Monday, March 21, 2011

Week 21

Hello, Hello, Hello again! Hope everyone one is doing well in your part of the world, things are certainly good in Shanghai. With April just around the corner, the weather here over the past week (and at least for the next few) has been beautiful. Trees and flowers haven't started blooming yet, but people are planting really colorful flowers everywhere and it's nice. Although I'm not looking forward to the humidity of summer that is soon on it's way, walking around the city over the last few days has been totally serene and comfortable.

We have received a few emails from people regarding housing, with particular questions about rental prices, certain locations, and the general process of signing contracts and moving in. We thought it might be a good idea to take the time (while it's nice outside) to do some apartment hunting and write about what we find this week and next. Hopefully you guys will find it interesting, please let us know if there is anything else you would like to know about!

Our situation for finding housing was somewhat serendipitous, since we literally jumped off the subway and walked straight into a building we thought looked "livable". Fortunately it turned out that we found an apartment in that building that we really liked. But I'm not sure if most people have the same experience, especially if one comes here with no idea of which locations are better than others (like us). Many people have the opportunity to come to Shanghai for work, in which case the employer might have an apartment set up ahead of time. Tiffany had an opportunity to take an employer-provided apartment when we came, but it wasn't, shall we say, the most ideal living conditions. Other people come here and have to beat the street to look for an apartment through a real estate agent, which is probably the most efficient way of finding a decent place. You have to pay a fee for their services and it's definitely negotiable. I wish we would have known that before we paid 1700RMB (Approx. $260) to our agent because, after all, we found the apartment ourselves!! (Note: Some apartments are only rented with the assistance of an agent, even if you find it yourself, hogwash). But even if you have to pay a fee, I think it's definitely worth it to go with an agent.

So we decided to contact a couple agents and take a look at some of the apartments that are currently on the Shanghai market, and we ultimately found a good agent in the Jing'an District through a friend. We told Linda, the agent who spoke good English, that we were looking for a one-bedroom place in the Jing'an District for around 3000-3500RMB (Approx. $500). After saying that she could help us, she immediately asked us if we could increase our budget. We told her that we wanted to see apartments in our price range and we'd think about increasing the budget. Since she spoke good English, I assumed she heard the price range we were looking to stay within, but apparently she missed that because she ended up showing us apartments that were in the range of 4000RMB ($610). Of course, she didn't mention that until we were inside the apartment, which sort of made me feel like I was on a used car lot, but whatever. One good piece of information we learned is that if your rent is paid by an employer (who receives an invoice for your rent and then pays it for you), there is a 5% increase in your monthly rent for taxes. The agent says something about this in the video's "Apt. #2", but I thought that was particularly noteworthy. Anyhow, I'll talk more about the apartments after the video, but they were all definitely losers in terms of what you're getting for the price. You be the judge:

So all of the apartments we looked at were in that one building, which is apparently where all the foreigners like to live. All came furnished, some better than others. The wallpaper in some apartments was coming off and running up the side of the wall, probably because it was trying to get away from the stench coming off the furniture. The bathrooms were nice, except for the infamous transparent window that separates the bathroom and kitchen (It's Ningbo all over again). I mean seriously, is that complete nastiness or what?! Needless to say, we didn't like the choices in this building, so we asked the agent to look for places within our price range (again) in other areas. She thought we wanted to stay in places like the compound because we were foreigners, so we had to let her know that we were totally comfortable staying in places where locals reside. We are actually looking forward to seeing these places next week, since they are promised to be more "traditional." Who knows, these places might actually end up being pretty cool, we'll have to see. We'll keep you posted in next week's blog.

This week we also had the chance to soak up the some of the Shanghainese art scene, something for which the city is well-known. Located near Suzhou Creek, M50 is one of the fastest growing art markets in the world and many of the artists on display have international reputations. Some of the older artists at M50 have endured hard times in China, especially during the Cultural Revolution, which makes their pieces worth seeing. Over the last 30 years, the M50 warehouses have been transformed from laborious manufacturing mills into structures that house some of the most freely creative individuals on the planet, which actually turned out to be good for the neighborhood. Since both of us love the arts, this place has been on the top of our "To-Do" list for quite some time. We finally found a nice day to go check it out!

Tiffany has been begging to bring stray puppies and kittens home since the day we arrived in Shanghai (don't ask), which explains why she's been following the story below very closely:

We've all heard about China's controversial "one-child policy." On March 15, 2011, however, a "one-dog policy" was also put into place in Shanghai. The government is attempting to control the number of dogs in the city. Apparently all dogs now have to be registered with the city. However, recently the number of unregistered dogs has risen to almost 600,000! The problem with unlicensed dogs is many of them end up wandering the streets, homeless. There have been many complaints of people getting bitten by these unlicensed dogs and their poop is being left all over the place. So from now on, each household can only have one licensed dog! The law also includes a hefty fee for not scooping your dog's droppings and bans breeds that are not considered safe, such as the English Bulldog. But don't fret; those households that already have two or more licensed dogs will be able to keep them all!! Thanks so much for tuning in this week, please come back!

Things To Do in Shanghai

Visit the site of the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China
For all of you history buffs out there, the Site of the First National Congress of the CPC is the perfect place for you! Located right next to Xintiandi at No. 76 Xingye Road, this historic site is a great place to visit and learn about the party's beginning. The building is a traditional Chinese Shikumen (stone-gate house) from the 1920's. It became the birthplace of the Communist Party on July 23, 1921, when the First National Congress was held. It is full of relics, artifacts, and pictures that tell the story of the CPC. And what could be better....admission is free!!

Maybe It's Just Me

This is Shanghai, and I realize that it's a fast paced city with people that need to get where they are going. But there are some things that would make even the most inconsiderate Los Angeles driver act right.

Below is a picture that I took just outside of my apartment, and it depicts an ambulance with it's lights on stuck in traffic. I'm standing on the sidewalk next to the driver-side window of the car in front of him. It was a little awkward taking the photo, because I was wondering whether I should take the photo or yell at the guy to "get out of the way!" Unfortunately, it's surprisingly common.

I've been away from the States for a while now and, maybe it's just me but, if an ambulance has it's lights on behind you, it's probably a good time to stop smoking that cigarette and pull over to let it go by, you know, in case someone is....ummm....dying?!

1 comment:

  1. You guys should have a poll to see if mike should shave his 'stash ;)