Life in the ‘cement caves’


The pressure to have their own house but with limited financial resources forces many young Chinese to empty their wallets, buy houses built raw and not know when they can finish.

On the third day of living in a rough house in Wuhan, 28-year-old Chen Qiao encountered a heavy rain. The wind blew along the roofless balcony, through the living room, and rainwater poured in. The drainage system was still clogged, the floor was wet like it was in the street.

But this young man could do nothing.

The house he lives in literally has only four walls. Although 110 m2 wide with three bedrooms and a living room, the actual usable area is less than 20 m2. He sleeps in the baby’s room because if he’s in the big room, he needs to buy a larger carpet, which means more money. Because it has not been paved, the floor is covered with cement dust, rough like a toad’s back.

Bedroom in the 110m2 house of Tran Kieu, living in Wuhan, Hubei province. Photo: qq.

Since living here, Tran Kieu has only bought a few pieces of furniture: a sofa 89 yuan, a bed 129 yuan, a desk 99 yuan and a folding chair included. A total of just over 300 yuan (about 1.1 million VND).

In addition to self-made furniture, other areas in the house are called caves by Tran. Luggage is placed in the kitchen cave, living items are placed in the bedroom cave. The living room cave is the largest but also the most empty.

Not as decent as Chen, for the past one month, Sun Lu has lived in Shijiazhuang City, Hebei Province, sleeping on the concrete floor in his rough house and using suitcases as a dining table. Every day, she borrows her colleague’s gym card to go there to shower.

Ton Lo often comforts herself by, every time she wakes up, go to the floor-to-ceiling glass in the living room, looking down at the central garden of the house, where there are marble floors and lawns. neatly trimmed. “Each time I feel the roughness of the house is diluted,” she said.

Many times, the 27-year-old girl feels that her life is “extremely bad”, but every time she comes home from work, turns the key and opens the door, hearing the “click”, the feeling of happiness overflows.

Before buying a house, Tran Kieu had a girlfriend. On the first day of the relationship, when the other side asked if he had a house, he honestly declared “not eligible”. Having known each other for half a year, the girlfriend asked again and still received the old answer, she took the initiative to break up. This year’s Qingming Festival, Tran returned to his hometown and met his elementary school friend. This person just graduated from secondary school, went to work as a worker in Guangdong. With the money he earned, he returned to his hometown to build a 3-storey house. Even though he was nearly 30 years old, he was considered an “evil” in the village, but the friend pointed to the house and said to Tran: “It’s not possible to get a wife with such a big house.”

After listening, Tran was really determined. He took out all his savings, borrowed more, made a deposit of 600,000 yuan, and paid the bank 4,500 yuan a month, deciding to buy a raw house outside of Wuhan. On the day he received the house, there was only 900 yuan left in Tran’s pocket.

For people willing to live in rough homes, especially young people, ownership means more than just the type of home they live in.

Ton Lo always dreamed of living in her own house. Before she lived with her parents, because she had a younger brother, so she had to give up her bedroom. Ton is also often scolded if cleaning the house or washing dishes is not clean. “At that time, I thought living alone in a dilapidated house was happier than living like this,” she said. However, the 27-year-old did not anticipate the difficulties she would face while living in her first home.

The model house Ton saw before is European style with yellow walls, leather sofa, large TV. At that time, she thought, the house is so beautiful, you can stay in the room all day, no need to go anywhere. But with the raw house received, the four sides are just the gray color of concrete along with the red-green color of the electric coils sticking out.

After living for a few days, Ton kept receiving calls from the home improvement company. “If the simplest renovation for rent, how much does it cost?”, the girl asked. Hearing the price, Ton refused. The first night, she had to lie on the ground. Living in a rough house also brings many disadvantages. She had to go to a nearby McDonald’s to use the restroom, drinking as little water as possible to survive the initial period.

For To Ham, life in a raw house decorated according to her preferences is also happiness for her.  Photo: qq

For To Ham, life in a raw house decorated according to her preferences is also happiness for her. Photo: qq

Even after living in a rough house for half a year, Tran Kieu still did not tell his colleagues that he had bought a house. For him, living in a rough house takes away part of the home’s functions, such as socializing, or raising children after marriage.

Tran noticed that more and more people, especially young people, have to live in rough houses due to the pressures of life. He once read on the Internet a story about a girl in Jiangsu who had lived in a rough house for 10 years. But none of them are ready to raise children in such a house.

“This shows that people want to provide the next generation with better living conditions, in other words, living in a rough house should not have children,” Tran stated.

Unlike Tran Kieu or Ton Lo, 27-year-old freelance artist To Ham really likes his raw house. This house is near Beijing, the walls are painted white and the floor is gray carpeted. One wall of the living room is covered with greenery, the other is a black five-story wine cabinet. With To Ham, she allows herself to achieve the highest quality of life under the most restrictive conditions. If guests come they can entertain by the bar on the balcony.

Because she doesn’t have a lot of furniture and doesn’t make the floor, the total cost this artist spends to decorate the house is equivalent to the price of the latest Apple computer. This girl’s life is also very simple, drawing, jogging and playing with cats, as minimalist as the house she lives in.

For many people, living in a rough home is nonetheless just a transitional phase.

For Ton Lo, the house is as rough as a friend in the midst of suffering. “These are just the first steps. I need something to witness for my growing journey,” she said.

Tran Kieu recently bought an iron and a clothes hanger because the house does not have a wardrobe. He doesn’t want people to think that he is as crumpled as the shirts left in the suitcase for a long time.

In the 3rd month of living in a rough house, Tran’s economic situation is a little better. Instead of replacing the window covering with curtains, he bought a projector. With the lights off at night, the cement wall becomes a 120-inch screen, which improves his morale a bit.

Facing the house with nothing, Tran always comforts himself and everything will be fine. This young man wants to quit his office job and business. It’s just that he hasn’t figured out what business to do, and he still doesn’t know where the money to repair the house will come from.

Vy Trang (Follow qq)

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