I decided to move for several reasons. First, I can’t walk to any food places or stores. The convenient store at the corner doesn’t count, although their marshmellow/chocolate ice cream cones are to die for. 3 for 3,000W is a good deal. ANYWAY. Second, I get a lot of dust from all the construction and I cannot have my windows open when it’s windy otherwise it’s just a wall of dust. No bueno. Third, this way I won’t have to call a taxi when I want to take the bus or train anywhere. Fourth, I wanted to give living in a city a try.
I was talking to my realtor and found only one really decent option available to me, an apartment tower downtown. Every place other than there was very typically Korean, so no oven and unfurnished. I’m only temporarily living here, I don’t want to buy my own furniture only to have to either A. sell it or B. ship it or C. take a loss on it. No thanks. And I need an oven, how else will I bake ribs? And cookies? Definitely necessary.
This week I went and looked at 3 apartments, 1 two bedroom and 2 three bedrooms. The two bedroom had a very very small common area with a minimal kitchen, plus the previous owner was a smoker. This was the only available two bedroom. The three bedrooms were both pretty nice, with one of them being furnished with cheesy patterned furniture. This one was on a floor that had a common outside terrace, where people could walk by my bedroom window or my living room window, etc. So I chose the one two floors above that one. I feel like I made a good choice!
Now comes today. I paid my deposit (key money) and my first months rent. Signed my lease. Now it was time to get the ball rolling! I needed an elevator key and a parking pass, both of which needed to come from the landlord. We were waiting for the landlord to arrive and it was lunchtime, so I went to lunch with everyone from the realtor office; 4 dudes. Funny group of people even though only one of them spoke English. One of them does design work on the side, one of them used to be an engineer but quit and bought into the office, his friend who bought in with him, and the English speaker. Mr. English speaker, James, lived in the states from Jr. High through college and lived for a few years in the states before coming back to Korea. He was born here and wanted to come back and start a new life, and fits into the realty office because he’s fluently bilingual. It ends up that he lived in LA and worked two blocks from where I used to work. Small, small world! Anyway the group of them are pretty funny, and we went and ate pork cutlet.
We went back to the office and the landlord said she wanted to meet at 6:30. 6:30?? So late! So we talked her into 3pm and I went home and came back. She comes in and she’s this older, short Korean lady whose probably close to retirement age. She acknowledges my existence and looks over the lease. Then we start to talk about internet/cable. I had expressed multiple times I ONLY want to pay for internet because I don’t watch cable. I have no idea what they’re saying. Therefore, I only want to pay for internet. She complains that she’s in a contract and can’t go in to change it. Internet/cable is 40,000W, internet alone is 30,000W. I say that I’ll pay 30,000W to her every month since I guess it’s hard to change the name on the bill. She flips out, gets this pained look on her face, and gets really bent out of shape about it. James looks to me and basically says he can’t believe she’s acting this way. Ultimately, we settled on 35,000W. She was complaining about 10,000W, and the realtors even took out a calculator and showed her what 10,000W for 12 months is, and then did the same thing for my rent and showed it to her, as if to say that she can afford it because she’s getting rent money, but she WOULD NOT budge! She was a complete stick in the mud.
Now it’s time to do an apartment walk through. She had taken the bus so we offered to take her home, she accepted. Halfway through the drive she said she wanted to go to the apartment with us, which made sense so she came with us. She takes off her shoes at the entry and the floors are ice cold. It hasn’t been heated in at least two months, and it’s concrete underneath the radiant floor, so it’s literally ice cold. No shoes, my feet were so cold they hurt. We quickly get the keys and we’re outta there and downstairs to get parking sorted out. The office is temporarily closed, so we go into a convenience store on the bottom floor to keep warm since common areas are not heated or cooled in Korea. She buys us these lemon warm drink things. It was pretty good. I started to try and offer to pay, but James stopped me- elders pay. It’s customary. It would be rude if I offered. So okay, I accept.
Fast forward and we get parking taken care of. I have my elevator key, parking, ready to move in once she moves in some furniture pieces. (Couch, dining table, etc.) We then go to drive her home. We’re driving for a bit when James says “Oh… she’s not going home yet. She’s going to the furniture store, and is wondering if you want to come along to pick furniture.” I was confused because I was under the assumption she already had the furniture, because when I was looking at apartments they said it was “similar furnishings” just “not there yet” and had accepted based on that agreement. Apparently, not the case. I start to wonder if I made the right decision. So I gladly accept the offer because it would be cool to pick my furniture, right? But then I start to think, I can’t just pick anything, the lady probably has a budget. Yes, I was correct. She has a budget. If she complains about 10,000W, then I’m frightened to hear her furniture number… I again start to doubt my decision. We go inside and the first thing she says to the furniture man is “I am looking for small furniture.” Great. Off to a wonderful start!
We look at several couches and I’m not really seeing anything I like. All the couches are just really… Uncomfortable. The cushions are hard, the couch is super short (I lay on my couch a lot) and overall uncomfortable. I ask if there are any more couches, and we find a few more, and then I see it. A really nice couch, but not big. She said “small” so I have to honor that, because after all it’s her apartment right? I sit down and immediately I can tell it’s not only better material, but there is a lot more padding in the seat. The furniture man leans over and hits a lever and the bottom lifts- it has two recliners! I get excited and then depressed when he says the price- it’s obvious she’s not buying it. I express to James that my current couch is uncomfortable and I really don’t like it, that I would rather have a cheaper dining set if it meant a nicer couch. He relays this information, and the furniture man takes this opportunity to entice her with a slightly lower price. What does she do?
She pounces. She gets that pained look on her face and starts to pout, and names off a ridiculously low price. He scoffs and says no, she responds, he raises his voice. She starts to walk away, he calls her back with a slightly lower price. I stare in awe.
I reiterate that I would take a cheaper dining set. We go over to check prices. We find a 50% marked down set, practically the cheapest in the store. I say I’m fine with it. She then lowballs him. He accepts. Back to the crappy couches. I express my displeasure.
Back to the couch of all couches. I sit on it again to show my interest. She lowballs him and based on the translation I was given basically says she’s old and has worked all her life and is on a fixed income and he should reconsider the price. What happens? She gets what she wants. This woman drives a really hard bargain; it was good to have her on my team. I told James that next time I need to buy something she’s coming with me. It doesn’t matter if we don’t speak the same language, the important part is that she’ll get me the best price. I think I made a friend today. Furniture gets delivered Tuesday.
Oh, that’s not all. We leave the furniture store and she asks if we want to eat chicken with her. James explains it’s customary to accept, so we do. She takes us to her house and walks into a chicken restaurant on the first floor and we all sit down. We say what we want, and she gets up and orders it, pays for it, and leaves. She goes home. What. Just. Happened.
I looked across at James with my face tilted to the side and ask, “what… What just happened?” At this point all we can do is laugh. This eccentric woman gets in a tizzy over 10,000W (basically $9), lowballs this furniture guy and pisses him off, and then buys us dinner and leaves. How bizarre. The chicken was really good though.
Moral of the story? I don’t think there is one.
It also snowed yesterday. It started to snow heavily before work was over, at 3:30. I left so I wouldn’t get stranded, and I think my warm car melted the snow on the windows and then it froze so I came out to ice EVERYWHERE this morning. Some trucks dropped sand on the road so it’s messy, but the ice was gone from the road. It took forever to clean my car off. It sucked. Plus it was really cold. Boo.
I’ll post again with pictures when my furniture arrives.