What Did You Buy to Feel at Home?

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  • Brad Gies
    Brad Gies

    Just thought I’d ask this question. I’ve been living in China, on and off for about 8 years (the last couple in Chengdu), but I’ve always tried not to buy too much, so I can move easily. But now I’m in a new apartment in South Chengdu, and I’ve decided to stay here for awhile, so finally broke down and purchased a few things to make me feel like it’s home, not just a temporary place to sleep 🙂

    So, here’s what I purchased:

    1.) A DJ Mixer (I was a disc jockey for 11 years in my younger years, and I play music almost 24/7 in my house). Now I can mix the music.

    2.) An ice machine. I’m so tired of hot, warm, and luke-warm water. It wasn’t really cheap, but having cold, cold water and ice available ALL day long is going to make my life a lot better (picture attached). Go ahead and be jealous :).

    3) A full size broom. Don’t you get tired of those brooms that are made for midgets? Finally, I have REAL broom 😉

    4) A complete tool set. Now I can fix all those things in every apartment I have been in in China, and I can do it PROPERLY ;). I’m sure you know what I mean. The maintenance guys are great here, show up fast, and get it working again, but I prefer to fix things so they stay fixed.

    5) Patio furniture. I’ve finally got a big balcony that is very usable, so I bought lawn chairs, table and I’m going to buy a decent barbeque today.

    Just those items above make my life here feel so much more normal :). Maybe I’m ending my transient ways and actually starting to settle in for the long term.

    So, what did you have to buy to get the feeling that you’re living in a normally?

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    Man, great post. I have been living in my current apartment for a number of years so have done a lot to make it feel like I am at home in here. With a few exceptions (some artwork) I have explicitly approached my living space with the intent of having it feel like I am in America and not in China. In the past (during Chinese New Year in particular) I have had experiences where I spend a day or two inside my apartment and when I go outside I am a little bit shocked to be reminded that I am in China.

    1) The first thing, and maybe the biggest, is not buying something but removing things: all of the clutter. Chinese apartments tend to be filled with unnecessary and low quality furniture. I got rid of everything unnecessary, ended up only keeping two old leather couches and built a pair of desks which I use. I like open space.

    2) Custom artwork. It is so cheap in China to get prints of whatever you like and then get them framed. I have some art on canvas but mostly western things. A chess tournament poster, a poster of Robocop, some album artwork blown up, a picture I took in Miami of seagulls, etc.

    3) A NAS (network attached storage) which is programmed to automatically download American TV shows which I watch: Vice, Conan O’Brien, Game of Thrones, etc. Being able to come home and watch last night’s episode of Conan really makes me feel like I am at home and connected with what is happening in America.

    4) A grill. This is great to have in summertime, there is nothing like grilling with charcoal on the rooftop.

    I am glad you mentioned the ice machine. I really want one of those now for iced coffee. I have been thinking about purchasing bags of ice but the machine is a much better solution!



    Great question and I don’t like a lot of stuff but end up adding little touches to make home away from home, I am with Charlie on decluttering the apartment.

    1) My first place was a basic studio and it was habitable albeit I had to scrub it every week as I was paranoid about cockroaches/rats due to neighbours leaving rubbish out in the hallways. My second apartment (which was the 40th place I saw) had good furniture, nice interior but as it was brand new there was a lot of debri, smell of paint etc.. so I bought a mammoth load of cleaning products and proper brooms, Dettol, brushes from markets.

    2) A sound system as I love blasting music.

    3) Kitchen utensils/small applicances which I would normally have in the kitchen such as a toaster.

    4) I put up a lot of pictures/art work from family and friends it was a nice reminder whenever I felt a little homesick.

    5) Tools to fix things as despite living in a new build something always went wrong and nothing a wrench couldn’t fix besides better to attempt things than be conned.
    Funny story I told my greedy landlord there was a leak in the shower faucet which was dripping non stop and it needed fixing, he urged me not to touch it as he knew what to do. He came over with his wife, they assessed the situation, called someone and said a ‘worker’ can come tomorrow but you need to pay 300 RMB as you are living here. I didn’t utter a word, although in my head was cussing them out, (300 RMB do you know how many beers I can buy with that) so I took my wrench out from the kitchen and thought maybe I can try this and see what happens. The landlord nearly passed out when he saw me and they both started saying ‘no no no touch’, I took a bolt off the faucet tightened something, put PTFE around it, put the bolt back on and bingo the leak stopped, 300 my behind!! They laughed uncomfortably, said very good and left. I did a happy dance as they went away, so the moral of the story is buy tools or a tool kit, they come in use for something everyday.

    Chris Ziich
    Chris Ziich

    That ice machine/waster dispenser looks like an amazing purchase. Here’s the link to buy one on taobao in case anyone else is interested:

    Tools are also great to have.

    I like to walk around the house barefoot in the warmer months because it feels cool to the touch and smooth hardwood floors are oddly satisfying. But I don’t like my feet getting dirty. Chengdu is so dusty and dirty that the floors get really nasty in about a week. Plus I have a dog now that sheds. I got a small vacuum cleaner (https://item.jd.com/1690674.html) and a quick pass over all the floors makes them feel prestine under foot.



    Good question/topic:

    I didn’t risk it coming here and having nothing or very little from home. When it’s NFL time I have all of my memorabilia that gets put up (all Packer, Broncos & Patriots stuff). All my electronics (TV’s, Printers, scanners, computers, vacuum cleaner, drills…) are 110 voltage. Installed normal curtains, installed carpet in every room, installed medicine cabinet in bathroom, brought blankets, comforters, sheets from Kohl’s, brought a lot of extra new footwear for just in case, throw rugs from Kohl’s & Sear’s, golf clubs from sports authority & Dick’s, and many other things as I didn’t hold back. Purchased an SUV so don’t have to take the bus, Uber, Taxi, bike, or scooter as much (king of nice when I stock up on groceries, almost door to door now).

    Brad Gies
    Brad Gies

    Haha, well, obviously, some of came here with different intentions. Until now, I’ve gone out of my way to live more like Chinese do than Canadians do. In fact, when I first moved to Chengdu, I knew most of the foreigners were in the south, so I moved to the North of Chengdu (I’m sure many of you are nice people, but I didn’t come to China to live like a Canadian).

    But I have changed my tune a bit now. There are things I really miss from home, and my attitude now is I need at least the basic things I used everyday at home, if I’m actually planning on staying in one place for awhile.

    Chris Ziich
    Chris Ziich

    Chinese mattresses are made of rocks.

    I could have gone the route of purchasing a whole brand new mattress, but that would be impractical because you never know how long you’ll stay in one apartment or city and transporting a hulking mattress around isn’t easy.

    One of the best purchases I’ve ever made was a memory foam mattress topper off of taobao for 350块. It was delivered to me and had a chemical-y smell to it at first but it aired out in month or so. I’ve been sleeping on it for 3 years now and it’s heavenly. It cured my sleep apnea and even my Chinese girlfriend who’s slept on Chinese mattresses all her life prefers it to hers. I recommend going with at least 5cm in thickness.

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