These weeks we are looking to find a new apartment in Shanghai. As with other metropolis Shanghai can be characterized by: fast in fast out. People move here on annual contracts, short-term internships, exchange programs or to explore this booming economy where opportunities seems endless in one minute and impossible the next. Few people stay here long-term and the ones who do must continuously look for new friends and acquaintances when they are left by the old ones.
When I first moved here in 2012 I was very lucky to instantly become part of a group of lovely Danes (young professionals and students) who met up weekly. At the same time I was lucky to have the sweetest roommates from France and Germany who's network I also became connected to. Shanghai anno 2014 is another story. Most of the Danes from "our groups" are gone or leaving this year and my old roommates went back home. I still have my boyfriend, my Chinese friends, a few "old" friends and not least new acquaintances from everywhere I go: from my university (Jia Tong University), from my yoga studio (Body and Soul yoga) and from all sorts of random places. Expats in Shanghai are super open-minded, welcoming and I find that you meet the nicest and most interesting people everywhere here. Maybe it is because of the fact that Shanghai can be such a hazzle to you as an expat and Chinese people can seem so different to live among so expats get extra helpful and friendly towards each other. I personally did not experience the same atmosphere in either London or New York as an expat.
Back to the apartment hunting and what this "fast in fast out" means for our current situation. The rental market is always booming with options and you can find agents in all areas more than willing to help you find a place. To avoid using agents (may cost you a fee of 30% of the rent) smartshanghai's housing site is great and Craiglist too (I've heard you have to be more aware of scams on the latter). You just need to be aware that many adds are from agents. I personally use agents and look by myself and I make sure to make it clear that I am only interested in seeing apartments without agent fees. This is possible and I think the way it works is that the owner of the apartment pays the fee to the agents instead.
So the biggest problem is not finding places the problem is finding the right place. And what is the right place? In Shanghai it has become extremely popular for young, modern expats to live in old Chinese lanehouses which have been totally renovated on the inside. In the old French neighborhood (The French Concession) these apartments are popping up everywhere as the owners sees that the market expands and therefore renovate and modernizes their old houses. But the prices reflects the popularity and these lanehouse apartments are often way over-prices.
I would absolutely love one of these places. There is something extremely charming about having to walk through the narrow and often hidden laneways in the middle of the French Concession into a building that looks like something from WW2 and then into a totally new and renovated apartment.
The other choice is the apartment compounds where you can get a huge apartment with several bedrooms and bathrooms, pools and gyms facilities and great views over the city on the higher floors. Many of these compounds are right outside the French Concession or further away and you can get more twice as many square meters with these choices. I lived in such compound in 2012 with a sweet location but this time I reeeaally want a cool hidden lanehouse. The other thing I want is to have a lot of budget to travel. Go on smaller trips in the weekend and bigger trips in the holidays. Explore China and this fascinating culture.
All the things we want... I have been trying to think about what I want the most. A perfect home exactly as I imagined after years of living in shared apartment with other students? Or a big budget to travel which is my true passion? I really find it to be very very difficult to decide what I really want the most. I can honestly say I feel super blessed to have a "dilemma" like this in my life. I find it very interesting to "watch" and be aware of my desires and how difficult it is to figure out what feels right. My boyfriend often says I think to much. I say it is because I am an Aquarius. As they say:
everything will be okay in the end. Otherwise it is not the end
and I am sure I will end up with a lovely Shanghai home aaaand lots of China trips.