HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp pkg.

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HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp pkg.

Postby mamabutterfly » Thu Jul 12, 2012 1:26 am

I'm new to this forum - hoping to find some helpful advice. Have read through many posts and threads, but as our situation is a bit different I wonder if y'all would mind commenting on our specifics.

… yes, we currently live in the American South. So we are accustomed to a communist regime! Oh, I kid. Partially.

But I digress. My husband & I are considering a relocation to Asia next year with our two young sons (by the time we move they will be 2 yrs & 4.5 yrs) - after a laborious process of narrowing down "the entire world" according to a long set of criteria, Hong Kong and Shanghai are at the top of our short list. Neither of us has ever set foot on the continent of Asia. How thrilling!

We would not be moving under a corporate expat package - he works for an American company via internet, and can do his job anywhere with a good internet connection. We both lived (at separate times) in NYC for several years, and we miss big city life. We are considering HK or Shanghai (instead of Western cities) because we have both worked in the entertainment business, and we are looking for a city that offers the possibility of reinvention/new opportunities/emerging markets. I'm no expert, but it seems as if the world economy is moving East … we have a few years' window before our boys will really be in proper school, so it seems like a good time to roll the dice.

Of course I am looking for Shanghai-specific insights, as this is a Shanghai forum, but if anyone cares to comment on the HK/Shanghai comparison regarding our situation, I would be delighted to read.

My questions are:

1. Is it possible to rent decent 3-bedroom housing for 12-13000 rmb/month? A balcony/view/little green space would be nice, but isn't a deal-breaker. I don't garden, and we have no pets. Apartment or villa is fine. The boys are - hm, what's the word? - *spirited*, though, so walking distance to a playground/park/pool would be great. Since my husband works from home, we can base our first location more on proximity to a good school.

2. Is rmb the same thing as "Chinese Yuan"? This question alone illustrates the level of knowledge with which I have joined this forum. But I can't find a currency converter with "rmb".

3. Are most utilities paid separate from monthly rent, or included? If they're included, our budget max would be in the 15k range.

4. Considering our budget, are there expat family-friendly neighborhoods, with access to good preschools, and walking distance to shops/restaurants/cafes?

5. Is internet connectivity a major issue? I've read a bit about the firewall, and I worry that my husband will have trouble sending large audio files to his employer in the US.

We are planning a trip in January to explore both cities, but we can shuffle off the older child on his grandparents for only a week, so I am compiling as much info as possible.

Looking forward to the feedback -

elizabeth
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby p1atl10 » Thu Jul 12, 2012 3:33 am

mama...
A start to your questions..

1) and 3) Utilities are paid separately. Your bill is really going to depend on how well constructed the place is...and your comfort level. Shanghai is damp and cold in the winter....miserably so. Hotter than the hinges of you know where in the summer. Air you can wear. People from Shanghai could go to Houston in August to cool off.

Rent....you should be able to find a place for that....but not in central Puxi. ( Puxi is "Old" Shanghai.. Pudong is the newer bit across the river)
Doable.....but you will need a local agent to look at places. EVERYTHING goes through the agent. It is not like the US where you roll up to the Apartment Complex, find the leasing agent...and rent a place. Each of the units is owned by a landlord. Who also has an agent. BTW...same in Hong Kong. PM monalisalee on this site. He knows a good agent that deals in the price range you are looking for. And...do an internet search to get an idea of where the complexes are and what amenities they have....but do not believe any individual listing.

2) RMB (Remnimbi) is the same as Yuan.

4) Yes....but at your budget most of the "Expat Colonies" will be beyond your reach. These are the big walled estates where the Corporate Overhead Types live in complete bliss as they can pretend they are not even in China. There are many areas though where ex-pats live and congregate. Most common on the Puxi side are Jing An and the edges of the French Concession. Cannot comment on Pudong as I lived in Puxi.

BTW....School prices for the little ruggers are insane! If you want them to attend a International School...be prepared to shell out the equivalent of a used car in the US. Each. Per Year. Same in HK. Plenty of housing...but finding acceptable, affordable schooling is tough. Contact the "Shanghai Mamas". Great network for answering questions about kidlet related stuff.

http://www.shanghaimamas.org/

5 Great Firewall of China exists. Can be gotten around with a VPN. Search the site here for suggestions. But in general....speeds will be slower than you are used to. Without a VPN you will not even be able to access any of the social networking sites...FB, YouTube, etc..


