Long Term Housing in China
More than likely your employer will set you up with an apartment, for which
the cost to you should be minimal. You may or may not be in a building with
other Westerners; often teachers at a university or a large school will all live in a “Panda House,” or
“apartments for foreigners.”
These living quarters can range from small but comfortable to very rustic. As in Japan, most Chinese apartments don’t have central heating. You may want to pack a warm blanket if you’ll be in a place where it gets cold.
If you are employed by a university or a company in China, they should be responsible for providing housing for you; this should be confirmed as part of
your contract. Because foreigners only recently have been able to rent apartments in some of the major cities (though this is still very unusual), a foreign company will usually be forced to accommodate their employees in facilities specifically built for foreigners. These include five-star hotels that often have apartments adjoining them, which are modern, luxurious by local standards, and extremely expensive.
If you are teaching at a school or university, your accommodations should be
part of your teaching contract and therefore provided free of cost to you. You will most likely be housed in a building on campus built especially for these purposes, called a foreign guest house. You may share or have your own apartment, which will be basic but extremely spacious and comfortable by Chinese standards, with bedroom(s), living room, perhaps a dining room, kitchen, and a bathroom, complete with hot water, western toilet, TV,
telephone, and perhaps air conditioning. It’s not exactly the lap of luxury, but it should be adequate or better.
Be sure to develop a friendly relationship with the staff who run the guest house, so that when your hot water heater breaks down it will be repaired or replaced relatively quickly.
It’s important to realize that, although you have been assigned a certain
apartment for the duration of your contract, you are in essence still a guest and therefore subject to the rules of your guest house, which may include a curfew, rules about having friends stay in your room, or whether Chinese students may visit.
Also be sure you agree in advance about whether meals are included in your contract. Many school apartment complexes house cafeterias, where you
might have an account if you teach there. One Westerner tells of a family who did not discuss this matter in advance, and the bills they received for their meals amounted to half their income.