Fam­ily Mat­ters

Our colum­nist runs the re­al­tor gaunt­let

Parents + Kids - - Editor’snote - Dar­ren White­house Is mov­ing on up

Our colum­nist braves real­tors to make the move

It’s said that mov­ing home is one of the most stress­ful life events you can put your­self through. The up­heaval from a fa­mil­iar space to a new one and the hassle of trans­fer­ring your be­long­ings from one place to an­other tends to put a strain on the whole fam­ily; add to that the fact that you’re do­ing this in China and you’re bound to ex­pe­ri­ence the un­ex­pected, the sub­lime, or the ridicu­lous. So it was to be, af­ter two years in Bei­jing, that we de­cided to up­grade our liv­ing con­di­tions and move to an­other apart­ment.

Like me, you’ve prob­a­bly moved home at least a few times and per­haps have good and bad mem­o­ries. One move I still re­mem­ber vividly in­volved hav­ing to leave a wardrobe be­hind, as no mat­ter how they tried, the re­moval guys couldn’t squeeze it down the nar­row, steep stair­case. Of­ten, mov­ing home is a game of end­less box­ing and un­box­ing of pos­ses­sions, dam­ag­ing of fur­ni­ture, and see­ing how many items you can lose or break be­tween the old lo­ca­tion and the new. Some­times you turn up at your new abode and won­der why you chose it in the first place, as you don’t re­call it “look­ing like this” when you viewed it.

From our aborted at­tempt to move last year I was left with the dis­tinct feel­ing that just like the huge cul­tural dif­fer­ences be­tween the Bri­tish and the Chi­nese, so too are the work­ings and pri­or­i­ties of real­tors and prospec­tive ten­ants in those re­spec­tive coun­tries a gulf apart. My ex­pe­ri­ence of real­tors (es­tate agents as we call them in the UK) is that they like to show a prop­erty in the best pos­si­ble light, nor­mally very clean and, if fur­nished, at­tempt­ing to sell not just a home, but also a life­style to prospec­tive ten­ants. My ex­pe­ri­ence last year with Chi­nese real­tors and ren­tal prop­er­ties was to­tally dif­fer­ent. We were shown a suc­ces­sion of apart­ments in var­i­ous sup­pos­edly up­scale com­pounds in the Lido area, and of­ten what we found left us ei­ther laugh­ing or cry­ing. More of­ten than not the apart­ments (we’re talk­ing ¥20,000 a month here) we viewed were dirty and seemed ne­glected, which was def­i­nitely the case in the pub­lic ar­eas. The ic­ing on the cake, how­ever, the one thing we couldn’t have dreamt of en­coun­ter­ing, was the apart­ment that had a “western” toi­let in­stalled in a wardrobe.

This year the move has ac­tu­ally hap­pened pretty much be­cause we man­aged to cut out the mid­dle men. In­stead of deal­ing with real­tors we’ve been able to deal di­rectly with a land­lord. We didn’t ac­tu­ally spread our wings too wide ei­ther, as the move has taken us but a short dis­tance, from our on­site ac­com­mo­da­tion at school, over the com­pound wall and into Hegezhuang vil­lage, a short walk away. Our new apart­ment is known lo­cally by ex­pats as “The Cas­tle”, due to its stand­alone na­ture and rooftop ter­race that looks like it is sur­rounded by ram­parts.

The phys­i­cal move of all our ac­cu­mu­lated stuff oc­curred over a two-week pe­riod. Hav­ing watched in awe on the num­ber of oc­ca­sions when neigh­bors have had up to 100 boxes piled up out­side their apart­ments, ready to move on to their next over­seas post­ing, we were de­ter­mined to try some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent. En­gag­ing the ser­vices of a re­moval com­pany ob­vi­ously costs money and in most cases you are the one that does the box­ing and un­box­ing of your be­long­ings, they merely trans­port your stuff from one place to an­other. As our new home was lit­er­ally 200 me­ters away we (mostly my wife) re­solved to do ev­ery­thing our­selves with the aid of our trusty trike. On most af­ter­noons we would fill suit­cases with clothes (and any other items that would fit in­side), fling them into the back of the trike, and ferry the load to The Cas­tle.

Over­all the move seems to have gone well for us, we’ve moved from an apart­ment that our fam­ily was out­grow­ing to some­where more spa­cious and well equipped. The walk-in wardrobe and the kitchen is­land are lux­u­ries we’ve not had be­fore and the rooftop ter­race is ideal for bar­be­cues and host­ing par­ties. If you pass The Cas­tle some time, look up, you might see me peer­ing over the ram­parts, gin and tonic in hand.

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