When considering a specific shared apartment in Shanghai, Beijing, or another Chinese city, the most important thing to focus on is your fellow roommates. Youll be living with these people for a while, and youve got to make sure that you can at least tolerate each other, and have somewhat similar ways of thinking.
Deciding to live in a shared apartment isnt without risk, but it also can be extremely rewarding. I lived over 2 years in shared apartments, with a total of 7 different people. Luckily, I had two, 1 year periods living with the same people and got to know them extremely well and become very good friends.
Below are some things to consider, and you should definitely touch on these when visiting an apartment. These questions work for those visiting places, and also for those finding a tenant to rent a room in their current apartment.
Language skills. Language is the primary way we communicate, so if you cant understand what your potential roommates are saying, it might not be a good fit. My roommate and I were interviewing potential tenants, and we had a pretty nice French guy come and visit, but after chatting a bit, it was clear that he wasnt understanding our jokes, and not really even following our conversations. Im sure he was a great guy, but probably wouldnt have been a good flatmate
Smoking. Most everyone will know where they come down on this issue. If youre a smoker, you dont want to be living with people who are constantly complaining about the smell, the butts, whatever. If you arent a smoker, you may not want to smell the smoke in your apartment several times a day. There are of course ways around this, and if your apartment has a balcony, it doesnt have to be an inconvenience. One tip for non-smokers though: get used to second hand smoke, its everywhere in China, and you can scoff at people till youre blue in the face, but theyre not going to change their behavior.
Day-to-day behavior. This is more just making sure that everyones schedules are compatible. If 3 people need in the bathroom at the exact same time Monday through Friday mornings to get ready for work, its gonna cause tension. Also, a night owl who stays up till 2:30 am watching TV in the common room isnt going to mix well with a light sleeper who turns in at 10:30.
Eating behavior. Who likes to cook? Who likes to go out to eat? I found that if multiple roommates enjoy cooking, it can be a fun, hang out activity. Same thing applies if multiple roommates like going out to restaurants. Doing things together is great bonding, and lets you get to know each other a lot better.
Dating anyone? Make sure everyone is on board with your level of interaction with your significant other, and that you are okay with the same from your roommates. If your roommates girlfriend is over all the time, and practically another flatmate (except without paying rent) this may cause some tension. I once had someone check out a room in my apartment, and when he showed up, he brought his girlfriend along, who would also be staying in the room. It wasnt the situation I was looking for, so could not offer him the room. If youre in his situation, be honest about it, and let the apartments youre visiting know about it beforehand.
Partying. Most foreigners in China like to party, its just a question of to what extent. Check with potential roommates about how often they usually go out a week, and also how often there are parties at the house. I personally love house parties, and find them a great way to hang out cheaply, and meet a few new people in a laid back setting. But, if you dont like the idea of a bunch of people coming over to your house, youd best make it clear. Also, connected to partying is drug use. Just make sure that everyone is honest about what they drink, smoke, or snort, and there wont be any surprises down the line.
Level of cleanliness. When you go into an