Occupy Fangzi: A lesson for Beijing renters (funny)

This is such pure genius, that I simply must share this story. If you live in China, you know that sometimes there are ‘China Days’. Sometimes China wins, sometimes you win.

This is a story of how one ingenious waiguoren (foreigner) mum living in Beijing managed to overcome a difficult renting situation and made sure she came out on top. Genius. 


“I’m not going to give your deposit back,” said our soon-to-be ex-landlord.

The words took me by surprise, but not completely. I’d been warned,  after all, that sometimes landlords in Beijing did this sort of thing,  though none of our former landlords had ever given us such a problem.  As momentarily startled as I was, it probably didn’t compare to his  surprise at my response.
My hand closed around the keys I held, the keys to this apartment that  had been our home for a bit over a year and a half, and I said the  words I needed to say and moved my hand without really contemplating  much except that this evil man had just issued a challenge to the  wrong foreign chick.

“Then I’m not giving you your keys back,” I said as I slipped the keys  quickly and efficiently down my shirt and into my bra.
Whatever he thought my reaction to being denied my deposit was going  to be, the look on his face made it obvious that he was NOT expecting  his weird foreign soon-to-be-former tenant to stick the keys in her  bra. I smiled at him. He stood, slack-jawed. The game was on. And I  already knew I was going to win.

I set up camp on the couch. It was me and my son, a bundle of all of  the fun and energy that the label “terrible twos” define so well. My  partner, Justin, was downstairs with the moving van and moving crew,  waiting to get the gate opened so they could bring all of our stuff to  the new apartment. This would be where the evil landlord would try to  play his next move, but I didn’t know that yet. I was already planning  mine.

“Hungry, Leo?” I asked the toddler. “Want some mommy milk?”

Mr Forces of Evil had sat down on the chair next to the couch,  ostensibly ready to wait me out. Little did he know I have infinite  patience. Not to mention that I am actually used to spending the day  with a not-quite two-year-old.

I pulled my son close and began to nurse as Justin came back upstairs  for a few minutes to retrieve the remaining things left in the  apartment. We had planned on coming back for the odds and ends later  in the day, but then Mr Evil-Incarnate had shown up in the midst of our moving process to inform me of his misguided decision about the  money he owed me. (Our original plans had been to clean up the apartment that evening and exchange the keys and deposit the next  morning.) As Justin packed up the last of the things, Mr Now-What-Do- I-Do-This-Woman-Has-Her-Boob-Out was discovering how difficult it is  to glare someone down when you are embarrassed to look at her.

Justin asked if I was ok staying alone with the toddler and the psycho  while he went to move all of our things. I told him to go ahead, I had  it covered. Meanwhile, Mr Trying-To-Recover-Some-Ground had retreated  to the room formerly known as our guest room to make some phone calls.  By the time Justin made it downstairs, I discovered why. Justin called  up from the ground floor “They don’t want to let us out of the gate,”  he told me. Mr Think-He’s-So-Smart was looking at me smugly. “What’s  the driver doing?” I asked.

“Getting pissed.”

“Good. Tell him to just drive through- they’ll open the gate.”

He did. They did. With a lot of yelling at the guards by the van  driver, as I heard later. And Mr How-Did-That-Go-Wrong suddenly wasn’t  looking so smug as I said,loudly, into my cell phone “Glad you got out  and are on the road now. Let me know when you get to the new apartment.”

Mr I’m-Less-Mature-Than-The-Toddler-In-The-Room started going through  all the drawers and cabinets and throwing anything he found that we  had forgotten into the middle of the living room. Once through with his temper tantrum, he retreated into the former guest room again. I  picked up a few books I had accidentally overlooked while packing and
> remarked to the toddler how glad I was that I found them and didn’t  leave them behind. Then we turned on Lady Gaga and Britney Spears on  repeat and embarked on a 3-hour mommy-baby dance marathon in the  living room.

About two hours into our little party, Mr Grumpy took a trip to the  bathroom, leaving his lighter and cigarettes on the guest room bed.  His lighter “disappeared” into my purse. I figured that Mr Addicted-To- Nicotene really didn’t need the relief of a smoke break. By the time  he returned from the bathroom, Leo and I were playing “cars” with a  couple of pieces of leftover Styrofoam and I was tearing out pages of  an old magazine to lay down as a “race track” across the entire  apartment floor.

