I arrived in Shenzhen three days ago and so far, so good. The settling in process takes time and plenty of energy. In the next few posts I will be sharing my Shenzhen experiences and dropping a few pro tips along the way!
Like with every international school orientation, it is information OVERLOAD and a major hit to the senses - new sights, sounds, smells, language, culture, etc. I am sure my fellow newbies would agree that the school nailed their role in making this transition as worry-free as possible.
Here is what stood out to me:
- Much like my school in Uzbekistan - greeted at the hotel by admin.
- Welcome bags full of creature comforts - snacks, bread, peanut butter, wine, beer, soda, etc.
- Cellphone w/ sim card. I took the sim out and popped it into my unlocked Android phone.
- Phone numbers of all admin and administrative assistants who are reachable at any time.
- Most importantly for me - It's a community that HUGS. There's truly nothing like coming off a plane after dealing with the dog, delayed bag, etc. and being greeted with warmth and friendly faces.
After that first night, we toured the Elementary campus and were taken to different returning teachers' apartments to truly get a feel for the potential of spaces we'd call home. Living in Tashkent and Bangkok, prepared me well for the lack of uniformity in the apartments I would see. For some background - modern Shenzhen is really only 30 years old. It is a young city compared to Beijing and Shanghai. Despite it's "new-ness", thanks to oil and tech - it is incredibly WEALTHY. I did not expect to see so many BMWs, Teslas, Mercedes Benzes, etc. and I've only explored one district - Shekou. This contributes to the lack of uniformity in the apartment spaces. They build large skyrise condos and the original units are an empty shell when purchased. The landlords create the interiors on their own which leads to the diversity of spaces. I saw 5 or 6 two bedroom apartments in the same condo mega-complex and they all looked totally different.
While some of my colleagues have found it a little daunting, I did my best to enjoy it. I stuck to my guns with what I wanted:
- Two bedroom flat - second bedroom has to fit a full-sized bed or at least a futon for guests
- Large open plan to get the most natural light
- All appliances inside (some apartments had their washers out on the balcony)
- Hardwood floor
- View of Shenzhen Bay
- Large exterior gardens with swimming pool
- Walking distance to school
- Easy access to shops and amenities
One of the more surprising aspects of this hunt is that it was evident that the apartments were not cleaned, albeit empty. Some were much worse off than others. I saw an apartment with rotting food inside a fridge. I chalked this up to the fact that the landlords know Shenzhen is a hot market, particularly Shekou which is the special economic zone and closest proximity to Hong Kong (30 minutes by ferry). Condo owners KNOW that their spaces will be rented no matter what. Despite being thrown off by the dust and grime, it actually made it easier to spot what issues needed to be addressed. I really liked the first place so I didn't want to waste any time - I asked the real estate agent if we could go back to it and I proceeded to check it out more thoroughly.
PRO TIPS when apartment hunting - coming from my new colleagues:
- Flip open all the lights
- Open every door, cupboard, etc.
- Turn on all the faucets
- Look at the ceiling for water damage
- Check the furniture
- Don't be afraid to ask for stuff when negotiating
- Keep an open mind...a place can look like a mess, but have lots of potential
As a result of this I was able to get my landlord to agree to a new fridge, new mattress, and repairing the shower at no extra cost.
Here is my new home:
I'll post exterior photos later, but the complex hits all of my requirements and I will be surrounded by an instant community of colleagues/new friends. The date of move-in is still TBD as things need to be purchased/cleaned/repaired, but at least now Milo and I can rest easier knowing we have a place to call home!
Come back soon for Hello Shenzhen! 您好深圳! Part 2!