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Apartment in Harbin Problems


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Well, after not successfully being able to find anyone on this forum that is currently studying in Harbin to seek advice from, I arrived on my own about two weeks ago to set up shop and start studying here.

Before I begin, let me reconfirm my earlier formed belief that Harbin really is the best place in China to study if your interests are exclusively getting fluent in good chinese. as far as I'm concerned the mandarin really is the best in all of china, certainly much better than beijing (which doesn't take much). The best part, though, is that there are so few western foreigners here that people are really surprised and excited to meet you. You can practice speaking all day long. I haven't been able to pay for a meal in a restaurant yet.

Because foreigners are so rare here, I have experienced some pretty incredible problems that I have not seen in any other foreign city. Harbin does have a large student population, but the overwhelming majority are composed of Koreans, and some Russians, most of whom live in the dorms. Note that this entire post is purposely excluding the study abroad kids on the CET program who are paying like $10,000 for a semester across town.

first task was to rent an apartment. I looked and looked, but whenever I found something good, the landlord would either immediately or eventually decide not to rent to me because i was a foreigner. I asked about this, and everybody believed it would be too risky because they felt I was a liability and they would get in trouble if anything happened to me. Wow.

I finally found a place and the owner had no problem with me being foreign. He would quickly learn to really, really, really resent this decision. After I registered I went to PSB and registered. They spoke no english and drilled me in chinese about why I wasn't living in the dorms. who would want to live in the dorms? finally I got the registration paper. By the time I finally got my place cleaned up and bought all the things needed for the apartment I got a knock on the door from my landlord. the police had dragged them into the police station and told them that Foreigners were not allowed to live in this part of Harbin (the university area) and that I must be removed immediately. they said they didn't want to throw me out on the street but I was supposed to leave by the next day. again, wow.

i spent two days at the police station trying to resolve the situation. A lawyer told me that the law clearly states that foreigners can live anywhere in china with a visa and registration from the police. I asked them to provide me with a written explanation that I could send to a lawyer or embassy and they refused. I went to the university and their response was that I should live in the dorms. My poor landlord has been in the police station about 6 times in the last few days and I haven't been able to go to school. My visa is from another part of china, so they told me it would not be valid for Harbin, so I had to pay them 345 kuai to change it to a "harbin" visa, and after all kinds of dialogue and paperwork, I am now able to live in my apartment for the next week while they decide what to do with me. I feel like i am in china during the 1980s!

sound like fun? I think everything will be okay, but it was just so surprising to have to deal with this.

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Please be sure to tell the school authorities about this. I've been planning on coming to Harbin for a month this winter, and your experience is making me think again. I'd like to correspond with you by email too on a different subject, if you have time.

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The school authorities will be aware of it, and quite happy to get some more income from the dorms, I would guess. Have you tried asking the police where you can live?

Anyway, congratulations on making it up there, and I hope everything works out. Where have you enrolled?

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well I guess I am one of those americans shelling out $10,000 a semester....... but really if you need any help with anything in Harbin I have been here for almost 5 months now. just send me a PM. there are 13 americans over here at Gong Da, and maybe 150 Koreans and russiand, a few people from Europe, but thats it. plus the 外教。 are you at hei da ? are there any other americans over there? Anyways if you haven't already been to this cafe called Hamamas, ( your prob have) you should go there, great sandwhiches and coffee for cheap, its also sort of the waiguo hang out in harbin, its a great place for resources.


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I was living on a small island for about a year south of Shanghai. Population under a million. Foreigners: three.

I encountered these kinds of problems continuously. One thing I learned quickly was to stand my ground and refuse to be bullied. In less developed areas, they tend to try to control/bully foreigners. Don't be rude, but don't be overly polite, stand your ground. If you leave Harbin unhappy, local officials will worry about their city "losing face". They want you to be happy.

You seem to have researched your situation really well. I wish you good luck. Note: not having to pay for a meal may come back to haunt you, as it did for me. These new "friends" will expect things in return for their generosity. It's all fun at first, but after a while it will give you headaches.

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Sorry to hear of all your troubles, I hope that everything starts moving a bit smoother for you soon.

I'm teaching Primary English in Harbin, and my school (under the banner of Harbin Star Uni) has provided me with a VERY nice apartment.

I've had zero trouble with the police, landlord or locals. In general I guess I am pretty lucky.

Having said that the lack of any English speaking people to hang with is a bit of a downer, and as my priority is to my work, I don't spend enough time studying Chinese.

I live a few min away from the Forrest uni, but can't remember the exact area name!

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I'm at Hei Da. I went to Shi Da to try out their classes and I do think their teachers were good but hei da is much, much, much more organized. From walking around both campuses I think that Hei Da is much better funded, too but that was just my observation.

At Hei Da they have an honest to god student office which actually attempts to be helpful - they have people in there who can speak Russian, Korean, and English. It's not perfect by any means, they raped me on all sorts of rather ridiculous fees upon signing up, including among other things a $60 "deposit" that they hold on to "in case I do anything bad." They did bend over backwards to try to get me into the dorms. When I told them that I already prepayed 6 months of rent outside of campus they tried a different approach, "How about you just stay in the dorms for two weeks and then go back to your apartment?" they almost had me there.

Another great thing I forgot - people from other universities please comment - have you ever been asked to clean your classroom before? After I finally paid all the money they wanted they're like "so what day do you want to clean?" "what the $&%(," I inquired. "You're a student now, so you must clean the classrooms. You will alternate. One day you will clean the chalkboards during classes, next time you will clean the floors."

