My Rectilinear Life


Dalian, China
December 11
US expat living in China. Another 40-something woman experiencing mid-life crisis, only this time in China, with dumplings.


Overworkedtiredandnumb's Links

SEPTEMBER 22, 2009 5:08AM

House Hunting in China

Rate: 1 Flag

Our choice for housing comes down to two options which correspond to style of living.  The first place we saw today was a small apartment in Shama Luxe, which is a luxury "serviced" apartment building still being constructed here.  The Shama company is large and well-known. This would be the glamorous choice.

The next several places we saw were apartments and townhouses that were very large and, in many cases, a bit older and shabbier. Most of these were owned by individuals. Dalian is a popular tourist area in China, so rich people often invest in property here either for personal use or as an investment.  Landlords purchase an apartment or two, fix them up, and rent them to tourists.  The fact that the city is becoming more multi-national has opened up new, longer term clients in the form of foreign nationals working in the area.  

Some of the places we saw today had impressive views of the sea, but many made me very nervous because of open balconies and windows.  I don't like heights and worry a lot about my children doing stupid things. Children specialize in doing stupid things.

I have never lived in a truly urban environment.  Shama seems to offer "safer" urban living.  There are no balconies there and all the windows open at the top only.  The feeling is more secure to me. 

But who want to trap two kids in such an environment?  If I had no children, the decision would hands-down be Shama.  I could pretend I was a rich, fancy bitch from America for a year or two and then go back to being a boring engineer with a messy house in the US.

More thinking is clearly needed.  I'm headed to the thinking room right now.  It comes equipped with a full-featured Japanese toilet. 

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As a long time expat with many third world assignments - and two daughters who are now teenagers - we'd pick the serviced apartment every time. Reasons:

1. Reliability. The hot water, air conditioning or something else vital will go with alarming frequency. The serviced apartment will fix things quickly and seemlessly. The landlord in your regular, more spacious place, will be nowhere to be found.

2. Security. Those open windows, even at higher floors, mean easy access for burglars. In third world countries, you will be perceived as a rich and easy target. In a serviced apartment, there are so many layers of staff and security to get through that any burglars quickly tend to decide to look elsewhere.

3. Convenience. The staff at the serviced apartment will do wonderful work for you doing things like ordering pizza, or Chinese/Indian/whatever food from your favourite restaurant. Such food, and choices, are ridiculously cheap and good quality in China. Unless you speak Mandarin you simply can't duplicate this on your own. Same goes for getting your car fixed, or drycleaning or any of the myriad of regular things. It is amazing how simple things become complicated without the language or support people to assist.

The trade-off tends to be space. However, trust me, after three days without hot water it is amazing how quickly the family reaches consensus that space is far less important than first thought.