Southern Exposure Counts Double


Not our building, but like our building


All I really need is a good chair and a good book

We have an apartment! Mr. High Standards, despite having consulted with two different agents from two different continents, neither of which was this continent, found a place on Facebook one evening, so we scampered off right away to see it. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, southern exposure in the living room, dining room, kitchen AND master bedroom, close to work and fully modernized.

The reason I mention “fully modernized” is that we have stopped looking at places in the new, high-end, expat-oriented buildings because we don’t like the neighborhood (they’re all clustered together, which means a bunch of construction sites and no trees) and usually don’t like the apartments either. Instead, we’ve been looking near where we’ve been staying and focusing more on the older buildings near the city center. Starting in the late 1930’s and continuing into the 1950’s, the original urban housing stock was built in increments of 40,000 units. Pictured above, these buildings are now known as “40,000 buildings” and are typically four stories high, with retail space on the ground floor and residential entryways off the interior courtyards. They are considered to be very solidly constructed: warm in the winter, cool in the summer and with thick walls that keep out the noise of the neighbors. Mr. H.S. was told by colleagues that they were built by Japanese prisoners of war, which is why the construction standard is so high (!).


Not a good photo, but it shows a bit of the light and nice woodwork in the kitchen.

Today was the walk-through with the landlord’s representative, and we’ll have a signed lease by Monday. I am desperate to get into our own, functional kitchen and unpack fully, but — and this is interesting — in traditional Mongolian culture, Saturdays and Tuesdays are not auspicious days for moving. Sunday is very auspicious, though, and as there’s an out-of-town excursion planned for us tomorrow, we’ll be moving Sunday. I figure it’s best to go with it; who knows how to move better than nomads, right?

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2 thoughts on “Southern Exposure Counts Double

  1. Joan and Wally MacDonald

    Congrats! Does the apt. have a washer and dryer, too? And an inside garage? Or have you figured out an alternative to owning a car? Are there rentals or ??? Yay for Mr. HS’s persistence!! Guess he’s a keeper! I’ve given Gonzalo and Edi your blog site so they can compare their apt. hunting in Padova with yours. They’ve found one (900 ft.sq), move in 11/15. Their stuff in the container ship should arrive 11/10, customs takes about 7 days. They won’t have to buy kitchen appliances (common) but will have to buy washer and dryer (common) and CLOSETS!!! (common). Intriguing differences, hm!

  2. Gonzalo J Chain

    Thanks Joan for sharing the blog of the intrepid friends in far away lands living the experience of a lifetime. I very much enjoyed reading the apartment hunting experience and I have to say, reading the blog made me want to start my own in order to share the details of our experience in northern Italy. Surprisingly, even while been married to an Italian, we have challenges adjusting to life here.

    On the apartment front, most of the apartments here come without a kitchen. I mean NO KiTCHEN! No stove, no fridge, no sink, no cabinets, NOTHING. Just an empty space with the drain and faucet. Bring your own kitchen (and take it with you when you leave). Usually the lights throughout the apartment are also gone. Bring your own light fixtures unless the hanging light bulb is enough. Closets? Usually not either. Bring your own.

    So, what ends up happening is that after you secure your apartment (no small feat), you need another 3-4 weeks to have all that installed. Not counting the added expense.
    Added to that is the issue of my “high standards”. Sounds like I have similar standards as H.S. mentioned on this blog. I mean, if someone says “cucina abitabili”, which roughly translated means you have enough space to have furniture in the kitchen to eat, I would hope the space is large enough to fit more than one person at a time. Otherwise the “cucina” is more a standing bar.

    Most of the apartments for rent are old and outdated. I like old and with character, but outdated to the point of not been useful is another matter. It seems the whole country is for sale if you are in the purchasing mode, but for rent, there is little, outdated and usually pretty small. I learned that part of the reason is that it really does not pay to rent if you are a property owner. The rents are generally low with respect to house prices, and the laws are so much tenant oriented that if someone decides to not pay, it takes 2 years to evict. Given no property taxes (wont last too much longer now that Berlusconi is gone), then a lot of people simply does not rent.

    Then there are the strange requests because of the fear of getting a bad tenant. One say to me, instead of giving me the 3 month security deposit(standard), why don’t you give me two and instead of the third, you pay an insurance. I asked naively, insurance for what? An insurance which will pay the landlord in case I stop paying! What? I thought, if I am afraid my tenants will burn my house, I would get fire insurance. I will pay for it, and if I wanted to pass that cost to the tenant, I would factor in the cost into the rent. I wouldn’t directly ask the tenant. Needless to say, we passed on that house.

    We seemed to have finally secured an apartment, although as with other aspects of life here, we have to pass many bourocratic steps which are in place but which everyone seems to try to bypass in some way that benefits them.

    My favorite phrase when people ask me “How are you adjusting to Italian life” is …. “The food is so good. There is no need to adjust to that”

    Look forward to reading more of your experience in Mongolia.


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