Mr Will-They-Please-Turn-Off-Lady-Gaga-Already had retreated to the  guest room again and I stepped into the kitchen to grab a handful of water (since all the cups were packed) from the water dispenser. My  eyes fell upon the woefully inadequate fridge below the dispenser (the  fridge was tiny- Mr Cheap had only provided a half-sized unit.) I  smiled. We had forgotten to empty it. “Guess what, Leo!” I brought a  bounty of juice, milk, peanut butter, cheese, apples, pears, prunes,  nuts, pomegranates, cookies, and crackers into the living room. “It’s  picnic time!” Mr Stubborn-Fool got to sit in the room alone with no  lunch while the toddler and I enjoyed our feast. I made sure to feed Leo as many cookies as he wanted. A hyperactive sugar high was not a  major concern at the moment. Not for me, at least.

We played “Mommy Tickle Monster”; we played “”Vroom Vroom Race Cars”;   we played just about any made up game I could think of that involved a  toddler running around the apartment, screeching at the top of his  lungs and giggling loudly. We had a great time. By about 5 hours in,  Mr How-Do-Full-Time-Parents-Stand-It had approached me with an offer. 

“What if I give you half of the deposit?”

“If you aren’t talking to me about the full amount, I don’t want you  to talk to me. Hey, Leo, want to spin around in circles and scream   ‘Woohoo!’?”

While we were spinning, Mr I-Don’t-Know-How-Electricity-Works  attempted to replace the light bulb in the front hallway, which had  burnt out a few weeks before and we had never replaced. He chose to  put a 60-watt bulb in the socket for a 25-watt bulb. Those of us who  DO know how electricity works were not surprised when the bulb  exploded on him and blew the circuits for the front half of the  apartment. “Stay away from the front doorway, Leo,” I said “Some moron  broke glass up there.”

I was beginning to wonder how long the standoff might last when, to my  astonishment, there was a knock at the door. Two people walked in, and  Mr Yes-I-Am-This-Stupid greeted them warmly. He pointed out the  various rooms of the house and these potential renters began to look  around while casting confused glances at the white chick and baby  hanging out in the living room. I dove for my cellphone to call our  closest Chinese friend. “I need to know the Chinese words- right now-
for ‘Give me my deposit back!'”

“Ni ba ya jin tui gei wo!”
I said it loudly, staring at Mr I’m-Losing-Face-By-The-Second and  encouraging Leo to repeat the words as well.

The potential renters beat a hasty retreat out the front door.

Mr Crap-I-Can’t-Believe-This-Crazy-Woman-Just-Did-That paced across  the floor. He walked into the guest room. Walked into the main  bedroom. Walked into the living room. Walked up to me.


“If you clean the apartment tonight, I will bring the deposit tomorrow  morning.”

At that point, I became a little angry.

“No. This is how it’s going to work. You’re going to bring me my  freaking money or I am going to camp out here in this living room and  repeat that phrase- ni ba ya jin tui gei wo- to EVERY person who even  glances in that front door. I will tell everyone that you are a crappy landlord and you steal the deposit from honest renters. You’ll even  steal from a woman with a baby. That’s how this is going to go from  now on. I don’t want to hear another word from you unless it’s with  cash in hand.”

He walked away. He paced the rooms again. He approached me timidly.

“I will go to the bank now and get the money. I will be back about 5  or 5:30.”

I smiled. “That would be nice.”

About that moment, Justin walked in after having deposited all of our  things at the new place and Mr Defeated-And-I-Know-It turned to him in  the desperate hope of talking to someone logical for once during this  unexpectedly complicated day. “I’m going to…”

“Talk to her,” Justin interrupted him. “You’re dealing with her, not  me.”

Mr How-did-It-Come-To-This slumped his shoulders, exited the building  and returned at 5:20 pm with the full amount in cash, which we had the  management office run through their cash counting machine to verify it  before I would write out a receipt saying that the deposit for our now  ex-residence, Star City, Tower A, apartment 22E, had, finally, been  paid to me.

One Response to “Occupy Fangzi: A lesson for Beijing renters (funny)”
  1. Karen Teasdale says:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: