Today I'll be showing you my living space as an expat in China! The school I'm employed at has provided me with a furnished apartment. I'm aware it could look a lot cuter if I invested more money in decorating it, but I know that me being in China is just temporary, so I don't want to shell out more cash on making my place look better. I'd rather save the money for traveling or put it towards my debt. Next year, I'll need to decide if I should keep my place or move somewhere else, so I'm going to list out what I like/dislike about where I currently live.
It takes me just a few minutes to walk into school. A couple years ago I had to spend three hours of driving time commuting to and from work, so I love having more time to myself at the end of a long work day. Each morning I don't have to rush around, either.
It's just plain convenient. Besides the time it saves me each day, the proximity to the school comes in handy because there have been a few times where I've forgotten something I needed that day. I was easily able to walk home and grab it during one of my breaks. If I lived farther away, this would be impossible. I also live close enough to pop by on the weekend if I have some extra work to do, but of course I usually try to bring work home to avoid this! Sometimes we have meetings or half-days, so I'm able to just go home for awhile and then go back to school.
Other teachers and my friends live near me. This makes it easy to meet up, split taxis, and have get togethers. Since other people are around me, I do feel rather safe, too.
Speaking of safety, there are guards at the gate, so not just anyone is let in. There are also cameras everywhere. This makes me feel a lot more secure, not that I typically ever feel completely unsafe in a city like Shanghai.
My place heats up/cools off pretty nicely. Personally, I find it difficult to be cold all the time. It makes me never want to leave my bed! It can get nice and toasty in my place in a short period of time.
I have a balcony that doesn't face other buildings that are used for housing. I need to make better use of this and have a friend or two over for brunch when the weather is nice.
The apartment is furnished, which is ideal for expats. My place came with three chairs, a desk, a small table, a tv stand, a bed, and two little dressers. A refrigerator, hot plate, tv, washing machine, some bedding, and a water dispenser were also all included. I was given a couch from a teacher who left, and even though I'm not much of a host, it just makes me like my apartment so much more! Since I have to lie down a lot for my recovery, at least I'm not just confined to my bedroom.
I'm on the top floor, so I don't have to hear anyone above me. Luckily, the guy below me is never there, so I don't have to worry about being loud. Even though I'm sure I'm not, it's just great not even having to have that cross my mind!
The apartment is newly remodeled. The appliances are all new and the walls are covered with fresh coats of paint. Nothing looks dingy, and there's not evidence that tons of other teachers have lived here before me.
The street by me is full of cheap restaurants within walking distance, so if I want to save money, I can just go to any one of them and fill on up. There's also a Starbucks, a Wal-Mart, a few pizza places, and a McDonald's close by.
It's single housing! I do like living alone, although having roommates can be fun, too (as long as I have the right ones).
The best part of living where I do is that everything is free! Not having to pay rent makes it worth it for me to teach in China.
While there are tons of cheap restaurants nearby, I, along with many others, have gotten sick from a few of them. I think that's just par for the course, but it's never comforting to have to worry a lot about getting food poisoning. Besides the few places I already mentioned, there aren't any foreign food places within walking distance, but in many areas of Shanghai there are.
I mentioned earlier that I liked having other teachers by me. Well, this also happens to be a con because there are just so many other foreign teachers here, and sometimes I feel like I can't get away from them! That sounds terrible, but I know there are many others who feel the same way I do.
I live in the older part of the city. While it's still busy, there's nothing super special about this area. I have to ride in cab for 20 minutes to get to some of the more desirable places. To get to the Bund, it can take an hour if traffic is bad.
When I go home, I can still hear the students. A lot. This didn't bother me so much last year because I spent way less time in my apartment than I do this year. Every morning, I get woken up by loud screaming, and after school there are usually kids on the basketball courts by my apartment, so I hear them there, too. I work with kids all day, and when I go home I just want it to be quiet. Sorry if that makes me sound terrible, but it's true.
I'd like for there to be more of a separation in my work/private life. Since I live on my school's campus, I feel like I can never "get away." Just as I was typing this at home, I heard some bells ring for the students.
We cannot order groceries directly to our rooms. This is probably the worst thing about living here, at least for me! I can't carry anything heavy because of my back, so I really, really wish that the drivers could just come to my room and deliver the groceries.
If I do decide to stay here next year, my options are to either stay where I am or to apply for some off-campus housing, but that type of housing will also be full of other teachers. Now, the off-campus housing IS nicer, but there will be a bit of a commute. It's not far, but I'd have to be up way earlier in order to catch the bus to get to work on time. A lot of people who live there just ride their bikes or scooters to work, but I don't have that choice. I want to feel like I have my own life away from work, and this year I do not have that, but part of that is because of my health, which will hopefully be even less of a concern in the future. The campus I'm at does not offer any kind of housing stipend, which I wish was not the case! There is the possibility to switch campuses to get the stipend, but I don't know if I'd be allowed, and I heard the stipend is not nearly enough to pay rent and bills.
What do you think sounds like the best choice? What are some pros and cons about where you live?