Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lost in translation

Just as it's good to test drive cars other than the one you think you want, it's good to look at apartments besides the one you think you're going to take, just to make sure it's the one. Or, as is the case here in China, to prove that it's the only one out there that isn't going to make you raise your eyebrows and say, "What were they thinking with this decor?" It's not wrong, it's just very, very different.

So while we wait for the negotiations to settle with our potential landlord, I thought it would benefit me to look at a few others. I called a real estate agent on Sunday and told him that I could see apartments on Monday from 3-5 pm or Wednesday from 1-3. I explained that I live in a different district of the city than the district to which we're moving, so it's not convenient for me to come at random times. I also told him my husband was out of town so I had to watch my kids more often. I thought I made this all perfectly clear.

It seems something got lost in translation.

Here's the conversation I had with him on Monday night at 7 pm:
"Hello, Hong Jia Hui (my Chinese name). Are you busy?"
"Yes. I'm at home with my kids, by myself."
"So you can't come see anything right now?"
"When can you come?"
"Wednesday, between 1 and 3 pm."

I had the next conversation with him on Wednesday morning:
"Hello, Hong Jia Hui. Can you come see an apartment today at 3 pm?"
"No, I have something from 3-5."
"When can you come?"
"I could come at 2, or I could come at 5."
So we arranged to meet at 5.

At five minutes to 2, I got this call:
"Hello, Hong Jia Hui. The landlord can't meet at 5. Can you meet earlier, at 3 pm?"
"No, I have something from 3-5."
"Can you meet at 2 pm?"
"I'm in Hai Dian. If I get in my car now, I will not be there until 2:45."
"Can you meet at 2:50?"
"I have something at 3."

By the end of this third conversation I thought, "There's got to be something I'm missing about how Chinese people look at viewing apartments, and about how they view time commitments." For the life of me though, I'm not sure how to interpret this situation.

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