June 17, 2024
China salesman lost all in floods sleeps in car to save money for weekly trips to see girlfriend who lives 500km away

To save money, he sleeps in his 1.5-square-metre vehicle on a foldable bed on the rear passenger seat.

Huang spends the weekend with his girlfriend and dog, leaving Taiyuan on Mondays at 3am. In those early mornings, he kisses his sleeping girlfriend goodbye and takes the train back to Beijing to arrive at his office by 9.30am.

Huang has been a “Beijing drifter” – someone who lives outside the city and commutes into the capital for work – for 12 years.

On Mondays at 3am, Huang bids farewell to his sleeping partner with a kiss before departing Taiyuan, taking the train back to Beijing to be at work by 9.30am. Photo: Weibo

However, before last summer, he lived in a village on the outskirts of Beijing, paying a monthly rent of 2,000 yuan (US$280) until the worst regional flooding in 140 years destroyed his rental and everything he owned.

After the flood, he decided to move into his car because renting a flat near his downtown office would cost at least 10,000 yuan, which he could not afford.

Living in Beijing’s suburbs would mean spending nearly four hours commuting daily and sometimes leaving home at 4am to get to the office on time.

Now, living in a car, he typically drives 20 minutes to work, and he maximises every inch of the car space.

In a report from 2022, it was stated that 60 per cent of people in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai have to commute from other cities for work on a daily basis. Photo: Weibo

He keeps a map to note places where he can park overnight without being fined and takes showers at public toilets and recreational sports stadiums.

The armrest between the driver and front passenger seats holds a tall cup for heating water, while an outdoor power outlet sits on the front passenger side.

A folding bed for sleeping at night is stored in the boot. At night, Huang lowers the rear passenger seats’ backrest to make space for sleeping. He stores a sleeping bag on his roof box to help him cope with the winter.

Huang says he prefers living in a car over the windowless rentals that had previously been all he could afford.

Although his girlfriend initially urged him to find another rental, she later accepted his way of life.

“After all, renting a place alone in Beijing doesn’t make much sense. Home is where family is,” Huang explained in his video on Douyin, China’s TikTok.

However, Huang is still embarrassed to tell friends he sleeps in a car, his girlfriend is the only person who knows this.

The prospect of reuniting with his girlfriend over the weekend helps Huang endure life in the car.

Huang has not disclosed his monthly earnings in Beijing, but the average salary in Beijing is twice that of Taiyuan.

Due to the high cost of renting, many drifters in first-tier cities can only afford to live in suburban homes or even in surrounding satellite towns.

According to a 2022 report, 600 out of 1,000 people in first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai must commute from different cities for work daily.

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