Shanghai, China Report of what it's like to live there - 06/29/08

Personal Experiences from Shanghai, China

Shanghai, China 06/29/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

First.

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2. How long have you lived here?

4 months.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I work for the U.S. Consulate General.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

From Europe, not really sure. Many flights come from the U.S. West Coast, Chicago, and now Atlanta.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing tends to be very nice depending on who is paying for it. If you are here with a foreign government then you will either live in very very nice apartments in the heart of the city, or live in a large villa about 30min-1hr commute from downtown.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Everything. Although, one may have to pay more for imported goods. There are major Western super-stores here though: CarreFour, Wal-Mart, Tesco, Metro etc.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

None.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Just about everything in terms of fast food. Shanghai is also quickly becoming a gourmand's paradise, as many world renowned chefs are opening restaurants here.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Well since I have access to APO, I don't really know. :)

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Cheap--but getting more expensive. I pay about US$45 for 16 hours of work. So less than US$3 an hour--and my maid is very good. With that said, you can get it cheaper, I know some people that pay less than US$2 an hour. If you want an English speaking maid, you'll pay more.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

You can use credit cards most places, and ATM machines are widely available. With that said, be careful about using your credit card as the ENTIRE CREDIT CARD NUMBER will stay on both copies of the receipt.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Shanghai has tons of foreigners and many restaurants, stores, bars etc that cater to the expat community. With that said, the more Chinese you can speak and understand, the easier your life will be.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

HAHA. A LOT. It's hard enough to walk in this city with no physical disabilities. China is still a developing country and the idea of access for physically diabled people has not yet manifested iteslf.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Just like in the US/France/Germany.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, very. Although they can get extremely crowded. Also, you will have to beat people to get on and off--no one will wait.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Don't have one, but unless you live out in the villas, you won't need to drive. Driving here is insane. I have been to some third world countries where I thought the driving was bad, but BY FAR Chinese driving takes the cake.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, service is not bad. It's about US$40 a month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Buy any unlocked triband GSM phone and get a local sim card. Txt messages and local calls are pretty cheap.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

I suggest getting some sort of VOIP.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Yes/no--depending on your skills.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Work: business formal. Public: depends on the venue, ranges from casual to trendy/chic.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Unhealthy to very unhealthy depending on weather/season.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None really, except for the occasional pick-pocket. Your biggest security concern will be the same people that protect you (Chinese Government).

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Well the air can be pretty bad. There are a few Western style medical facilities that cater to the expat community.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Cold in the winter--extremely hot and humid in the summer.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

No children--but my colleagues tell me that the Shanghai American School is very good.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

HUGE.

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty high.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Tons, lots of bars, clubs, parties etc.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I would say it's excellent for everyone. Couples and families as well as singles won't get too bored in their spare time. Shanghai is a huge city that's constantly changing. I don't see how anyone would be bored here.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Well, it's not the best, but at the same time it's not the worst. There are some gay bars and clubs that are always lively. Eventually, however, one will see that the crowd is the same, and because of the transient expat community and the cultural differences with the locals--one might find it hard to have a prolonged relationship.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Some people might stare, but nothing too abrasive.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Clubs, bars, more clubs... New skyscrapers in Pudong, a few museums, the old Shikumen houses, shopping, eating... HOWEVER, this is not traditional China.. Before the British arrived in 1842 Shanghai was a sleepy backwater--and thus there wasn't much here in terms of culture. None-the-less, Shanghai has plenty to do, it's also not far from other important tourist sites like Hangzhou and Suzhou.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Pearls, fabrics, custom tailored clothes, antiques, going out..

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9. Can you save money?

Maybe, depending on who your employer is and if you pay for housing or not.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No. While Shanghai is definitely and easy hardship post, it lacks charm and personality. The people are cold and sometimes downright mean. Some foreigners can handle the pushing and the shoving, the screaming; and the overall lack of regard for human life. This is mostly because they are blinded by greed as Shanghai is experiencing a modern day gold rush--and most expats think they are going to come here and make it big. The total absence of congeniality really wears on me. I can handle charos, but a smile or a please, or a thank you would be nice. There is no word for 'excuse me' in the Chinease language.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Well whatever you don't need because you can probably get it in Shanghai.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience. Lots and lots of it.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Empire of the Sun--the last major Western picture made before Shanghai was changed forever.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Well, you can read what I wrote above. Shanghai is not a bad place to live, but I will be happy to leave; and never come back. If Shanghai is the future of China, and China's the future--then I've seen the future and I'm ready to go home.

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