Chinese "magic white powder." Some flats have roaches in the refrigerators! They live under the door gaskets. Heating is on only from Nov. 15 to March 15 and there may be some chilly weeks before heat goes on and after it goes off.
Overall, the most common housing problems include poor and leaky plumbing, insufficient heat, a lack of hot water, inadequate storage space, poor lighting, erratic electricity, and difficulty cleaning. Roaches are common, but most people manage to control them after a while. Insect spray is available in the Western supermarkets in large cities, but some people recommend bringing a supply of roach killer or "cockroach hotels" from the United States. Mice are not unknown, but they ordinarily seem to occupy the lower floors.
Cooking was another commonly mentioned problem. Most people, even those with kitchens, adopt a multipronged strategy, doing some cooking in their apartment and eating other meals in the campus dining hall (where the most common complaint is that the food becomes monotonous) or nearby privately owned restaurants. Some hire an ayi (recent reports indicate that a privately hired ayi from the countryside is generally Y2 to 3 an hour) to come in and cook occasionally, and sometimes a group of three to five people hire an ayi to cook for them as a group. Some people have formed "eating clubs" and pay their dining hall chef extra (Y10 per person) to cook a special meal once a week. "Eating clubs" also make weekly excursions to local restaurants, which are always more fun with more people because you can order more dishes to share. Some people find that the food in small restaurants is too oily or salty. Experimentation may be necessary before you find a few favorites.
Hotel accommodations in China range from the very expensive joint-venture hotels (some of which have five-star ratings), offering Western amenities and service at Western prices, to very modest establishments that house Chinese travelers as well as foreign guests. In most cases, if Chinese hosts make arrangements, they will place you in medium-priced lodging, usually at one of the older Chinese hotels. As mentioned earlier, the problem, particularly for graduate students and young faculty on limited budgets, is to find an acceptable hotel at a reasonable price. Many Chinese hotels have recently been renovated, and prices are going up fast. One scholar in Beijing describes the fruits of his search for a reasonable hotel:
At Y80 a night, the Jiangsu offered considerable savings over the cheapest tourist places. The hotel was built only a couple of years ago and already shows signs of considerable wear, but the owners had aimed high and the accommodations are fairly comfortable. The rooms are small, but the beds and hot water are excellent. The rooms contain the standard ameni-