Surprise! I am back in the states after spending the last 2 weeks in Shanghai. Of course our internet was shit and our VPN stopped working so that meant absolutely no access to blogging or my emails! Lovely! I did however do some writing and photo editing so let’s catch up shall we?
I arrived in Shanghai at the end of January to some surprisingly freezing temperatures. It was 35 degrees and overcast (aka POLLUTED) with the occasional rain shower. Sounds lovely doesn’t it? The problem with China is that there is no central air-conditioning and wall units are pretty ineffective at cooling or heating large spaces. More often than not I found myself camped out in the living room under a blanket and close to the heater wearing socks and multiple sweaters while chugging hot water.
Good news, we moved into a new apartment!
After 3 days, 2 real estate agents, 20 potential apartments, 12 hours of walking in the cold rain and a couple botched contracts later, we actually moved in to our new place! Hooray!
I had no idea the nature of the beast that is Shanghai real estate until now and let me tell you, it was quite the learning experience. First of all, expect to look at a shit ton of apartments, most of them either nasty or grossly decorated. Second of all, bring along a Chinese-speaking friend who can help you communicate with the agents and landlords and who can help you negotiate price. And thirdly, if you are working with a local Chinese real estate agent, be prepared to walk. A LOT. It was quite exhausting.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, when you are apartment hunting you must be decisive and go with your instincts. Do not settle for a place that is less than perfect because there are thousands of places that become available every day. IT’S CRAZY. And when you decide on a place, MOVE FAST. Put in an offer THE SAME DAY or else it will most likely be gone the following day. This happened to us with the first place we wanted and we did not make that mistake again.
For us, it came down to location vs. comfort and this time we went with location! Last year we lived in a very comfortable and large apartment in a nice quiet complex in Jiuting. However, we were in a very Chinese neighborhood at least 45 minutes away from foreigner friendly places including grocery stores, restaurants and expat associations. Most of the time I took cabs into the city which gets expensive and exhausting. I would often get anxiety and stress out if I had to go anywhere, mostly because it took so much time, energy and preparation. I had to meticulously figure out where I was going and how long it would take and then download the Chinese address on my phone to show to the cabbies and remember how to say “left” “right” “straight on” and “stop” in Chinese. Somedays I wouldn’t leave the house because I was too anxious to deal with the stares or the inability to communicate. I felt very alone, which makes me so sad to think about!
Our new apartment is definitely not as nice or as big but is located in Changning which is much closer to the city center. We are a 5 minute walk to the Zhongshang Park metro stop (line 2 and 4!) and a huge shopping area with Carrefour, Starbucks, Will’s Gym and even a local vegetable market. We are also close to Jing’an and Hongqiao which are big expat areas and where Peter works.
I look forward to having easy access to the metro, the grocery store and to major expat areas so I can actually get involved with some of the great events going on in Shanghai. I am also job hunting which is intimidating but exciting!
We moved most of our stuff this past Saturday, the day before I flew back to Florida. Thankfully we don’t have much stuff at all, just some books and clothes. It is sad how little we have accumulated over the 4 years Peter has lived here. It is weird to think of Shanghai as our “home” but here we are. After our wedding in April, we will be more or less settled in Shanghai for another year or two.
Before that though there are wedding festivities to attend to! This weekend, my bridesmaids and I are traveling to Key West for my bachelorette party weekend!! I can’t believe it’s here and holy crap I am excited to spend time with my girls in the sunshine. The next week, Peter flies home so we can finish some wedding related tasks and a couple’s shower. March will be a flurry of two more showers and final wedding preparations. Then on April 18th… BOOM WE GET MARRIED.
My plan is to smuggle as many wedding presents as I can back to China. I need all those cute kitchen gadgets in my sad China kitchen.
Anything to make this place feel more like home.