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Quiet in the compound



By Marc Van Der Chijs

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Shanghai City

Next week it's one year ago since we moved into our new house. It was the first time for us to live in a typical expat compound, but although I was skeptical at first I quite enjoy the convenience of living in a gated community and I also met a couple of new friends here (both expats and entrepreneurs). The interesting thing about an expat compound is that you don't really live in China. Not only does everything work most of the time (and if not a repair man shows up within minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week), but it also looks like you are not in China. Big houses with gardens, lots of trees, hardly any traffic or people, and waking up from singing birds instead of cars blowing their horns. I like it, but I sometimes miss living downtown as well, where it was never really quiet but where the views from our penthouse apartment were unbeatable.

These weeks I realize that one other aspect of life abroad has been imported into the compound as well: summer holidays. In China the concept of going on a summer holiday does not exist, most people don't have many vacation days and normally only take time off around Chinese New Year. So the months of July and August are not different from the other months of the year in China - except when you live in an expat compound.

Most families in our neighborhood are from Europe or the US and most of them are currently on holiday in their home countries. The result is that the playground is completely empty on a Sunday afternoon (normally there are at least 5 kids playing there at any time) and even the pool is virtually deserted despite the warm weather. Also you hardly see anybody walking around the compound. For me it's something new in China: over the past years I never really had a summer holiday feeling, but now for the first time I also would not mind taking a few weeks off to relax. I don't have time for it right now, but plan to take 1-2 weeks off in early September, combining business with a vacation in Europe.

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