Hey, I’ve got some advice:
No matter how good your Chinese is:
DON’T HUNT FOR AN APARTMENT BY YOURSELF, BRING A VERY SAVVY CHINESE FRIEND.
I’m currently looking for an apartment in Taipei, and thought that since I can speak Chinese, and one of my Taiwanese friends gave me some advice on not being ripped off, that I was ready. I wasn’t ready.
I went to this aparment building which has a lot of empty apartments, and asked to see a few. After seeing one I liked, I decided to use my friend’s advice and bargain on the rent price…well, before I could even start, the guard who showed me the apartment said, “before I call the landlord for you, you need to know that you have to give me $3000nt for showing you the apartment, and you can’t bargain” What!!! I said, uh, isn’t this your job? He said, no, this was something else…then, I basically said no way. He called the landlord, and because he was hovering over me, I felt a little intimidated…I wasn’t ready to discuss a lower rent with her, but I did get her down to 1 month deposit. Then, he took back the phone and of course went on in Taiwanese about something…
Anyway, I used my Taiwanese friend’s tactic of saying mabye and coming back the next day…but the doorman wouldn’t call her for me saying it was “Sunday” and she wouldn’t want to be disturbed…he also wouldn’t give me her phone number! Well, I think you can figure out why…
So, anyway, I’m giving up and taking my most shrewd bargaining Taiwanese friend with me…I just can’t believe even after you can speak Chinese, they still think they can pull the wool over your eyes.
(but I’m sure there are also some very fair landlords and doormen, too)