Moving apartments in China can sometimes feel like some elaborate form of torture. Furniture needs to be moved in and out of tiny apartments up on the 20-something floor, often in unbearable humidity and usually with the help of people that don’t speak the same language as you. To ease the pain, therefore, here are five tips for a stress-free moving day in China.
Source: Erda Estremera
Before moving anything, ask yourself if you really need all the stuff you accumulated in your old apartment. Are you ever going to watch any of those 500 DVDs you have stacked next to the television again? Is it time to accept you’re never going to use the exercise bike that’s been gathering dust on the balcony? Being ruthless with your belongings will save you a lot of time and money on moving day.
Now that you’ve decided you want to get rid of some things, it’s important to know that China has tightened up its dumping regulations in recent years. Whereas before you could ask the movers to dump old furniture next to the trash and it would be quickly snapped up by the security guards or cleaners, now it’s a different story. Compound managers are much more strict in enforcing fly tipping by-laws and many movers are unwilling to take the risk. If you want to get rid of unwanted furniture or appliances at the last minute these days, you’ll probably need to pay the movers extra to dispose of your stuff properly.
With that in mind, you ought to be proactive in trying to arrange to sell or give away the belongings you no longer want. There are several apps for selling second-hand goods in China, the best known of which is probably Xian Yu (闲鱼). There are also likely to be local apps, websites and WeChat groups in your city, so do some research and be the responsible adult you know you can be.
If you’re moving, the chances are you’re going to need some help. While it may be tempting to call in some personal favors from your friends, take a moment to think about your options. No-one really wants to spend their free time packing boxes and lifting furniture, especially when there are some super affordable options in China.
When I say super affordable, though, you should probably avoid the cheapest solutions. If you’ve hired a van to move your stuff, you might be able to slip the driver an extra hundred or so to help you pack and unpack. You may even find some off-duty cleaners or security guards on the street who are happy to make a little extra cash. The problem is, you typically get what you pay for in China.
These opportunist movers won’t wrap your belongings in any kind of protective material or show much regard for how they’re storing and moving your valuables. Most likely, they won’t secure them properly in the van either. In the end, you won’t have saved much money at all if you get to your new apartment and find your TV is smashed and your mattress is ripped.
Your best bet, therefore, is to use a professional moving company. Even so, you’ll need to do due diligence before making your choice. You’ll want a company that doesn’t overcharge, but most importantly one that can be trusted to treat your belongings with care and make sure they arrive at your new apartment in one piece.
Typically, there are two options when looking for a moving company in China. Either you go with a company that specializes in helping expats to move, or you use one of the popular apps that allow you to book movers directly. Companies that focus on expat clients are likely to be much more expensive, but you’ll at least have the peace of mind of having the whole process handled in English. There are many big international companies and smaller local companies operating in individual Chinese cities, so shop around and compare prices and reviews. As expats in China tend to move around a lot, a recommendation from a friend is probably a good way to go. The popular moving apps that are available nationwide offer a much more affordable service, but most only operate in Chinese and you will not receive any special treatment.
Whichever moving company you choose, it’s essential that you check the following before you make any decision. Does the company provide insurance if any of your items are damaged or go missing? Are there any hidden costs, such as an extra charge if the moving van has to park more than certain distance away? Does the price include packing and unpacking or just transportation? The last thing you need on moving day is to find a hidden cost or that something is not covered. At this point, the moving company has you over a barrel and they know it.
Moving in China is grueling at the best of times; apartments may be on high floors, the furniture might not fit in the elevator, and you may have to park the van outside the apartment complex. Some of these factors are out of your control, but what you can control is the time of day you move.
Arranging to move in the middle of the day during China’s hot summer months is an obvious death sentence. The evening will be cooler, but by that time, your movers will be on their last legs and the management office of your new digs may be closed, which could cause issues when trying to gain access to the building. You’ll also want to avoid the morning and early evening rush hours if you have to drive your belongings across town. The best time to move, therefore, is in the morning, either very early or after 10am. It won’t be as hot yet, the roads should be relatively clear, your movers will be full of energy and the management office will be open for the whole day in case anything goes awry.
It’s advisable to hire a cleaner for both your old and new homes when moving in China. It can be difficult getting your deposit back from a landlord who’s intent on penalising you for every mark, stain, and chip in your apartment. It therefore pays to make sure the apartment you’re leaving is as spotless as possible when you hand the keys back. You never know, a thorough going over might end up saving you a large part or all of your deposit.
Equally so, you’re more than likely going to want to hire a cleaner for your new place before you move in. In China, it isn’t expected for the landlord to prepare or clean the apartment before new tenants arrive, so you may find yourself greeted with a place swimming in dust and grime. After a long day moving, no-one wants to face the prospect of cleaning an entire apartment.
Any other tips for a smooth moving day in China? Drop them in the comments box below.
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