Good Luck!!
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby wagnett » Thu Jul 12, 2012 8:13 am

What visa status are you planning on? While your husband can work remotely from anywhere, are you thinking of working visas or off-the-books remote working while on a tourist visa? China has been trying to eliminate visa abuses, and I would think with a family it might be a challenge. Can't speak about HK.

My internet experience here is that it is horribly slow, and judging from threads that is commonplace. Yes the VPN grants access, but not speed. Some areas are better wired than others; I don't know if your budget would impact your chance of getting good speeds.

For those lucky 'package' expats, Shanghai is still rated a 'hardship' location by at least one international HR consultancy- not without reason.

Good luck.
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby Facetons » Thu Jul 12, 2012 8:43 am

there are many apartments in Shanghai are of 12000RMB/m, and the ones out of town much less than this price, all utilies included. So when your agent show the apartments, you can check the utilies, if you don't like, or you don't think it's fully furnished, you can say "no". As far as I know, agents who offer only to foreigners rent service have high-charged apartments downtown, local agents have higher-charged and lower charged apartments.

My advice is: try local agents to compare price.
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby Chavster » Thu Jul 12, 2012 8:48 am

As always, if the choice falls between HK and Shanghai? HK. See the many other threads for comparisons. But I don't see any compelling reason in your situation why you should choose either.

You need to do your research and figure out exactly what kind of visas you're going to be living under. You've drunk the koolaid advanced by the western media that Asian economies are taking over the world. A: This information is 10 years out-of-date. B: I don't see how this applies to your situation in any way whatsoever.

Are you under the impression that Shanghai is some kind of hotbed of talent in the global "entertainment industry" ? If you can relocate anywhere in the world - give me one solid reason why you would choose Shanghai.
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby Facetons » Thu Jul 12, 2012 8:53 am

Chavster's answer is big "BANG" to her dream to Asia.The family want to work and travel in a different country?
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby expatguy1 » Thu Jul 12, 2012 9:33 am

The Title of your thread says HK or Shanghai, if given the choice I would always choose HK, lived there for 3 years and loved it.
Thant being said, getting into international schools in HK is all but impossible, not to mention extremely expensive. The American International School is $26,000 a year, yes thats USD, bit not to worry, there is a two year wait. It's not much cheaper hear for international schools either, so unless you plan on earning a very good wage or someone else is paying, it may be out of reach, which then begs the question, why come then. You certinaly would not want to put your kids in a poor quality school.

The internet is ok, not great, I certinaly would NOT want to have to work on it all day long.

I admire your adventurious spirit, but maybe you should visit first before you commit, espically since you will be subjecting your entire family, would be one thing if it were just you and hubby, but family, not having ever been to Asia.... wow.
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby crivens200 » Thu Jul 12, 2012 10:13 am

The slow speed of the internet and varying access to web sites with or without VPN is the one thing that just kills me living here. If you choose HK then you could even consider living out of the city near a beach. Repulse Bay, Stanley etc. Expensive though.
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby gzf123 » Thu Jul 12, 2012 11:36 am

My questions are:

1. Is it possible to rent decent 3-bedroom housing for 12-13000 rmb/month? A balcony/view/little green space would be nice, but isn't a deal-breaker. I don't garden, and we have no pets. Apartment or villa is fine. The boys are - hm, what's the word? - *spirited*, though, so walking distance to a playground/park/pool would be great. Since my husband works from home, we can base our first location more on proximity to a good school.

Yes,it is possible to get a decent 3-bedroom housing for 12-13000rmb/month. But Chinese stardard as I am a Chinese. Better to have a local help you, for sure that can save you some. Location can play big in this and usually areas with good international schools can be expensive.

2. Is rmb the same thing as "Chinese Yuan"? This question alone illustrates the level of knowledge with which I have joined this forum. But I can't find a currency converter with "rmb".
RMB(Ren Min Bi) =CNY

3. Are most utilities paid separate from monthly rent, or included? If they're included, our budget max would be in the 15k range.
Usually you have to pay these untilities seperately according to my experience. 15k should be enough.

