Our landlords are trying to raise our monthly rent by 200元 ($28.50). I’m determined to prevent this. But how to negotiate when you’re really still speaking Chinglish?
Ｉ think we won Round One, but that’s probably owing to the element of surprise.
The landlord first phoned one of our Chinese friends who did the original negotiations a year ago. He told them to talk to us. They called Jessica and said, “We want to raise the rent to 1200. Do you agree?” Jessica refused to get into and said they should talk to me. The landlord phoned our Chinese friend again, and this time he told them off (you can do that a lot more in Chinese culture than you can in North America; being rude isn’t as rude here, depending on the relationship). Yesterday they called again when I was out. Jessica again refused to discuss it, and told them to phone back at 8:00pm when I’d be home (as per our plan).
So last night I was waiting for their call, and had everything I wanted to say looked up in the dictionary and written down. We have to try and find a way to say “No” that is nice enough but doesn’t give them anything to work with. It also helps that they can’t bust out their super-negotiation powers on us because we don’t understand most of what she says anyway. She phoned, and after patronizing me with a slower-than-toddler-speed greeting (“Haaave. Youuu. Eeea-ten. Yet?”; 你吃完了吗? – they know Jessica’s Chinese is better than mine, plus I think they sense that Jessica would be more likely to agree to a rent increase) it went something like this:
‘Aunty Wang’ the Chinese Landlord: “We want to raise the rent to 1200. Did you discuss it?”
Me: “Yes, we discussed it. We really like living in this apartment and the neighbourhood is really great. Even though our neighbours all say 1000 per month is too much for this apartment, we think 1000 a month is OK.” (Take that, Landlord!)
This surprises her, and she laughs, I think similar to the way grown-ups laugh at primary school kids when they try to act grown-up. Then she says something about rent going up all over the city, and some other stuff I don’t catch.
Me: “But that has to do with the Olympics, doesn’t it?”
A.W.T.C.L.L.: “It has no relation to the Olympics.”
I deliberately leave some awkward dead air, forcing her to say something and wonder if I understand her. She repeats their intention to raise the rent.
Me: “We aren’t able to pay more. We are still in school and don’t have jobs.”
She repeats what I’ve been saying to her husband. It takes me few seconds to realize she’s not talking to me.
A.W.T.C.L.L.: “How about 1100?”
Me: “We still aren’t able to pay more. We are still in school and don’t have jobs.”
A.W.T.C.L.L.: “How about you two discuss it and then give us call?”
Me: “We already discussed it.”
A.W.T.C.L.L.: “But how about you two discuss it and then give us call?”
Me: “We already discussed it. Our situation is the same as before. We’re still in school and don’t have jobs.”
She says something about someone discussing and then someone giving someone a phone call. but I’m not sure who’s waiting for whom to call.
Me: “So, you’ll discuss it and then give us a call?” She confirms. “OK, I’ll wait for your call.”
I have no doubt that “Auntie Wang”‘s negotiation skills exceed my own; she’s been haggling prices longer than I’ve been alive. But if they manage to wrestle us into actually discussing the price of an increase, I have a list of major and minor repairs to the apartment to unload on them, half of which I hope to eventually stick them with before we pay any increase. But I’m hoping we never have to go there. Haha… we’ll see.
P.S. – I should mention that the dialogue above would be more accurate if I riddled my sentences with grammar mistakes. We ‘know’ how to say all that stuff, but pulling stuff out of your head in the middle of a discussion isn’t the same as writing it on paper in your homework. We can say that stuff accurately on a good day, and I can still mess some of it pretty good on a bad day.
The rest of this series: