartments is that heat is usually covered by the landlord, saving you a lot of money. I pay for my own electricity, water and internet, but all of these things are affordable. My internet is the biggest expense, at 1,500 yuan ($230 USD), but I honestly can’t complain because it’s very fast and always works. I spend about $10 USD a month on electricity, and pennies on water (I still haven’t paid my water bill yet).
Find me on Airbnb!
Since I’ll be heading to the Philippines this February, I decided to rent my apartment out on Airbnb. I already have one booking for a few days, which is really great. However, I am a bit worried about how to clean the place if I accept a second tenant. My co-worker said I can easily hire a maid to stop by, which should solve all my problems.
The experience of setting up my apartment on Airbnb was very easy and user-friendly. Although, I was a bit insulted by the price they recommended I list my studio at. They told me to list my apartment for $32 a day, which isn’t even what I pay per day in rent! I listed it at $40 with a 15% discount for week-long stays, and I found people interested in my place almost immediately, even with no reviews!
I’m a little worried about how to get the key to these people (I’m going to hide it), as well as possible damages to the apartment or issues while I’m away, but everyone so far seems really great, so hopefully it will all go smoothly!
UPDATE: Guess what, I moved! Sorry you can’t rent my place anymore, but there are some really good spots on Airbnb
I’ve actually never used Airbnb as a customer before, mainly because I always stay in hostels in SE Asia. However, I’ve heard enough about other people’s amazing Airbnb says to make sure mine is top-notch. I’m going to leave them two clean towels, along with instant coffee and tea. They’re free to use all my kitchen supplies as well as basic ingredients like salt and soy sauce.
For those of you that haven’t signed up with Airbnb, I have a $20 credit off your first stay! I really recommend you try it, especially if you don’t like hostel dorms. I was honestly surprised how active Airbnb is in China. There are TONS of listings in Beijing I have to compete with, and most have 5-10 reviews.
How to find a good apartment in Beijing
The biggest mistake I made was wanting to find an apartment right away before fully exploring the city and discovering my needs. I figured that since I’m so close to Wudaokou, and Beijing Language and Culture University where I studied abroad, my location would be great. But now that I’m a bit older, Wudaokou feels like it’s full of rowdy teenagers. I’m too old for this!
I also naively assumed I could find a place for under 6,000 and then didn’t have time to look around and see if I could find any cheaper places. I even demanded my agent take me to Wudaokou, but after only showing me one apartment that was 7,000 a month, he told me there was nothing left since the school semester had already started.
One of my Chinese co-workers gave my friend and I really good advice the other day. My foreign co-worker is moving to Ningbo today (which is kind of random, but at least I can introduce her to people!) and looking for apartments online. My Chinese co-worker suggested she book a place on Airbnb for a month while she looks for other places.
This is honestly the best advice I can give you. September was the first time I had ever gone apartment hunting, since I always had housing provided for me, or I lived in a dorm. It takes a while for you to figure out which neighborhood is right for you, and where your social circle lies. I never would’ve thought I’d want to be in Gulou before I moved here!
Beijing is so huge, it’s important to get your bearings before you agree to a place. Take the pressure off, find a nice place on Airbnb for a month, and then decide where you want to move. At that point, you’ll know exactly where you want to be, and you’ll know how much everything costs.
Don’t forget! Sign up with Airbnb for $20 off your first stay. I look forward to trying out Airbnb as a host, and I’ll be sure to tell you all about my experience!
What do you think of my apartment? Any tips for renting on Airbnb?