Shanghai advice(19 Posts)
I posted about 8 months ago when it was first hinted at (different username, I think!), but now it really does look like we are moving to Shanghai this summer. I haven't thought about it at all, really, because corporate wheels grind slow and there is no point crossing bridges, but it is at the point now where I do need to start to make some plans.
We've been expat before (Tokyo) so I am aware of the stresses and strains of that. Anything anybody can tell me about China in general - I've been to Beijing for a long weekend, 10 years ago, but that is all - or about Shanghai in particular, would be enormously appreciated. If anybody who lives there wants to be my friend I'd be thrilled (though I know how tedious the endless influx of new expats is, so absolutely do not expect that!)
We have three daughters, aged 7, 10, 13.
M might be able to point you in the right direction, we lived in Shanghai for 2 years but left in 2012.
Do you know where the working spouses office location will be?
To be honest this website/forum will probably be more helpful to you. www.shanghaiexpat.com/forum/
Good luck, it's a very exciting city to live in!
I have been in China for 9 years and live nearish to Shanghai.
What would you like to know?
Shopping - you can get anything ( at a price! ) in Shanghai, but if you have wide feet or wear larger than a 6, you may want to stock up, the same is true for bras with a large cup size. City Shop stocks lots of western products, but sadly Marks and Spencer has now closed.
Some decent hospitals in Shanghai - parkway and united family, but most expats opt for HK if surgery is required.
You will need - wechat - it's an app for chatting (!) and also has wechat pay. Everyone has it and you can use it to make free phone calls. I use it to phone friends in Australia.
Make sure you are up-to-date with your vaccinations - usual childhood ones plus Hep A and B, Rabies, Japanese Encephalitis etc. Local vaccines are generally not recommended and restrictions do change as to what is/is not available and if they are not available here you either have to go to HK or have them done on a trip back to the UK.
Air quality can be bad - google aqi for your home town in the UK and then Shanghai to see the difference. Schools generally limit out door play when the pollution levels are high.
Loads of great restaurants, galleries and museums in Shanghai and decent theatre too. China is, however, getting more and more expensive - due to inflation and exchange rate has altered considerably since we moved here 9 years - we were getting rmb 15 to the pound and now it's under 9. Nevertheless China is an amazing country (and sometimes incredibly frustrating) but I have never regretted moving here.
We left Shanghai almost a year ago, but loved our time there.
Get a vpn before you go. We chat is great, but tends to take over your life ☺
As a pp said, the shopping is amazing. I really miss the markets. City shop and Kate and Kimi are great for online grocery shopping. There is always stuff going on, and the metro is cheap and efficient.
Where are the dcs going to school?
Do you have specific questions?
Thanks, both. I don't have specific questions yet - it is hard to know what you don't know! If you see what I mean.
No idea what WeChat is - will investigate - and thanks for the vpn tip.
I got well used to buying a year's worth of clothes in one fell swoop on home visits from Tokyo - sadly I don't think I have ever in my life worn a size 6! What would you suggest wrt children's clothes - is it worth stocking up for them, too, in current and likely future sizes? What about shoes?
I also used to buy deodorant and sanitary protection by the boxload when I came home because that was hard to source in Japan - is that true of China also?
Children's clothes are not a problem as we have zara, h and m, uniqlo etc and you can get a lot of good brands on Taobao
www.taobao.com eg Boden. You can get everything on Taobao!
My dd has to wear black shoes for school and that can be tricky sometimes as they need to be plain. Sometimes the quality is not that great and although we have clarks and geox, they don't usually carry children's shoes.
Deodorant is not a problem as rexona and dove are available. You may want to stock up on tampons as have only seen one brand (ob) here,
but may be better in Shanghai.
As pp mentioned you will need a vpn as some sites (eg google and facebook) are blocked in China and occasionally other sites will be blocked for 24-48 hours if there is a big political conference or on the anniversary of the Tiananmen square protests, for example.
Book depository ships to China free of charge and most books tend to be a little bit cheaper than the cover price. Amazon china has a good selection of English fiction.
