I feel kind of bad about my negative Shanghai experience and I feel completely confident that I would have liked Shanghai better if I had liked where we lived, so I wish we had found our own place to live regardless of extra expense. But at least I've realized that my surroundings affect me greatly (especially because I work best from home), and that it isn't worth it for me to suffer through places I dislike.
I did give place-searching a bit of a shot, but there were several things that made the search very difficult:
1. I don't speak Chinese so I couldn't easily state what I was looking for (basically wood flooring, an oven, natural lighting, not nasty, convenient location, less than 3600-5000 CNY/month).
2. Most posted pictures of available places are fake. One agent explained to Michael that he had to post fake pictures because everyone else does it and otherwise people wouldn't ever call about places. That seems like bad logic to me, because we showed up at places and felt disappointed/disgusted. So we started asking for pictures beforehand, and they'd say, "We don't have any, why don't you just come meet us there?" But they were wasting our time on horrible places and always, always telling us after we arrived that the price was actually more than what we'd said our limit was.
3. Michael didn't have a lot of time to help, and prices mysteriously seem to triple when a foreigner is involved.
4. Most Chinese apartments just don't appeal to my style. I knew in my mind that there is nothing wrong with a clean, shiny tile floor, but they just made me grimace. The apartments that are more up to Western standards are very pricey. It would have been great fun just to rent a place and fix it up, but I didn't want that to distract from me learning Chinese.
5. A lot of places were just downright nasty.
6. There was a nagging feeling in me saying, "But your stay at Tianhong Residence is covered and neither of you are employed full-time. Better to just stick it out."
7. I need an oven. Most places in China don't have ovens.
I did a lot of searching and ran into a lot of ads that amused me, during which time I discovered the blog Terrible Real Estate Agent Photos. You should spend five minutes there. I still laugh my head off at each new post and have submitted a few photos.
Why the sparkly hearts and snowman? Why?
Fake flowers and a teddy bear on the TV.
Not sure what this guy has to do with renting on Airbnb?
This toilet is very comfortable and quiet.
High quality picture.
Picket fence divider between living room and bedroom.
Thank you for telling me what that is.
Is that a cardboard bed?
Newly-installed sinks are more impressive after clean-up.
Eeew. We actually saw a place with a shared kitchen like this. The landlady said, "No one really uses this." I wonder why . . .
We did find the time to check out several places, with a goal budget of 3600 CNY/month. Sadly, the places I liked most were either fake or way out of our price range.
Lovely light, nice wood floors, beautiful whites . . . fake/not really available (and especially not at that price).
Chinese feel with a modern touch . . . fake.
This was the nicest that we saw within our price range, but the shiny tile floor (AH!) . . . and it wasn't very convenient or in a nice area, which was half the reason I didn't like where we were.
This little guy froze up when we walked in. Clearly not a guard dog.
We ran into a foreigner in the same building who had us take a look at his place since he'd be moving. Unfortunately, his apartment was above the price that would work with our student loan at over 5,000 kuai per month.
He didn't have an oven either.
This was probably the nicest and closest to campus that we saw, but picky me couldn't stand the beige tile, lack of oven, and junk in the hallway.
Also, for some reason this and many other apartments had fluorescent lights in the bedroom/living area. Eek.
I didn't want to touch stuff in most places because there was always a greasy or dusty layer. And I didn't even take pictures of the nastiest places.
Most apartments we saw had really awful, very temporary-feeling furniture.
Airbnb option . . . pretty nice, but clearly not at normal monthly rent prices. And no oven.
This place looked nice until I realized that the toilet is right next to the (oven-less) cooking area. At least there are separate sinks?
This place looked pretty cool, but it was "no longer available" which often means "fake."
This place felt so fresh and light. Unfortunately, too much for monthly rental.
This place makes me feel like I'm taking a breath of fresh air. Out-of-budget longing ensued.
I gave up for a while, but after we stayed at this lovely Airbnb place for Valentine's Day, I threw my budget out the window and tried to book another nice Airbnb place with a full kitchen and a scooter and bike for our remaining time in Shanghai. Unfortunately, it fell through.
So we stayed at the overwhelmingly gross yellow and gold Sky Rainbow Tianhong Residence that never should have become a residence for the whole time, and poor Shanghai never had a chance.
Once the next module was approaching, nearly everyone who was staying in Shanghai decided to get the heck out of the residence. I saw two of the places they had found to live and again felt bad that I hadn't looked harder. If I could re-do Shanghai, I would have shown up a week earlier and forked out the money to live in a place that felt like home to me.
Shanghai Hult's executive director asked Michael if he would ever accept a job in Shanghai. I think Michael would if I'd go along, but I'm of the opinion that I don't want to live there ever again unless Shanghai cleans up its air, I can afford the food I like (cheese!), the housing is amazing (according to my standards), our location is convenient enough for walking and biking only, and the salary is undeniably good. We'll see if that happens or if my opinion changes . . .
I'll show you soon where we're living now.