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Finally! You made it to China! You went through the background check, traveled everywhere to find your birth certificate, and went through an insane amount of hoops to get there! 

You found your hotel, and you’re settling in for the night. And now, you need to start thinking of the next hurdle. 

Where the hell are you going to live? How does one start looking for an apartment? 

Lucky you, your fellow expats were in the same boat when they first came to China. It’s new and exciting, but it’s awkward trying to find a place to live. 

Some companies provide housing for their foreign workers, so you don’t need to worry too much. Others give their foreign workers a housing allowance and tell them to find their own apartment. 

When you first move, everything is overwhelming. You’re in a new country where you probably don’t speak the language, and the culture is like nothing you’ve experienced before. It’s a lot to take in on your first couple of days. 

So, how do you find an apartment in China? If your company doesn’t provide housing for you, here are some ways you can find an apartment! 

Look Up Some Popular Apps

Around my last two years in China, more and more expats started using apps to find apartments. Seasoned ex-pats found it easier to look for flats. 

That way, you don’t have to worry about paying an agent an insane amount of money. 

When I left China, I’d only heard of Ziroom. That was back in 2019. Now, there are seven more apps to help Chinese and foreign tenants find a place to live! That’s eight apps for you to choose from! 

Be sure to look at the pros and cons of each app before you start looking. And be prepared to ask for help from your Chinese coworkers if there’s no English version. 

You could go the traditional route

When I first arrived in China, my company gave new employees realtor information. Most people I worked with didn’t speak Chinese when they came, so they would seek out an agent who spoke English. 

I had an advantage over most of my newer coworkers. I came to the country knowing enough  Chinese to seek an agent on my own. 

I never changed my agent in the six years I lived there. The first place I rented was a dump. In the second place, my realtor realized what I wanted and found me a one-bedroom. 

My apartment was big for a Chinese apartment. I got lucky with my hunt for an agent. My Chinese is proficient enough to communicate my needs to my agent. 

I could negotiate rent with a landlord. Still, I needed translation help to make sure I understood the lease. 

As I mentioned before, I’m not an ordinary case. Not everyone coming to China knows Chinese. 

If you don’t want to mess with apps, you need to make friends with your coworkers. They’re your best resource for finding a place within your housing budget. 

Check personal ads online

Online personal ads were one of the more popular ways to find an apartment without dealing with apps and real estate agents. In Beijing, the most popular site is The Beijinger

Foreign ex-pats who don’t finish their contract look for subletters to avoid penalties at the end of their lease. 

I glanced at some of the apartments for rent on The Beijinger before looking for a realtor. They didn’t sound bad, but they’re smaller than what you expect. 

These apartments are great for people starting with no knowledge of the language or culture. 

Before you see any apartments, you find online, bring a friend. When talking about the internet, safety in numbers is the way to go. 

Final Thoughts

Finding an apartment in a new country isn’t easy. It’s more challenging if you’re coming in not knowing the language. 

It sounds like an impossible task, but there are resources to help you, regardless of your knowledge of the language and culture. It doesn’t have to be a nightmare looking for a place to live. 


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Keara Hopkins

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