Finding Housing in China – Know the Differences

by Jason Luong

Finding Housing in China – Know the Differences

By Tangsabd (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

You will live in luxury. Maybe not by your standards. But to millions of migrant farm workers moving into the cities for work, your living quarters will be considered a luxury much more than an arm’s length away. Welcome to China, where you will automatically have a luxurious home!

You have options. The school you’re working at might offer you a dorm room. Everything will be arranged for you—Internet, meals, cleaning, etc. All you’ll have to do is move in. But this means less privacy.

You might be lucky enough to get placed in a service apartment (like a three star hotel where someone comes in to clean your room daily). This is better than a dormitory, and you get a lot more time to yourself away from other people doing private things away from prying eyes. Not every teacher is so lucky.

You might need to find an apartment not arranged by the school. Conditions vary depending on location and the type of tenants the complex serves. It’s not surprising to have your stuff stolen if you live in an area where most people just come home to sleep and go to work the next day. Those apartments are usually empty during the weekdays. Be sure to lock your doors carefully and don’t leave iPads or laptops in plain view. Stories of people climbing down from a higher floor and going into these apartments to steal from open windows are not uncommon. Lock your windows when you’re not at home.

The safest option

So what’s safest? Look for an apartment within a community. These are complexes much larger than the general apartment developments. They are gated, and security will check for ID and make outsiders register. Mostly families live in these places—not a lot of single guys and gals coming in and out. You’ll find children riding tricycles, grandparents holding their grandchildren, and young professionals walking their poodles (yes, there is a poodle craze here where everyone wants to own a brown poodle resembling a teddy bear). Owning a cute little toy poodle is a sign of middle class status here. Thieves don’t like to target victims that are hard to get at, so they tend to avoid coming into gated communities to steal. Your neighbors will mostly have family with them. Their goal is not to steal your goods. These places are best.

Finding an apartment

How do you search for housing? Go through an agent. These guys take one month’s rent from the landlord as their fee. But you’re actually paying for it. Landlords pass these fees on as part of the rent to you. Be ready to put down, one to two months’ deposit dependent on how furnished the apartment is. Try to get a furnished apartment since you won’t be staying there for more than a year. You’ll want to explore different parts of the city and move around within China. Don’t sign for anything more than a year.

Is it hard to find housing in China? Not at all. Negotiate with the school that hires you. With a  bit of luck, they might even cover all your housing and expenses.

Jason Luong is an EFL teacher and author of Teaching English in China – How to Negotiate the Best Package, Salary, and Avoid Getting Screwed.


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