Apartment hunting abroad: How to find your home away from home
| Teaching House Nomads Blog
You’ve finally arrived and are ready to begin your adventure. There’s only one drawback: your new not-so-glamorous dwellings. Moving abroad and adjusting to a new culture is hard enough without having a safe space to relax. When I first moved to China, my school provided an apartment that was infested with cockroaches, moldy bathrooms and junk left by the owner who decided to rent out their apartment but still use it for storage. My roommate and I must have killed 100 or so cockroaches the next day. We attacked the kitchen cabinets and sinks with bug spray and laid out 20 or so traps. Not having a place I wanted to come home to after a long day of culture shock eventually took its toll. So my then-boyfriend, now-husband and I decided to get our own place together. Finding the right place was essential to my happiness.
To help you out, here are some of my personal tips on how to find your new home-away-from-home.
Make a list of requirements
I knew I wanted a small modern apartment, easy to clean and fairly new. An elevator was a must, as well as a sizable bathroom that had an actual shower instead of just a drain in the middle of the room. I also wanted the apartment to be walking distance from my work and in a nice community away from all the noise.
Deciding on a comfortable price range was also a must. Once I knew what I wanted, I made up a list and translated it into the local language: Mandarin.
Find a translator
Often, because you’re a foreigner, locals may try to take advantage and up the prices. I was lucky enough to have my husband, a local Fuzhou man, translate and prevent any swindling. Not everyone has a significant other like that on hand, but had I not, I would’ve asked my local friends who worked at my school to assist me.
Definitely bring a local with you so you don’t get bamboozled. Even if you speak the language fairly comfortably, knowing the vocabulary for renting an apartment can be tricky. I did not anticipate how difficult and time consuming the whole process would be.
Don’t settle for the first place you see
I looked at six apartments before I found the perfect one. It’s important not to compromise because this is going to be your humble abode for a significant chunk of time. Having lived in less than ideal spaces, waiting for the right one was essential. You might not find everything, because some conveniences might not be available in your country. For example, none of the apartments in Fuzhou have central heating or cooling systems, none of them have dryers, they all use manually operated electric water heaters, and none of them have dishwashers. These were modern conveniences I had to learn to live without, with the exception of a washer/dryer, which we bought ourselves.
Once you’ve found that dream home, it’s important to invest a little time and money when you can on making it feel like yours. Ideally, you want to be able to shut your door and escape into your own little world. There are going to be days when you feel overwhelmed and homesick. Creating an oasis will be a lifesaver on those dreary overwhelming days. Trust me.