“Has he bought you an apartment yet?”

After having traveled around Jilin province and meeting my in-laws in July 2013, Y and I take the train back to Shenzhen. We spend 36 hours on the train. Y shares his 6-bed compartment (there are no doors, so I’m not sure if you can really call it that) with three ladies in their 50s and 60s who are all from Northeast China’s Siping and a woman my age who is from Hubei, South China. I join them and listen to them talking.

They compare South and North China. The young woman says: “My boyfriend is from Harbin (Northeast China). We often fight. People from the north and from the south really are different.”
One of the ladies: “You’re right. Southern men, well, if you scold them they won’t say too much, they’ll just let you go on about it, but Northern men are different.”

After a while, one of the ladies asks: “How old are you?”
Young woman: “26.”
Lady: “You really should get married.”
Another one chips in: “Has he bought you an apartment yet?”
Young woman: “No, he hasn’t.”
Lady: “He hasn’t? He should buy an apartment. I mean, you know, if he doesn’t buy one, sooner or later you’ll have to buy one. What if you have kids one day, where should you live if you don’t have an apartment?”
Young woman: “We don’t even know where we’re going to settle down, so buying an apartment is currently out of the question.”
Y chips in: “Young people don’t care about buying an apartment that much anymore.”
Lady: “But where are you going to live if you don’t have an apartment?”
Y: “We rent a flat, doesn’t that count too? We don’t even know in which country we’ll be in a few years time, so buying a flat would be a constraint for us.”
Lady: “Young people really do think differently. This is a generational gap. You know, for us – an apartment, settling down, these are the things that were important when we were your age.”
Y: “I’m not saying that these things are wrong. But young people don’t care about these things that much anymore. If you want to accomplish something, if you have a dream, wouldn’t buying a house put you in a figurative prison?”
Lady: “Nowadays, things really are different from when we were young.”

Is it common to buy an apartment in your country? I’d love to hear your stories.

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21 thoughts on ““Has he bought you an apartment yet?”

  1. thank god in my country people are used to renting a flat, especially young one. but in Chinese culture naked marriage is something bad. few weeks ago I wrote how guys and girls see naked marriage in China and it was really difficult to find a girl who doesn`t require having a flat and use love – `if you love me so much asking for a flat for our children is not much`. so sad, especially now when prices in China, HK are just insane. On the other hand I can understand ladies too, China and HK don`t really protect people renting a flat, owner can say the next month you pay 2 times more – if no then just move out, in America it cannot be more than 3% per year. From some forums my husband reads not owning a flat is one of the most common reason to not be married. hope people can stop thinking like that and that situation with flat prices will change as well


    • Personally, I don’t think that there’s only one right or wrong, but rather that it depends on the situation. In China, the social safety net isn’t as well established as it is in many European countries, so buying a house really is an investment in the future. But I agree with the other posters who said that it should not be the guy’s duty to buy an apartment but rather something both partners work for together. My husband recently said buying an apartment isn’t the problem, paying back the credit is the real problem. Oh, and btw., he also told me that many consider it the guy’s duty to buy an apartment, but the woman’s duty to buy a car and the furniture for the apartment. Depending on where in China you live, that might equal it out a bit.


  2. In the UK, I think most of us couldn’t buy a flat at such a young age even if we wanted too! It’s far too expensive! Also, someone saying “you really should get married” at the age of 26 scares me a bit! I’m sure with my boyfriend, marriage wouldn’t change anything but something inside me feels like I would be trapped if I got married to him. I guess marriage isn’t that important to me.

    Renting is not a generation difference in the UK. My parents told me they really regretted buying a house when I was born (when they were 28), they wished they had rented for a bit longer because it’s much cheaper. You want a house when you are settled, but my family didn’t settle properly until I was 4 years old.

    I wouldn’t dream of letting my boyfriend buy me a flat, even when we are older – we would do it together. I think it’s one of the reasons that my boyfriend told me, despite being Asian himself, he would never date an Asian woman. He says they are too demanding and expect too much. I think he imagines young people having the same ideas as the older generation though.


    • That’s the big problem – many people in China aren’t able to afford it either. They take up loans they have to pay back for decades to come. Shenzhen’s housing market (and those of 6 other Chinese cities) is amongst the 10 priciest housing markets in the world (and even surpassing New York and Tokyo), if you take in consideration the wages people earn.


    • I live in UK too. Your bf is partially right. Asian women are demanding – for asian men. Plenty of asian women in Britain are with white men who live in (rent) crummy bedsits, drink and spend all their benefit money of that stuff. You know the sort I’m referring to.

      There are two sets of “demands” from asian women for their partner, depending on race – if you are asian then yes, car, house, decent job, height, fitness, are all prerequisites. For a white man – well let’s just say I’ve seen a couple married with children to a fat, balding sweating man living on DLA who is thrice her age.


  3. Since the housing crash, people in the US are more hesitant about buying a house and the banks are more careful about lending them money. Nevertheless, owning one’s own house is still a goal for many or most people. And as AMWFCouple says, we would buy it together, not let a boyfriend buy us a house or flat.

    I like the openness of the conversation on the train. You don’t find that everywhere.


  4. Well, I think so. Most of my Australian girlfriends have an apartment of their own, either that, they are saving up for one. In Asia, women are more educated and financially independent than the previous generation so naturally they all want an apartment – and a men who can afford one! (Remember in China nunber of men outweighs the women! )


    • I totally agree and I don’t think it’s bad to own an apartment (if you can afford it, that is), but I think it should definitely be purchased on terms that both partners feel comfortable with and not be a prerequisite to marriage.


  5. I agree with Y that buying a flat isn’t always a good call. I think buying a home is a poor investment. It’s a non-movable asset. There are much better places to invest money if you are looking for an investment. Why poor lots of money into something that you might need to sell? People who put all their eggs in one geographical basket and give up all chances at better, more meaningful, more fulfilling jobs make no sense to me. Actually, being locked into any contract bothers me.

    Too many people in the US equate owning a home with success. It’s like some pathetic hold over from pioneer days when people made their living off of real tracts of land. Now, success equals some cookie cutter house in the suburbs? I think not! Even the tax law favors home ownership over renting (mortgage interest deduction) on the grounds that homeowners are more stable and valuable to a community and should therefore home ownership should be encouraged. Pretty sure it just inflates the cost of housing by moving the price point up along the demand curve, as people take out bigger loans to match the monthly payment they think they can afford after all is said and done. I swear, the home development shows and mortgage companies are behind a lot of that. I don’t think it’s a good thing. Microhousing, Apodments, and the other tiny living developments are more exciting to me than wasteful, big-bank funding home ownership policies.


  6. In Finland we do have our dream of the house and garden around it, not too close to neighbors. But renting is do common that no one frowns if you don’t buy a house at all. And when buying its the couple doing it together, fifty fifty.

    Me and my Chinese boyfriend are in a lucky situation that his family had a old house almost next to their new one, where we plan to move next year. I even prefer the old house when compared to a small nut new apartment in the city. I’m not sure it’s something Chinese girls would settle for though.


    • I agree with Sara….there may be a house but will the girl or the girls mother settle for it? There’s too much pressure and stress involved many couples these days buy together, 50/50.

      So if the boy does have a house in whose name is it in? Is it in the boys name only or in both names?


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