Thursday, May 29, 2008

An Off-Broadway Show: A Place to Live.

April 7th : Ms. Jia, the housing assistant at IUP, sent a short email with a long attachment. With Tsinghua University Foreign Student Affairs Office’s lack of immediate response on the availability of dorms for IUP students, Ms. Jia urged all students to find off-campus housing as soon as possible. The attachment, The Renter’s Handbook, reads like Moses’ commandments - “When negotiating with the landlord, thou shall demand accompaniment to the police office to file for the residency permit” - “Thou shall demand the landlord to operate all appliances to ensure proper usage.” While I was still at school, I didn’t have time to find an apartment, so as soon as I got home I went through one housing site after another, my Chinese electronic dictionary in one hand, the mouse in the other, searching for an affordable place. The Olympics hype cranked up rent rates up to twice the usual rates at most places.

I found an apartment in the Huaqing Jiayuan complex, not ten minutes from my university campus. Fully furnished, safe, close to the market and school - for twice the price of the university dorm (6500RMB per month). Considering that it was the lowest price tag I had found within such close proximity to my Chinese program, I sent an email to the landlord, agreeing that I will live in her apartment for a year and requesting wire transfer information as well as the lease agreement, on which I would send her a scanned copy of my signature. I informed the Light Fellowship Director and asked for a increase on my summer housing budget.

May 20th: Ms. Jia sends another email: “DORMITORIES AVAILABLE! Reserve quickly!”

Frustration.

The next few emails I exchanged with the landlord to cancel the lease, at least the ones she sent me, weren’t pretty. A Chinese neighbor told me that the first affirmative email I sent was as good as the lease agreement or any red Chinese print seal. I was lucky, the neighbor said, to not have been demanded some fee for canceling everything that I had negotiated.

As much as I enjoyed exchanging letters with the landlord in Chinese, the days of this pleasant-culturally-ignorant-and-naïve-American-student-studying-Chinese personality ended. I feel as though the landlord let me go not just out of her kindness but because I didn’t know the subtle formalities in Chinese business.
Chinese business lesson #1: Know the customs.

On a brighter note, my visa just came today. The visa company even gave me a plastic cover for my passport.


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1 Comment:

Lucky said...

Do you call this entry an Off Broadway show because you received a good deal in a cheap and impromptu way?

(And regarding the more recent entry...you have a lot of time to indulge in Chinese conspiracies considering you're studying for MCAT's ;)

Hope you're doing swell.

- Lucky

P.S. I have our skit video posted on facebook. I could share it with you sometime, but not today. For today it's my facebook free day.

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