4. Considering our budget, are there expat family-friendly neighborhoods, with access to good preschools, and walking distance to shops/restaurants/cafes?
Jinqiao in pudong can be a good choice in your case, but you need to check out the rental cost there, it can be expensive, but I am sure you can find an appropriate one in that neighborhood with reasonable cost. A little far away from the downtown area though, but I think they'll have all the services you need there.

5. Is internet connectivity a major issue? I've read a bit about the firewall, and I worry that my husband will have trouble sending large audio files to his employer in the US.
Can be an issue.But depends which websites you go, only a few are blocked. You certainly need a VPN to access all.Google has free one if you don't have a big data exchange in a day and it works very well. Sending files is up to internet upload speed. You can have 30M internet for about 3000RMB a year(Not very sure) for individuals, not for companies. should work pretty fast here, but not sure how it works with sending files between China and US. We use 10M for less than 2000 RMB a year
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby Chavster » Thu Jul 12, 2012 1:07 pm

Faceton-Tuxedo wrote:Chavster's answer is big "BANG" to her dream to Asia.The family want to work and travel in a different country?


Fair enough. I salute anyone that wants to get out of their comfort zone and live overseas for the sheer joy and experience of it. But if you've got that option there are far better choices. Taipei? Hanoi?

Korea has the best internet access in the world. Why not set up in Busan?
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby lotuslu88 » Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:30 pm

1.Shanghai has many places meeting your requests,but different region has different price.I think first you decide which district you are going to stay.You can have a glance at Shanghai by google map.

2.RMB(Ren Min Bi) =CNY

3.Different landlord have different ways,you can check with on the Internet.

4.There are many foreigners like you in Shanghai.Different region has different style shops,cafes,restaurants.That depends on your decision.

5.VPN may solve your problem.


More information ,please feel free to contact me by e-mail.

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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby garyquinlan008 » Thu Jul 12, 2012 4:13 pm

Have a look at Jingqiao but closer to the Metro Line 6. If you go near Green City you may not find a decent size place within your budget. Closer to Line 6 you will find very nice apartments in grounds with gardens and ponds where a nicely appointed apartment will be around 6,000 to 7,000 RMB leaving you much spending/investing money. The only things the apartment won't have is n Oven (you can buy decent counter top ones for under 2,000RMB) and a clothes dryer (haven't needed one as have two balconies so use one for drying clothes). 95%+ of your neighbours will be Chinese but they are the middle class and well educated. The few foreigners like me are here because the apartments are very nice (mine has two bathrooms) and are decently priced for those not here on typical expat salaries.

Jingqiao shopping centre is quite good for clothes, food and restaurants/cafes. Line 6 gives easy access via a quick change to Line 2 or 9 to the Puxi side. There are also restaurants and bars nearer Green City which is a short taxi ride away and City Shop (Green City) and CitySuper (Lujiazui) close are also close.
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby Chavster » Thu Jul 12, 2012 4:24 pm

It's all relative... If you have lived in NYC you will think Jinqiao is hell.
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby mamabutterfly » Fri Jul 13, 2012 2:00 am

Thanks to everyone for the speedy and constructive input, and for the many PMs. I hope I won't be a pest with more questions - once I have a bit more time today I would like to give more specifics about our situation, and expand on some of the issues/challenges raised by responders - I just wanted to jump on and say thanks; the feedback I've gotten here and on the HK forum where I posted the same questions, has been very, very helpful.
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby mamabutterfly » Sun Jul 15, 2012 10:34 am

OP here again, with a double-thanks to all who responded.

In comparing the responses on this forum and on the HK forum, where I asked the same questions, I've noticed that the majority of folks (strongly) suggest HK, despite the price and square footage challenges. I would love to hear from anyone who lives in Shanghai and loves it. The French Concession has been suggested to us by more than one person as a potential location, since my husband will be working from home and we will have 2 years while the boys are still just in preschool. From the photos I've seen it looks like a rustic Asian Park Slope, Brooklyn. Close?

We're in the beginning stages of sussing out our business opportunities with folks in both HK and Shanghai, so I feel as if I'll have that angle covered appropriately in terms of which city offers the best potential. Which is to say: I promise we won't show up and ask where we go to apply for awesome jobs. We would only relocate to Asia if we had solid biz hookups.