Note that if you are in China for several years your eldest daughter will need to pay international fees for university if you are not resident in the UK for the three years before she starts at university (ie from age 15).
Also looking at a possible move to Shanghai, so will be following this with interest.
That is a Very good tip about university fees, Diva so thank you for that. Soda, see you there! All the best people, etc.
I've only visited Tokyo and Shanghai once each, but I'd guess that Shanghai would be a less complicated place to live as a foreigner than Tokyo.
If we go, it will be end Aug/Sep, but I'm not thinking about anything until it's confirmed!
I've been not thinking about it since October now - corporate wheels grind verrrrry slooooowly - but if we want the children to start school at the start of the academic year, which is my strong preference, I sort of have to start thinking a little bit even though we still don't have a formal job offer. Bastards.
Just clarifying considering, shoe size six, not clothes size!
Ah. That does make a difference! How about clothes size UK 14ish?
There are shops like H&M l, Zara etc, but as I recall (5 years ago) as a size 12 verging on 14 I was usually taking the biggest size. There is always taobao though, which kindly captions some of the clothes it sells as "fits fat girl" .
I think I've managed three different usernames on this thread so far - you can tell I am distracted! LOL.
I was a size 10 when we lived in Japan and I had to buy XXL fat girl clothes then. I think with my post-baby body it might be best if I just buy a lot of clothes before we go ;)
We just got back from our pre-visit to Shanghai. It was fine. I don't think I can get very excited about it, but I don't have any major worries. It felt a lot more international than it did 10 years ago.
Traffic is busy and the city is huge, so finding a place to live that allows for a reasonable commute for both job and school is a priority which probably means we won't live in the part of town we like the most.
I joined Shanghai Mamas website and FB group along with Shanghai trailing spouses. Definitely look into getting a VPN before you get there. And download and figure out WeChat because it seems like everyone uses it for everything.
I live in Shanghai! I've been here nearly two years now and am happy to help
I can recommend Express vpn - you can put it on your phone, laptop etc before you get here.
I have two boys (6 and 9) and would highly recommend getting school shoes before you come. When living in London, I would buy Geox school shoes on Amazon for 20-30 pounds, here they are 90-100! (Sorry, I've got a chinese laptop - no pound sign)
Do you know what school you're choosing yet? Where will you be based for work? I have strong opinions about schools
Will you have a driver or an allowance for one? A driver has made a massive difference and we pay for one ourselves. All of the schools have buses - don't let the distance put you off an area. My husband's commute to work is half an hour as is the boys' commute to school, but the area we live is right as we have a nice house and are close to other expats and great shops, restaurants, etc.
Let me know if I can help.
Thank you, Mangosteen and NotInG
NotInG, I think we are looking at Dulwich college. Friends of ours have children there and really sing its praises. So I'd be happy to hear your strong opinions, please.
School shoes is a top top tip. Pesky feet keep growing!
Mangosteen I am on shanghaimamas but not the trailing spouse group - is that on Facebook? How do I find it?
Trailing Spouses is indeed a Facebook group, and a very good one at that. Just search "Trailing Spouses" - you will have to be approved but this won't take long. There is also Buy, Sell Swap Shanghai which maybe useful when you first arrive. It's very active right now with loads of people leaving (it's the time of year for it).
With regard to schools, I know people who pulled their children out of Dulwich because they were doing averagely well, and this was good enough for the school - more focus placed on the struggling students. We visited a few and Ended up at Wellington. It was the school our children clearly enjoyed visiting and who were welcoming. It's proved a very good choice, despite the half hour bus journey. Turns out, the children actually enjoy it (they sing, joke, learn stuff from the bigger kids, interact with different age groups - who'd have thought?!)
Take your kids with you to visit the schools as well. My then 8 year old said "Dulwich creeped me out", and practically hid behind us the whole way around. He liked BISS (now NAIS), but I don't think they push children much academically and I felt Wellington was better with sport and after school activities (they do their prep and after school activities as part of the school day, so they come home later but there are no clubs to cart them around to.)
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