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Calling Shanghai-based MNers

(5 Posts)
Destinationshanghai Sat 23-Mar-13 23:53:00

Hi - I am looking for advice from those of you based in Shanghai, on some of the realities of living and working there with small children.

I have the opportunity to take up an assignment in Shanghai with my current employer. The office is in Pudong near the river (line 2) and ideally i would look to live somewhere within 30 mins commute (by public transport - is that doable?) and also close enough to a school for my daughter.

As well as the common practical questions (where to live, how much rent to expect to pay for decent family apartment, schools, what we'd need to bring etc), I would love some input to the the pollution question. I have read previous insightful posts re Shanghai, but it's hard to ascertain what it will be like in reality from the media and Internet reports. I would hate to move the family across the world and then find out my DC (5  & 3) have to be indoors a lot or that we never see a blue sky - how bad is it really and how much does it impact your family life?

One other random question is around Internet speeds. DH would need fast Internet to upload big files for his work - will this be possible? Again, it's difficult to get a handle on this from afar!

I am sure I will have more questions for you all if we take this further, but any insights in the meantime would be hugely appreciated!

Many thanks in advance and apologies for long post.

4pinkbabies Sun 24-Mar-13 09:42:58

Hi! we have been in Shanghai for 3 years. We both work full time. The location you will be working in is ideal. There are masses of luxury appartments in that area, all near or on line 2. Expat housing compounds (if that's what you want) are about 10-20 minutes from there; JinQiao is a very popular area; lots of kid- friendly activities, shops, sports centres and green spaces. There are some great schools, but you will be best to look around first if you can and see which one is best for your needs.

I am afraid that the very worst thing about being here, for us, is the pollution. This year has been the worst. The kids cannot play outside and often are not allowed to at school and we are on the outskirts of Pudong. if you have an iPhone, download the pollution app and it will give you readings. It is mostly unhealthy, but has been 'hazardous' quite a lot this year. You can taste it sometimes. It impacts our lives massively and although some people ignore it, I cannot. We will most probably go home next year because of this.

Internet is very up and down. Ours is very slow at home and at the kids' school. I am sure that the offices in the city would have better Internet. My husband loves his online games and is always moaning that it is too slow to play.

As for what to bring; decent leather shoes, tampons (impossible to find), decent bras if you are larger than a C cup, although there are several M&S stores, the bigger western sizes do go fast and are double the price. You can get most things here, but be prepared to pay high for western stuff. There will be certain food luxuries/ ingredients that are hard to find too, but it depends what you want.

The summer is fierce. You will not want to be outside for long. The mosquitoes are bad, too. It cools down around November and gets very cold until March(ish)..quite up and down at the moment! (Very rarely colder than the.Uk, if that is where you are now)

In summary, we are glad we came; the kids have grown in awareness and have had a wonderful education, have learnt Mandarin and met some amazing friends. There are opportunities for travel, but we have found it expensive with a family of 6, so only do one holiday a year. Some of our colleagues jet off every holiday. it is tempting, but we are predominantly here to save.

Hopefully I have helped a bit. let me know if you have any other questions.

Destinationshanghai Mon 25-Mar-13 21:32:41

Thank you for such a detailed reply 4pink! It sounds as though we are right to be concerned about the pollution which does seem to have been significantly worse lately, from reading reports.

How has the increase in pollution impacted the way you live there? Are you confined indoors, and/or have you noticed health issues as a result?

4pink, if you were making the decision to move out there now, with all your knowledge of the pollution and how it has impacted you all, would you still make the move? I realise it is one factor, and there are many others to consider, but it's potentially a biggie for us!

Do you consider this to be a significant enough issue to impact our decision?

People we have spoken to who are there / have been there, have said it is a fantastic opportunity for a young family, and we want to be able to make a well-balanced decision!

Anyone else on the ground with any thoughts??

Thanks in advance.

4pinkbabies Thu 28-Mar-13 09:22:54

Hi again!

On a bad day, we do not let the kids go outside. Their school does not either. We had a particularly bad run of pollution in Jan/Feb time, which was just awful. For the last few days, it has not been too bad. I have had bronchitis for the last 2 weeks and just cannot get over it. I am convinced that the air quality does not help you to recover quickly if you are ill. One of our kids has bad asthma. She has had pneumonia 3 times, but her first time was in the UK, so I cannot blame that on China. Some people do not seem to worry. For us, a fairly outdoorsy family, who live 10 minutes from the sea in the UK, it's not great.

However, there are lots of good things about being here. we are glad that we came. Our life when we return home will be much improved. The kids have benefitted hugely from being in an international environment with great kids in their school. They do things at school that I never would have considered. Even our 4 year old knows about different cultures, languages and the world. They have grown socially and intellectually. The oldest, 10, can write characters fluently and speak pretty good Mandarin, as can I.

You need to come with a VERY open mind, lots of patience and humour. it has been bloody hard at times; I have cried at times.

I think your kids are the ideal age to make the move. Don't forget, you can go home again if it's not for you.

Hope I have helped!

MuffinTumMum Sun 31-Mar-13 03:35:17


Agree with all that's been said. I am in shanghai and set to leave soon. To be honest the weather ( pollution and winter months) make the indoor living lifestyle just a step too far on the compromise scale that you need to have when considering a move.
Pollution has been particularly bad this season. Not sure what other years have been like. I also find buying fresh food a huge chore. The ground here is very polluted with heavy metals. We buy direct from a great source but its expensive.
We were in Asia before this assignment so its true about the benefits regarding children, mixing with other cultures, more global outlook etc. but in shanghai its just so hard socially to be " out and about". Everything is done via the car and it takes ages to get anywhere.
Also, do look at your housing position in comparison to a hospital with a and e facilities. This may not be high on everybody's list but it freaks me out that I live at least an hour away from this facility and ambulances here are not what you expect them to be.
On the upside the expat community here is way and above more open and inclusive than other communities I have experienced.
Sorry I seem to be downbeat. I love Asia and would stay here forever. But not mainland china. I think there are too many compromises for family life here. Saying that I have friends who love it and I will look back on my time here very fondly. I just can't stay another two years!!

Goody luck with your decision making. If you would like any specific info then do feel free to PM me

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