Last week I told the tale of our struggle to find somewhere decent to live at a reasonable rent in Shunyi. The tale ended with us finding somewhere which, if not the apartment of our dreams, was at least liveable. Or so we thought.
I first noticed a problem when I plugged in the TV in the bedroom. “It doesn’t work,” I thought, but was not particularly concerned – having a TV in the bedroom is not high on my list of priorities. Then I realised that the TV was fine, it was the electric socket which didn’t work. Nor did many of the others. One was hanging out of the wall with bare wires showing.
This was worrying, but the real problems began the next morning. One of the main reasons for our choosing the apartment was its modern, western-looking bathrooms. However the showers produced only a dribble of icy cold water. We called the numbers we had been given, and a succession of workmen came, ran the water, tutted, tapped at things with screwdrivers, hummed, and left again. It was two days before we managed to communicate with anyone who could explain what the problem was.
The apartment uses solar power to heat the water in summer. So far, so green. However there had been a couple of cloudy days, so we had no hot water till the sun shone. And that, apparently, was that.
Finding the apartment and moving had been stressful, and this tipped us over the edge. My wife was ready to quit China right then and there, and just fly home. She would be the first to admit her Mandarin is limited, but she made her feelings known on this subject.
“没有热水, 不我的家,” she kept repeating to the estate agent. No hot water – not my home.
In the end we fled, not back to the UK, but to South Korea, where we spent a week recovering on the beach, while the landlord promised to make everything right. And on our return he had fixed the sockets and installed a water heater.
Well, nearly. The socket came out of the wall again the first time I unplugged something from it. The water heater didn’t produce enough water pressure that you could actually use it to shower, and the builders had, inexplicably, taken away the bath plug, so you couldn’t use it for a bath either. The estate agent brought a plug which didn’t fit the hole, then, when we pointed out this problem to him, suggested we shove a sock into it.
My wife had a counter-proposal for him about where he could shove his sock, but fortunately he didn’t speak enough English to understand it.
I wish this story ended with some helpful information about how to negotiate with landlords, but the only advice I can offer is to check every single appliance when house hunting, find out where your hot water comes from – take nothing for granted. The truth is we just ended up sorting things out ourselves. We superglued the socket back to the wall, we found a universal bath plug on Taobao. Some things we’ve just decided to put up with. It is, in true Chinese fashion, 差不多 – chà bu duō, good enough.