A quick note about the prices, I converted them to USD so ignore the rather odd looking pricing.
Thanks to Rutgers’ rather annoying engineering graduation requirements, an internship in Shanghai would require withdrawing from school for a year. The problem is, I’ve only planned about eight months of my time off for China and still have several months free time to fill. Since I’m already on the other side of the world and with no desire to return home just yet, I’ve began thinking of where to go. Before even arriving in China I dreamed of traveling across Russia via the Trans-Siberian Railway, eventually ending up in Moscow and then on to Europe to try and work or volunteer in Spain. Such a trip would not work on my current budget so I began looking for a new place to live.
My first stop in my apartment hunt began with browsing two housing websites geared for English speakers. After almost two weeks of looking, nothing turned up. Next, I turned to my coworkers for advice. (A quick note before I continue, the Chinese in general are very helpful people. I will deeply miss this when I return to the United States.) They said I could save a decent amount of what I’m spending now on housing by moving out of the city and closer to work. This idea was rather tempting and I decided to think it over. Upon arriving at work the following day, my coworkers notified me that they’d gone home and spent some time searching Chinese housing websites and found some nice cheap places for me.
Around the same time, one of my roommates was in the process of moving out of a rather small and somewhat cheaper room. I was temped to make the move to a smaller room in the same apartment but I couldn’t justify saving $46 a month for a room that is roughly ten feet by six feet with no window. Thankfully my roommate made a good suggestion that had previous been alien to me due to previous living in America, bargaining. Bargaining is everywhere in China, besides your chain stores, you can typically bargain everywhere. I am determined to get good at bargaining since the last time I bargained I got ripped off and overpaid about $46 on a $123 dress suit, I decided this was a perfect opportunity. With the assistance of my coworkers and some of my own good thoughts on bargaining, I set to work lowering the price on the smaller room.
The original price of the small room paid for by the previous tenant was $384. Since apartments in the suburbs can run as low as $261 for a nice room, that became my goal. With several back and forth text messages (Can’t start bargaining in person, you’ll end up failing miserably!) with my landlord, the price slowly dropped. Sadly, I didn’t make it to my goal of $261 but still managed $307 and somehow managed to get free Chinese lessons from my landlord’s husband and free meals at his restaurant.
With cost being a much smaller issue, it was time to decide if moving to the suburbs would be a better fit. To clear my thoughts I decided to utilize a pros and cons list to decide what would be the best move. As I began to write the list I quickly realized I could end up in a very bad situation which could potentially make the next six months of living absolutely horrible. I’ve managed to find probably one of the best landlords one could find in Shanghai. She has lived in the United States for four years, will come within the hour to fix any problem, and is a very friendly person. From here, a new landlord could only go downhill. I’ve had bad experiences with my two previous landlords and not too excited to end up with a landlord that never shows up to fix problems or doesn’t speak any English. Next up was the roommate issue. The people I live with are all great people and don’t have any notable problems with any of them. I continued to write out my list and the cons far out numbered the pros of moving out.
Thankfully the list wasn’t too balanced and a clear choice was made to remain living at my current location. I could have saved another $46 a month if I moved out of the city but I could have found myself in a position making me miserable for the duration of my stay in China.
Lesson Learned: In the pursuit of a goal, sacrifices may be a necessity but don’t make so many sacrifices that the journey is ruined. Remember, the journey can be just as important as the destination.