Possible move to Shanghai

(12 Posts)
consideringchina Tue 13-Sep-16 09:36:37

DH is likely about to be offered 3 years in Shanghai. We've been expat before (but were years younger - we've been back in the UK for 14 years) and had no children) but this feels much more daunting - previous countries I had at least visited beforehand and had some idea of what I was going to! I've been on some expat message boards but these are always so full of people letting off steam that I thought I'd come on here and see if I could find anybody who didn't completely hate it! Is anybody miserable less than half the time?
I've found some old threads of tips and advice that I'll read through but if anybody would like to offer any advice to me - up to and including don't do it! - I'd be really grateful.

ShanghaiDiva Tue 13-Sep-16 10:34:06

Despite my name suggesting otherwise, I don't live in Shanghai, but I do live in China and have been here for over 8 years. I do like living here smile
Shanghai is a massive city with all the advantages and disadvantages that a mega city offers - Marks and Spencer, great (if crowded) public transport, cinema, theatre, international schools, western brands, western prices (!)pollution etc.
I would suggest a pre-relocation visit if you have the opportunity to get a feel for schools and the type of accommodation you can get for your money.
I could write pages and pages on life in China so what would you like to know?

HellsBellsnBucketsofBlood Tue 13-Sep-16 10:38:09

I used to live in China (though only 3 weeks were in Shanghai). I enjoyed my time there, but would say that if you have any breathing problems (asthma especially) you shouldn't go. When I was there the pollution was so bad that the rain burned my eyes (so I advise to stay out of the rain).

It's one hell of a culture shock, but once you get past that you can carve out a really good time.

consideringchina Tue 13-Sep-16 10:43:38

We've lived in Tokyo and really loved it, so the size of Shanghai is exciting rather than scary. A pre-visit will be essential, I agree. Do expats tend to live in ghettoes or are they spread throughout the city?
Good to know people are happy! If I hadn't been expat before, the moaning boards would really have put me off. I know about the blowing off steam thing though.
Obviously I have no language ability.
I don't really know what I want to know yet! What would you like to tell me?

The pollution is a concern. I had a long weekend in Beijing about 15 years ago and hated the burning feeling in my throat. Plus, I have children now and don't really want them exposed to that. I was hoping it might have improved in the past decade.

ShanghaiDiva Tue 13-Sep-16 10:43:52

Agree with hells - not advisable if you suffer from asthma.
today's air pollution:
aqicn.org/city/shanghai/ -
I have never experienced rain burning my eyes though and I have been here over 8 years.

ShanghaiDiva Tue 13-Sep-16 10:59:48

I think air quality has improved since I moved here, but the long term effects are, of course, worrying.
Most people in cities live in compounds (Chinese and expats) - some are just flats and others are flats and houses. If you want to live near one of the international schools that could be quite a way out of the city, but probably easier for children to have a shorter journey. Rents are expensive in Shanghai.
Language - learn some basics before you come, but you can manage in Shanghai with virtually no mandarin. However for smaller local shops and to bargain some knowledge is useful.
There is decent healthcare in Shanghai - Shanghai united hospital and a couple of others, but for invasive treatment most expats would be evacuated to Hong Kong. A lot of doctors from HK have consulting hours in Shanghai every month.
Schools - there's Dulwich and also a British school and one called Concordia - but don't know anything about them - sorry! Be aware that international school does not (imo) mean that standards are necessarily as high as a private/grammar school in the UK . The fees do tend to be nice and high though!
You can really get almost anything in Shanghai - western food from Marks and Spencer, City Shop etc, Zara, H&M, Book Depository ships for free to China etc. Shoes can be a problem if you have wide feet or take larger than size 6, and good idea to stock up on bras too.
Traffic is congested and many expats have a car and driver - we do as company policy is that we are not allowed to drive in China. It's easy and cheap to get around with public transport and train connections within China are good and fast.
Hope some of the above is useful!

consideringchina Tue 13-Sep-16 11:09:42

I have that British middle-class horror of staff - the friends we visited in Beijing had a driver and it was all very awkward! That said I had a (live-out) maid in Japan and I do have a cleaner here, I'd just have to get over it as we also would not be allowed to drive. Does he just sort of sit about when you are at home or out on the public transport?
It seems most people do have maids - do they tend to live in or out?
I was wondering about the education at the international schools so it's interesting you mention that. My children here are in state schools but they really are excellent - we are very lucky.

consideringchina Tue 13-Sep-16 11:11:44

(and a big hooray for internet shopping! It was just starting to be a thing when we were abroad before - most UK companies would ship overseas but not through their website; I had to ring customer services and explain. Some hadn't done it before but most were ready for a challenge ;) )

consideringchina Tue 13-Sep-16 11:22:29

The whole idea of uprooting the kids to move across the world is completely terrifying, actually. Am trying not to think about it.

ShanghaiDiva Tue 13-Sep-16 12:30:27

I have a live out ayi (cleaner) - I don't know anyone who has a live in cleaner/helper. She works 16 hours per week which is fine for me as I don't want her to cook and my children are older so there is no childcare/babysitting.
Our driver takes my husband to work and then is with me for the day if I need him or stays with dh and does any driving required by the company e'g take someone to the bank or post office. It really depends if your driver is employed by the company or not - ours is so when we are not around he still gets paid. We were also uneasy about the driver situation at first but I love it now especially if you go out and have a drink. On holiday we have to remind ourselves that someone has to stick to non-alcoholic drinks to drive us home!
ime (I have been an expat for over 20 years) the children adapt really quickly. Children at international schools are used to a high turnover of students and are happy to make new friends and there are lots of clubs and activities at school. For the working parent it's generally easy too - same shit, different view, but can be trickier for the non working parent. I am sure there are expat groups in Shanghai, volunteering opportunities, mandarin lessons, activities and sports at school for parents etc.
Forgot to mention - make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date as some are not readily available here and there have been problems with local vaccines. We have also had the rabies jab and Japanese encephalitis too, but not everyone does. I would prefer to have them all to ensure we are covered for travel throughout SE Asia too.
I would say that standards in international schools are comparable to a decent comprehensive - don't believe the marketing and do keep an eye on standards particularly if you are moving back to the UK system. It also depends how old your children are as to how involved you need to be . Am starting to sound like 'one of those parents', but I moved my kids overseas and I feel it is my responsibility to check what is going on. That being said my children have has some excellent teachers, but a couple were very weak and the teaching was sub-standard.

consideringchina Tue 13-Sep-16 13:02:12

You don't sound like one of 'them' at all - I'm just realising how easy I had it on previous assignments! The moves felt stressful at the time but ultimately it was just me and DH and the cat, much less to think about.
I know children gain huge benefits from the move, but taking them away from their schools here where they are extremely happy and settled, and have ever known anything else, feels hard to do. We will definitely be moving back into the UK system so I will bear your warnings in mind.
I'm somewhere between working and non-working in that I'm freelance and work from home. That has not helped on previous moves because I don't have nice colleagues in a nice office to make friends with but nor am I free to take endless days off for lovely daytrips with the trailing spouses! I will cut my hours considerably but it would be foolish (if fun) to stop altogether because I will want a business to come back to on our return.

consideringchina Tue 13-Sep-16 13:09:55

PS That's good to know - live out is much nicer for everybody, I think!

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