Home is where the heart is. Home is also where all your stuff is. But if you’ve just moved to China you might find your new apartment is a little too bare for your liking. If you need some essentials and don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on them, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with this guide to furnishing your China apartment on the cheap.
An important difference between many Western and Chinese apartments is that Chinese apartments often come fully furnished. A good way to keep furnishing costs down is to simply choose an apartment that already has what you need, although inevitably your rent will be higher.
If you find the perfect apartment but it’s missing a few big ticket items, like a bed or couch, make it a part of your negotiations with the landlord. Landlords in China are often willing to accommodate these kinds of requests when signing new contracts with new tenants.
If they refuse to do anything you ask, it’s often a good indicator that they will be a nightmare to deal with and you should find another place.
Many foreigners only stay in China for a few years before heading home. Consequently, there’s a constant turnover of foreigners in most Chinese cities. This creates a buyer’s market of furniture, appliances and other necessities that people are trying to get rid of quickly.
Often times, a quick search of expat websites for your city will help you find everything you need for your new pad. As your social circle expands, you’ll also gain access to foreigner WeChat groups where you’re sure to find people trying to hock stuff.
The Holy Grail of Chinese websites for cheap stuff is, of course, TaoBao. TaoBao is a great resource for cheap furniture and appliances, and often times vendors are open to negotiation on the price and add-ons. In addition, you can get things cheaply repaired or customised through vendors on the site.
Though translated versions of TaoBao, such as BaoPals, exist and there are agents who could help you in English, the best way to get the full benefit and avoid extra charges is to have a basic grasp of written Chinese or a Chinese friend/colleague who likes bargain hunting.
Taobao also has apps like XiánYǘ 闲鱼, which has a wide variety of uses, chief among them the ability to locate cheap secondhand goods directly from their owners in whatever city you’re in. Have a look and see what gems you can find.
China loves a good sales promotion, and as a result almost every Western and Chinese holiday short of Tomb Sweeping Day has tie-in discounts and deals online. If you’re looking for cheap furniture, appliances or other apartment goods, the best opportunity is 11/11 (November 11th) otherwise known as Single’s Day.
Though its origins are somewhat murky, 11/11 supposedly started out as a holiday to help single people socialise together. That somehow turned into the biggest sales holiday in the world. There are massive discounts on just about anything you could want, so if you need anything, big or small, this is the time to order.
If you missed this holiday, however, don’t worry; there’s also 12/12, an end of the year sales holiday more geared towards Spring Festival purchases.
Maybe you prefer rolling up your sleeves and bargaining on the street. If so, local Chinese street markets might be the way to go for smaller items. In older parts of Chinese cities you can often find gigantic bustling markets that have a wide variety of goods.
The prices will generally be unmarked, meaning the expense is up to your negotiating skills. This also gives you the opportunity to practice Chinese, rub elbows with the natives and get to know a part of your city better.
While appliances and most big furniture items will probably be more expensive here than on TaoBao, decorations and smaller items like lamps or electric fans can be garnered cheaply with the added benefit that you can examine the quality of the item thoroughly before you buy it.
With these tips, you’ll be able to turn your China apartment into your castle without it costing you a king’s ransom.
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