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Save Money or Learn Culture and Language with Chinese Roommates

A little secret I don’t tell many people is that we live in a two story, five-bedroom home with four bathrooms. It’s huge. I suppose that’s just cheeky gloating, but the real secret is that those rooms are full of some of my favorite people!

We currently have 7 roommates in addition to our own family. We let our roommates live for free with us, but I think having a Chinese roommate is an awesome way to save a bit of money if you’re willing to venture into uncharted cultural mixing territory.

What is it like in our home?

Well there are certainly a lot of shoes and slippers, and I only recently figured out how to finally contain that mess!

We use two shoe cupboards.

A really cool shoe chester drawers.

Real Life Version
On Taobao Version

A bench.

Real Life Version
On Taobao Version

And shelving inside a closet space.


That doesn’t count some of our shoes in boxes. Ha!

I’ll admit that I have the most shoes around our home, but at one point one of the guy roommates had me beat simply because I barely miss the cutoff for a female’s typical size foot here (40 – boo-hoo).

After nearly four years of not having gone to the US, I was down to literally two pairs of shoes! That’s pretty much style blasphemy.

I bet you know what I bought when I went to the States!


My family occupies two rooms downstairs. One female roommate occupies a room next to us. One family of four lives together upstairs in one room (we encouraged them to take 2 rooms but they refused), and one man and his elderly mother live in the other room.

We used to have three guys in that other room, but two of the guys moved out when they got married. 恭喜恭喜!

If we charged rent and utilities according to headcount… we’d only pay RMB 1,600 per month for rent and utilities for our whole family because we’re all splitting it (this isn’t counting groceries).

My favorite benefit of living together? One of our roommates loves to cook! When we all pitch in to clean up after dinner, it doesn’t even feel like that much work either.

Do we have problems sometimes? Uhm, very rarely. It’s pretty peaceful at our home for the most part. I’m definitely the most dramatic one besides the kids.

Ugh… wait. That sounds worse about me than it actually is.

My kids cry and fight WAY more than I do. They are also LOUD. But my roommates and hubby are so even keeled, I know I’m the shortest-tempered of the bunch.

The dog is more dramatic than the kids, so hey, not even they are the worst. She’s a total affection hog, and though she’s nearly 30kg, she will try to sit in our lap. And sniff everyone. And jump on everyone. And gnaw our hands.

Our dog’s rudeness is probably the biggest issue we have in our apartment. The family’s kids scream with fear when she’s out when they get home, despite their mom’s attempts to warm them up to the dog.

I’ll have to think up some articles on how to set good expectations with Chinese roommates along with all the many pluses, potential negatives, and Chinese vs. non-Chinese roommates.

I’m sure I can think up a real life story, too.

Do you have any questions about what it’s like to live with Chinese roommates? Ask me below or in our groups. 

Click the link for the group of other China-focused parents on Facebook  or on WeChat by scanning my QR code and asking to join the WeChat group.

Vanessa Jencks founded China Family Blog to connect internationally-minded parents through semi-humorous stories and China-life-and-parenting fails. She is the former managing editor of beijingkids magazine; see her previous work here. She is also the founder of the 600+ member organization, Innovative Educators

WeChat: vanessajencks

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