Making China Home


So, settling in China is something that in your mind you would think would be hard… but I think you can sometimes over estimate or even underestimate how hard it could be to settle.

For us, I think it was made a lot easier because we had one another. However as much as we had one another to make each day feel a lot easier for us both, it was still such a weird thing being in China with no one we knew around us. We had been in hotels since the 2nd July which would normally sound amazing to some people, which I couldn’t agree more. However, I think after moving from one hotel to another pretty much living out of it, seemed more of a drag than anything exciting. It eventually came to it that we were in Nanjing, living in a hotel while we had to try settle in and find our new place that we would call home.

Now this was not a weird experience, but was very different to what it would be at home. We were given a sheet while we were still doing training up in Beijing and there we had to fill in what we were looking for… everything from a western mattress, washing machine, tv, western toilet and all, and then we would have an agent show us the apartments meeting what we had said. It was all good and well meeting the people because they were super friendly and helpful – most importantly the spoke English and enough to actually understand what we were asking. It was an interesting thing going to see apartments, because it was like, this is where going to live for the next year, so we didn’t want it to be too big nor too small. So, we had seen two the first night, one being massive and one being miniature, so neither of us were certain that either would be home. We spoke to our agent and we managed to see another 3, and in those 3 we found the perfect place, not too big not too small. We were so happy that we got this place, it came with some brand-new appliances that were still in the box that obviously needed to be installed, but before we even finished signing the contract with the landlord he had people in cleaning and installing everything for us.

Obviously having a landlord that doesn’t speak English is a bit of a struggle, but I guess that is a daily challenge here in China when you don’t actually speak the language. But it’s super easy to communicate with him, at first, we were put into a group with him and our agent, and had to wait for our agent to translate every time we sent a message. However, we caught up eventually and actually thought to be smart for a moment using our trusty old friend, Google Translate, so that we can just send it in Chinese and talk to him. Yes, it is a small process to go through, but WeChat does make it a bit simpler just because it can translate directly from Chinese to English, so that makes chatting to him a bit easier. Of course, it’s not a perfect system but it allows us to have some sense of understanding what is happening in this country with our house.

Another thing that we have to get used to is the rent, water and electricity and gas payments. Normally it would be that you pay everything once a month, right? Well in china, you pay rent every three months, pay gas every month and water and electricity every 2 months. So, it is definitely not something normal! And to make it even stranger compared to home, you do everything through WeChat, so you pay all your utilities through WeChat, you can pay your rent to your landlord through WeChat… it’s all just so different compared to back home. That first month when you move into a place just seems like an expensive one, because you have to pay the 3 months rent up front as well as maintenance fees for the apartment building or complex you’re staying in… all from the money that you came across with from home.

But I have to say that I do love our little home, it has been 4 months that we have been in China and each day it feels more like home. The small things that we have in the house that we brought or even what we buy just makes it feel like ours. A while back we took a trip to IKEA and obviously this is like an adventure just because we don’t have it in South Africa, but we ended up buying this big cupboard thing that just made the apartment feel like it was actually ours and we were allowed to call it home. Of course, it does seem easy, but sometimes we had mishaps that were just a learning curve that we either laughed at or just got frustrated after a long day of work and things not working. For example, the first time that we tried to have a home cooked meal, we couldn’t figure out how to switch the gas on. Back home that’s no problem, know how to do that, but here there are 3 valves that we had to turn to the right point to get it to work. It took us about an hour to figure out how to switch the gas on… so after a long day of work, you can imagine we were not the happiest of chappies. Then at the same time, we have tons of moments that we are able to laugh about For example, the mattress in china are super hard or super thin so you need to buy yourself a mattress topper if you would like to have a good nights sleep with no springs into ribs or your back. So, we ordered one off our equivalent of Take-a-lot, Taobao, and this is a challenge on its own because everything is in Chinese. So, we eventually ordered one for our room, but we had no idea what size bed we had, so we were like we have a big bed… it turns out that our bed was not nearly as big as we thought it was! So, we bought a mattress topper 220cm x 200cm when our bed is only 180cm x 200cm, so you can imagine this monster topper taking over the room. This mattress topper caused so many bruises because we couldn’t figure out where the edge of the bed would be, so we would sit – where we think the end of the bed is – and fall straight onto the fall, just because you forget as to how big the mattress topper is.

So in the end, settling in has been good so far, and each day we settle in a little bit more and learn a little bit more. In the end we are definitely are enjoying China and making it our own.

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