June 18-27, 2015
In May, I had both injured my hand and signed my second-year contract with the company I am currently working for. With exciting and not so exciting things happening in my life I was on to my next task; finding a new apartment. The one-bedroom had been enough for the year, but I needed a kitchen. Now Taiwanese real-estate comes with a whole new set of challenges for anyone that is from America. In America, I could look for an apartment months in advance, sign a lease, and set a move-in date. That is not the case in Taiwan. When you are looking for a new apartment to live in you look maybe one month or less in advance and can move-in the day you sign the lease. Bigger cities have more options, but Fengyuan isn’t that big. I had to wait until my brace was off and I could drive again before I could start looking, but as soon as it was off I was on rental sites searching for apartments.
LONGEST TWO WEEKS EVER! It was only two weeks of searching, but it felt like months with all the problems we were having. My friend, Alex, and I decided we wanted to be roommates so that we could move into a bigger apartment, have a living room and kitchen, and still be able to have cheap rent. We started searching online and having my boss make some calls. The first place we looked at had huge rooms, but had water damage, and the “kitchen” was more like a sink and some random gas range and tank of gas put together and called a stove.
Unsure on whether to rent the place I suggested to Alex that we keep looking, we could find something better. We continued our search. Even when we did find something we would have a Chinese speaker call on our behalf and the landlords would immediately deny us because we are foreigners.We did see some interesting places in between some potential apartments.
The first was a murder apartment. I call it that because there was an actual murder in the apartment where a couple got into a domestic dispute and the woman poisoned the man and then cut him up and buried him on some mountain. That is very unlucky in Taiwanese culture, so the apartment was still available and cheap. At the time we were frustrated with out lack of apartment options so I convinced Alex to go look at it with me. When we looked at it Alex said, “if I lived here I would murder someone too”. It was so old and dirty. The cable and internet cords were tacked along the wall and door frames and all the screen doors were ripped and broken. Stuff from the previous owners were left in random corners of the apartment. When the realtor asked us if we liked it we said no, and she asked us what was wrong. I wanted to say, “you’re f’ing kidding, right?” Not to mention the realtor had grabbed some random Cambodian woman in the elevator to translate for us. What an odd experience!
We also got shown a place that wasn’t on the market yet because it was still in the remodeling stage. There weren’t even stable stairs or proper lighting when we had a viewing. I’m pretty sure when we walked in the door the answer was a “no”.
After a week and a half of being denied a viewing or apartments already rented out but still online we got a realtor that would let us look at an apartment. The apartment was a decent size, had almost all the furniture we needed and was in a good location. The realtors talked to the landlord and at first he said yes, but then after a day denied us because of the fact that we were not Taiwanese. I understood what the landlord was worried about, but I was also really frustrated because Alex and I are both responsible and the landlord would never have to speak to us.
It came to my birthday and I was really disappointed. We hadn’t found an apartment and I felt like all my free time was being spent on websites or viewing apartments. I wanted out of my current apartment so badly that I was desperate.
A secretary at my job heard my woes and made some calls in her building complex. She returned the next day with a number to a realtor. My boss called and set-up a viewing. We walked into the apartment and while it was big there was not a piece of furniture, not even air conditioners. We walked around and around the apartment. It had a kitchen, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a storage space, a living room, and a balcony. Everything we wanted, but no furniture. We looked at each other and expressed our worries about furniture and air conditioners, but then agreed to take the place. We were willing to take the hit on the furniture cost if we could rent the space.
Two days later we signed the lease and got the keys to our apartment. It was a long two weeks and it was really hard asking for help for everything due to language barriers, but we did it! Now to move-in!