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Sharing accommodation in China: Finding a roommate

Sharing accommodation is always cheaper than living alone. However, many of don’t have the luxury of arriving in China with a friend or partner to share with, so they have to go hunting not just for a place to live, but also for somebody to live with. 

Here’s a guide to where and how you can find a roommate in China, and what you should consider to make sure you don’t end up wanting to kill each other.


Where to look

Firstly, there are many resources in the big cities you should be able to fall back on when looking for somebody to share with: 

  • Ask foreign friends if they know anyone who is seeking a flatmate.
  • Put a post on your social networks – the WeChat app can be very useful these days, but Facebook is also useful. Twitter may also be worth a try, though requests for roommates tend to be less common on that particular network due to it being blocked to people in China who don’t have VPNs.
  • Use any city-based English language websites that have classified functions, such as The Beijinger in Beijing.
  • Ask your Chinese colleagues or friends if they know anyone who is seeking a flatmate.
  • Post a note on a bill board in your neighborhood or in a place where potential roommates might hang out (for example, if you want to find a fellow foreigner, try a café, bar or grocery store frequented by expats, or by people who share your interests).
  • Ask your property management office (if there is one) if they can offer any advice. They may or may not be willing to help.
  • If you’re looking for a Chinese roommate, sites like ganji.com and 58.com are the most effective resources you can find. You might need help if you can’t read or write Chinese though.


Who to look for and avoid

The above advice will help you find people, but how do you find the right people? Here are a few tips to help you filter out people who you’ll likely clash with. Be brutally honest, and don’t settle for “good enough” or “It’ll probably be OK.” Your comfort and happiness at home will set the tone for the other parts of your life, so don’t put either at risk with a dodgy flatmate:

  • Know what you want from a flatmate. Are there particular types of people you get on with, or don’t get on with? Do you want a friend? Or just somebody who you can share a space with and run into occasionally?
  • Next, don’t move in with anyone you haven’t met. It’s a big risk, and stupid at that. Insist on a meeting/interview before making a decision.
  • Consider your lifestyle, and ask about the other person’s lifestyle. Do you mind if they come home late at night, or vice versa? Do you want to have parties? Do they have a job? Do they smoke? Do they have a boyfriend or girlfriend who will visit often (or, perhaps, move in)? These are perhaps the most important questions to consider. Try to anticipate trouble.
  • Do they speak less Chinese than you? If so, you might end up doing all the communications with landlords, property management, anyone dealing with bills and so on. This can be a chore and can foster resentment.
  • Hygiene. Are you obsessed with cleanliness? Are they? If you’re living with more than one person, this becomes even more important, as one can always blame the other for the mess in the kitchen.  
  • Be very careful about living with a colleague. It’s bad enough bringing work home when you live with somebody you don’t work with. Soon enough, you’ll both be complaining about the boss every waking hour. This is a recipe for misery.
  • Don’t move in with somebody you’re attracted to. This is likely to end in disaster. And nobody wants to be that creep.
  • If you’re the one moving in to somebody else’s place, ask about their habits and expectations. Do they have any rules that will rub you up the wrong way? If the answer is yes, don’t move in. 


What to discuss with them

Finally, set your own rules. Make sure everyone is on the same page before you agree anything. Having the following things written down and signing a kind of loose contract is not the worst idea. 

  • Who deals with the landlord? Could be one person doing everything, or could responsibilities be divided?
  • Who pays the bills?
  • Who collects the rent, and on what day? 
  • Partners – can they move in? Are there limits on how much time they spend in the apartment? Do they contribute to bills and rent?
  • Visitors – any limits?
  • Noise – any limits?
  • Pets – are they allowed? Can they roam the apartment freely?
  • Parties – yes or no? Any problems?
  • Décor – what can and can’t be changed?


Useful Chinese words and phrases

室友                shì yǒu                 flatmate
寻合租                xún hé zū            flatmate seeking
合租                hé zū                flatsharing 
面谈                miàn tán                interview


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