When I first moved to Beijing I set up in an Airbnb to give myself time to find somewhere affordable to live for the next 5 months. Moving into my room I shuffled through a layer of dog hair which had somehow crept in through the cracks around the door. The bathroom was also dire with a showerhead which rained down onto the toilet seat, leaving you with a wet bum if the person before you had forgotten to close the toilet lid before taking their morning shower.
However, none of this mattered in comparison to the kitchen. The benchtops were caked in a layer of oil with dust and dog hair trapped to the sticky surface. Luckily my internship provided me with lunch and dinners, otherwise I surely would have starved, refusing to cook on the small hub tucked into the corner.
Two weeks into my Airbnb stay I posted in a WeChat group that offered rentals in my local area. Within 20 minutes I had a reply from an agent – Sean – who invited me to come and view some rooms. Three hours later I emerged from Subway exit B and waited. A young man on a scooter screeched to a halt right in front of me, said in a heavy accent: ‘Natalie?’ I assumed this was Sean. He motioned for me to jump on the back.
Whizzing around the streets, sometimes taking the lanes in the wrong direction, stopping suddenly, or not stopping at all for traffic lights meant that this was probably one of the scariest experiences anyone has ever had with an estate agent. An hour of whipping around town and communicating through google translation had me signing a new lease just 4 hours after putting out a request for somewhere clean to live.
I lived in my lovely new, clean, shoebox of a room happily for the next 5 months with an incredible gay couple. Until one day the landlord kicked us out and less than 24 hours later Sean had found me a cat hair-filled room, sharing a kitchen that I never want to cook in with 4 other girls. The list of disagreeable features of my new apartment is extensive, but it is nonetheless home for the next two months.
P.S. The bathroom arrangement in China is often discussed with my expat friends. And the only plausible explanation (that we’ve been able to come up with so far) for why you would position the shower head over the toilet seat with no shower curtain in sight is because instead of using toilet paper, you wash yourself. Which also explains why you can’t throw toilet paper down the toilet in Beijing. However, no conclusion has been reached.