10 Surprises for an Englishman Buying a New ‘House’ in China


1. EVERYONE lives in apartment blocks but they still talk about their ‘house’ rather than their apartment or flat.


2. I’m very lucky to have a wife who does all the negotiating with the architect and builder, since I have no workable Chinese myself!

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3. New property comes as a bare concrete shell which then needs significant work to convert it into a liveable house (re-configuring walls, electrics, plumbing, heating, lighting, air-conditioning, flooring, windows, decorating etc etc). 3 months estimated work and then there’s the furnishing!

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4. It is quite common to buy all new furnishings rather than transfer the old to the new house.

5. Building/furniture stores are huge and more like malls than individual big stores. Be prepared to wear out a couple of pairs of shoes before you’ve decided on what you want, AND be prepared to get lost – again and again. Interior layouts and signs leave much to be desired. Areas of the city seem to be dedicated to small shops supplying various aspects of the building industry. Smaller items can be significantly cheaper on the internet (via TaoBao).


6. Many Chinese enjoy ‘Victorian/Georgian’ elaborate styled furnishings known as ‘European style’.  Lighting shops are crammed full of chandeliers! We seem to be a little unusual in wanting modern styled things.


7. A whole wall is often dedicated to the large flatscreen TV in the living room. Much like the fireplace of old!


8. In southern China built in heating is unusual, particularly underfloor heating. However many brand new properties are having it installed. While summers are hot and need air-conditioning, winters still feel cold and seem ‘freezing’ without central heating. The reality is that winter temperatures are not that different from London’s.  Thick quilted PJ’s provide personalised insulation, and are very cosy too!

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9. Contractors seem to be able to work at incredibly short notice. In terms of home repairs, expect someone to be able to come over and fix things on the same day! Many in the building/construction industry appear to work 7 days a week and only take a few days off occasionally!

10. I’m terrified watching window installers, air conditioning engineers etc work at high levels without safety equipment. What about Health and Safety at Work? I’m also terrified by the colour coding used in Electrics. I can’t work out what the convention(s) are and whether anybody follows them!



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