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Sharing Rent with the Opposite Sex
As the end of school draws near, many of the class of 2002 have begun considering renting living space near their workplace. And, what's cool this year is that more people want to rent an apartment with someone of the opposite sex and to split the rent equally or unequally.

One typical message that was seen on a university bulletin board in Beijing: "I am a 23-year-old male graduate employed by an IT company. I am looking for a female graduate to share a house with me near Zhongguancun. Candidates who like to be outside and be active are welcome. I am studious as well. So if you need someone to move in or are looking to put together a group to rent a house this fall starting in August, give me a call."

Postings like this can be seen frequently on university bulletin boards in cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xiamen, or Xi'an where rents are hardly affordable to a recent graduate with limited earnings.

In Beijing, for example, renting a common single-room flat can cost around 1,000 yuan (US$120) even in an area not too close to downtown.

Many postings of shared-rent messages appear on the Internet, too. At Netease.com, there is a special column called "Living with the Opposite Sex" where those who want to co-rent provide information about housing and themselves.

A survey conducted in April by a website in Xiamen, Fujian Province, found that 196 out of 200 people questioned accepted the idea of sharing housing with the opposite sex.

"Co-renting with a person who shares the same interests is not only a cost-sharing strategy. It enriches life and allows me to make the living environment cleaner," said one student who gave his name only as Xu. The Beijing Institute of Technology graduate posted a message on Netease.com, suggesting a two-room flat and a female roommate, each paying 750 yuan per month.

Many of the males also expect the potential roommate to be able to cook so as to "create a family-like atmosphere." At least, that was how one Netease.com announcement read.

The females seem to be a bit more cautious than their adventurous male flat-mate hunters.

"I would accept the idea but won't try it myself. It's too difficult to find a 'good man' living next door who never thinks about romance," said Zhou Yan, a graduate from East China Normal University.

She said a roommate's bad habits - smoking or drinking, for example - could spell trouble for a girl. And there could be sexual harassment.

There is no protection in the case of co-habitation with someone of the opposite sex specifically stated under the law.

Young people who venture into this new area should learn to protect themselves, said Liao Binglan, who graduated from a Beijing university two years ago and had similar experiences with males twice.

"You'll definitely want to interview the candidate and never under any circumstances should you make an offer to someone over the phone, sight unseen.

"Your most important job as a roommate-screener is to listen to and trust your instincts. If the red flag goes up in your brain in the case of any one of your candidates - even if you can't put your finger on the problem - don't make that person an offer."

(China Daily HK Edition June 27, 2002)

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