The Real Housewives of Beijing

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Most of the people I have met while abroad are in a similar situation as I am and gaining the same sense of independence that comes with renting an apartment in a foreign country while working or interning full time. The exception is two of my friends from the U.K., Lorena and Amy, who are here during their undergrad studies to teach English and placed with a Chinese host family. They are full of stories from an entirely different perspective of life here in Beijing; mostly their host moms treating them to nice dinners, traditional Chinese home life, and the mothers having each other over for in-home facials and beauty treatments (à la Real Housewives).

I finally got to visit them this weekend and it was perfect timing–Christmas lights were roped across front porches to create a decadent Christmas-y feeling. I almost felt like I had left the bustling city for the suburbs. Almost.

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House Hunters: Beijing Edition

View of Chaoyang District

Friday August 31, 2012 & Saturday September 1, 2012

Friday and Saturday were dedicated to apartment searching. Based just on my experience with apartments in college, the conditions here would be unheard of in the U.S. The first place I was shown would have made my mother cry. Actually, I think it almost made me cry. But I’m glad it was first so that I didn’t expect too much from Beijing apartments.

It was located in a hutong, which are little areas within the city with narrow alleyways leading to village-like huts that have clothes hanging and dirt-covered bikes everywhere. The floors of the one-bedroom “apartment” were dirt covered concrete, there was a cot shoved in the corner of the room, a brown-stained sink, and some random tables. The shower? Oh, that was in a communal, see-through room on the side of a street. The bathrooms: Public restrooms down the street. Yep, this startled me a little [ahem, a lot], but the conditions only improved from there. In total we looked at about six places in two days.

It was evident that some frustrations throughout the day between Alex and me stemmed from cultural differences of handling stress and communicating. Chinese people are not afraid to tell you your faults. For example, when I was tired and slightly cranky Alex began realizing I did not remember how to navigate the roads or subway. He openly declared how ridiculous it was that I didn’t know where we were and it took everything in my power not to scream. I admit, I am [extremely] directionally challenged even with American roads, but in a foreign city with characters that look like jibberish, I was more lost than usual.

Finally after two full days of searching in the sweaty, smoggy city, I found an apartment located within several scenic parks and surrounded by local food shops. I will be living with a guy who is Chinese and I’ll have another roommate who is from Detroit. Even though his school (Michigan State) is far inferior to UW-Madison, he seems like an great guy.

Did I mention I can see the Olympic Stadium from my living room? Pretty awesome.

The “bird’s nest” Olympic Stadium

**My lack of blogging is due to the fact that my computer screen was cracked during the move to my new apartment 😦