China Elevator Stories

A Hurt Toe And A New Home

A property agent takes me around Shenzhen on his motorcycle to look for a flat.


Ruth Silbermayr
Ruth Silbermayr


I have moved apartments at least 15 times in my life, but never has looking for a flat been as enthralling as this one time in November 2012.

My company calls me to let me know that I need a tenancy agreement within the next one or two days. I have asked my landlord about this ago, but he cannot issue me a tenancy agreement.

Thus, I have to look for a new flat. I look up places online and after having found a few suitable apartments, I call a property agent who agrees to show me the places.

An hour later, I arrive at the subway stop he had told me to meet. He picks me up with his motorcycle and shows me one flat after another. I realize that most flats looked way more beautiful in the pictures than they did in real life. Many of the pictures also showed completely different flats, and the real price for rent was much higher than the prices mentioned online.

I was disappointed that I had to visit one flat after another, only to realize they were all dirty, moldy, noisy, and expensive on top of that.

I was running out of time.

Not being able to find a suitable apartment, the property agent called up another agent from a rival firm. He joined us, and there we were, three people crammed onto a motorcycle, riding through the jungle of people and cars that was Shenzhen. It was a sunny day with blue skies, and I enjoyed the view during the ride. Up until the moment that I hurt my big toe really badly while we zigzagged our way through road marker posts.

We continued with our search after picking up an ointment for my toe from a pharmacy. After a whole day of looking for a flat, we wanted to call it a day when suddenly someone called and told us that we could look at a flat a little later that night. We still had more than an hour to go, so the property agent suggested we visit an arcade.

I had never been to a place like that before. We killed time playing games, when one of the guys there became really annoying. His face came dangerously close to mine, and I could smell his breath, which stunk of alcohol. Luckily, the property agent was quick to tell him that I was his girlfriend and that he should back off. I was glad for this little lie, as it made the guy back off immediately. The property agent was much faster in grasping the situation than I was.

When it was about time to see the flat, the three of us got on the motorbike to see the last apartment for the evening. Immediately after entering the flat I had the feeling that this was the apartment I was looking for. Clean, new, bright and homey. After talking for about an hour, I agreed to rent it.

A little later I took the night bus back home. The property agents had told me to call when I arrived home safely. When I got off the bus, one of them called me nervously. He asked me if anyone was following me. I replied with a perplexed “no”. He then told me to look around carefully to see if there was really no-one following me. I looked around, but the only other person who had gotten off at the same stop had already left. He then told me that there had been a guy waiting at the bus stop and only after he saw that I was getting on the bus, did the guy get on the bus too.

I arrived home safely but forgot to call the property agent. He must have been worried to death, but I was so tired after this day of apartment hunting that the only thing I could think of was my bed.

What are your experiences with apartment hunting abroad?

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