September 2006
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House hunting (Thursday, September 21)

One of the confusing things here when apartment hunting is the naming conventions. For example if I tell a broker that I want a one bedroom, I understand that to mean an apartment with one bedroom, a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom. But he understands that to mean I want one room and so he offers me rooms in other people’s flats or studio apartments. If you want a one-bedroom flat you have to ask for a “two-room set”, a two bedroom would be a “three room set”, etc.

The other thing that’s different here is the “furnished” vs. “unfurnished” apartment. "Unfurnished" means that the apartment will not even come with a fridge and a stove, like unfurnished apartments in the States do. Furnished means it will have all sorts of things, including the oldest and dustiest furniture, but not necessarily a stove or a fridge.

The most infuriating thing about apartment-hunting here is being asked all the time over the phone if you are a foreigner. Everyone wants to rent to foreigners, most preferrably white foreigners. A little bit I must confess to understanding the prejudice (for foreigners, not for white people) since it is true from my observation of Indians at the wheel that we are not the most patient, courteous, considerate or clean people. Every other driver is picking his nose or opening the car door to direct a steam of spit on to the road. But when you are on the receiving end it sucks, and it feels even worse when people do not want to rent to you for being single and a girl.

When-oh-when will some enterprising person start a rent-a-husband service?

I had two wildly divergent sets of brokers. One lot primarily worked with foreigners and kept trying to show me things way out of my budget and would not come to terms with the fact that somehow someone who had recently returned from abroad did not have thousands and thousands to spend on rent. The second lot seemed to be used to working with the indigent and would show me filthy cells on top of dirty shops in the middle of a cramped market and remark how charming they were and how I must snap them up before I missed the boat.

Two female friends of mine who looked and looked for several hours an evening every evening for all of August had not found anything by the end of the month, which was rather depressing and made me realize that I would only find something through sheer luck, not through hard work. So I stopped calling my dozen or so brokers or thinking about apartments.

To make a long story short, I found a very delightful one bedroom (two room set) on September 1 in the heart of (young) expat central. But, let me tell you, it’s not all wine and roses. It’s September 21 and I’m not properly moved in yet.