I will be sure to keep you updated about how my studies / janitorial services progress.

Stephen/Others - I would be real happy to chat - or meet up with anybody who is in the city now. My email address is [email protected]

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Shida is short for Shifan Daxue - Normal University. I can't remember if this is Harbin Shifan Daxue, or Heilongjiang Daxue. I suspect its Harbin Shifan Daxue, and therefore to give it it's full abbreviation - Hashida.

Heida is Heilongjiang Daxue.


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Thanks. I never noticed the system of abrieviations before, using syllables instead of letters. I'm still too English oriented :-?

Sort of like saying MasInstTech instead of MIT.

Now I have to go back and reread all those threads where I thought they were talking about different schools! :(

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haha well being one of those students who paid thousands of dollars here in Harbin, I have a language pledge, so while I'd love to meet, im really trying my best to take advantage of the money I paid and follow the pledge (although if you catch me at blues I've been known to break that) HeiDa is deff a MUCH nicer campus that Gong Da, but a little farther away from the "city center" (If harbin even has one, its so spread out) I really like the street across from the gate that has tons of small restaraunts and bars, its always really crowded at night, there is a great korean BBQ there as well, its an underground one, I dunno my korean friends tell me its the best "cheap" BBQ in town, who knows. If your getting bummed out on crappy food in Harbin, go over to "腐败街“ or corruption street as they call it in 开发区, ok the real name is 汉水路 but all the cab drivers now it was fubai jie. there are literally 50 or so high class restaurants from decent to really good food.

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Langauge pledge, hmm? Well, why are you posting here in English? Is the pledge just for spoken language? Do you get a day off? Or, is this your secret linguistic equivalent of a midnight cookie binge? I'm just curious how this whole thing works.

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haha well its a 24 hour language pledge, that means I cannot speak english at all in Harbin, but of course there are exceptions. We can of course talk to family members on the phone, but you have to do it in an area that my classmates will not be able to hear, english movies are only allowed on the weekends, and of course we can read and write english. In my opinion, the only thing that holds it together is the motivation from the students, if we wanted to break the pledge off campus we could, sometimes we are miles from campus, 2am at some bar, and STILL speaking Chinese (this week we have our fall break so the pledge is off right now). We also live with Chinese students, so that makes it easier, and of course all of our classes are in Chinese. Also, if someone says hi or introduces themselves to me in english and they are a foreigner, I am not going to go running away or just speak to you in Chinese, I consider that rude, and just an assholeish thing to do, so I will have some conversations, but I try to stay away from them.

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Hey there!

I just registered here after reading your story.

I have been studying at 哈工大 for one year and just came home this july.

i made the mistake and tried living of campus. got screwed by the landlord big time ending up paying for nearly everything and so on... everyone knows these stories.

anyway, was no problem to find a place cause i had a chinese helping me out doing the talking, me just sitting there pretending to have never said a word in chinese before.

when i moved off campus i just did not tell anyone at gongda. they were...lets say pissed as well but at the time they knew it was all done.

at gongda we definitely never had to clean up anything.

i used to live in dorm 13 and dorm 6. 6 being the better one by far if you actually want to study and not listen to drunk hc party freaks all nigth every day.

hope it all worked out for you by now. being screwed in harbin just for looking western is absolutely normal. thats the downside of having few foreigners in town. good thing is you wont spek much english if you dont want to.

check out hamamas for good western food and real kofi! if you are interested in sports talk to ronny there. he is good at any sports, darts, bowling and rugby being his favorite.

and please say hello to yiping and ronny from tobias, me ;) they are the owners of hamamas but as the shops doing great they are pretty busy nowadays.

just wondering if any of the CETs is still going to red rose or jazz pub?

if so please can you give me the address of those places? must have spent halfthe year in red rose playin darts drinkin hapi.

if you go there say hello to them from 天宝 . i am so sorry i never wrote but cant find the adress. phonenumbers i would appreciate too :mrgreen:

well, wish you good luck in harbin.

enjoy studying

enjoy blues :roll:

avoid pacers (QS Disco Club)

greets Tobi

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hey well you might remember me, I was one of the CET students who hung out with you and your American friend John at the jazz bar alot (which is now closed, ryan doesn't have any time anymore, but i still hang out with him) Red Rose now is PACKED every single night of the week, you cann't even find anywhere to sit down, its really the new place in town for the foreigners to hang out who live in 南岗区 or study at 工大,and ronnie is there about every friday and saturday, which makes for hours long matches in darts, its an awesome place to go and drink cheap bar, talk to the really nice owners, and then go out to Blues or Kiss or something.

btw a new club is opening in town, its huge(think kiss 5x the size), its famous(in china), stay tuned. They are finishing the interior design right now, should be on target for an early december/ late this month opening. I mean this place is huge and is going to clean out some clubs in Harbin after it opens, its good news for us long term people here, because Blues gets OLD after a while and Pacers just sucks, and Kiss is just 太中国。

btw I'll get you the address later, I am off campus, and I dont have my 名片's with me.

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hey sure i remember you.

forgot your name though... but you are the guy from athens, ohio right?

happy to hear redrose is doing great. they were thinking about closing it for lily being busy in the morning being a lawyer. guess shes even busier now.

would be nice of you to send me the adress. please say hello to ryan when you hang out with him again.

greetz tobi

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