So at this point, I am really trying to understand as much as I can - from half a world away, and through a computer screen, so good luck me, right? - about what it's like to live in each location on the housing budget I mentioned earlier, with two young boys. We don't need the Ritz, but we aren't up for living in a quonset hut.

We continue to evaluate a couple other key locations around the globe, and once we have it narrowed down to our top choice, we will certainly visit first - we are brave, but perhaps not foolhardy enough to move continents without a test drive. ... Unless it's Paris. I feel I could live in Paris sight unseen. Good to know: Paris is not an option. (sniff)

So ... does anyone like living in Shanghai? The city that's also a verb? ... Please say that's the unofficial tagline. That will make my night.

Cheers.
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby GirlatWork » Sun Jul 15, 2012 11:09 am

crivens200 wrote:The slow speed of the internet and varying access to web sites with or without VPN is the one thing that just kills me living here. If you choose HK then you could even consider living out of the city near a beach. Repulse Bay, Stanley etc. Expensive though.


Great suggestion. My old client lives in an apartment in Repulse Bay paying USD 38K. Per month.
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby Stark » Sun Jul 15, 2012 5:04 pm

I love living in Shanghai, though I'm not sure I'd like living anywhere other than the French Concession. It has a much slower pace, with older Chinese mingling with young expats. I can walk outside my apartment on Gao'an road and get 20 rmb (3.25 USD) Thai food at Louise's Kitchen or 6 rmb (1 USD) fried noodles at the Chinese stand across the street. There's old guys with their shirts rolled up to their nipples lounging on lawn chairs on the sidewalk drinking beers, frizzy-haired Shanghainese women walking their little puffy shoe-wearing dogs, a cute little girl in a qipao who insists on hitting me every time I walk by . . . .

Hong Kong's transportation is better. The city is more refined, smoother, more frenetic. I love stopping by for the weekend. But I'm not sure I'd like to live there - my friend was paying 10,000 rmb for a parking space-sized apartment. The noise and bustle in many parts of the city is constant. For 10k in Shanghai you can get a pretty decent apartment if you are willing to forgo a few Western amenities. After taxes I make around 25k rmb a month - a pittance by true expat standards, but it affords me a great single life here. In HK I'd be verging on poverty, I think.

At the budget you've hinted at above I think you'd be far more comfortable in Shanghai. And I find it to be an interesting place, and far more 'foreign' than HK, which feels a lot like every other major world city when I visit.

You have to come to Shanghai with an open mind. Choose bemusement rather than anger when someone local does something unbelievably dumb. Which they will, at some point. If you smile, and are friendly, and patient and willing to open yourself to a radically different world view, you'll find many Chinese people in Shanghai worth having as life-long friends. In seven years I've never had one of the scams (cheating business partner, tea ceremony, cheating taxi driver, pickpockets) perpetrated on me. In my view a lot of expats - unable to cope with how different things are here - bring misfortune down upon themselves. I've seen a lot of annoying foreigners screaming at Chinese waitstaff over issues that a smile and gentle suggestion would have solve much quicker.

If I had to choose, right now, between HK and Shanghai, with a salary to live a comparable life in either city, I'd still stay in Shanghai. Admittedly I haven't lived in HK, but I've visited 20-30 times so I'm not totally ignorant of what both cities offer. Just my two cents.
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby Chavster » Sun Jul 15, 2012 5:27 pm

mamabutterfly wrote:OP here again, with a double-thanks to all who responded.

In comparing the responses on this forum and on the HK forum, where I asked the same questions, I've noticed that the majority of folks (strongly) suggest HK, despite the price and square footage challenges. I would love to hear from anyone who lives in Shanghai and loves it. The French Concession has been suggested to us by more than one person as a potential location, since my husband will be working from home and we will have 2 years while the boys are still just in preschool. From the photos I've seen it looks like a rustic Asian Park Slope, Brooklyn. Close?

We're in the beginning stages of sussing out our business opportunities with folks in both HK and Shanghai, so I feel as if I'll have that angle covered appropriately in terms of which city offers the best potential. Which is to say: I promise we won't show up and ask where we go to apply for awesome jobs. We would only relocate to Asia if we had solid biz hookups.

So at this point, I am really trying to understand as much as I can - from half a world away, and through a computer screen, so good luck me, right? - about what it's like to live in each location on the housing budget I mentioned earlier, with two young boys. We don't need the Ritz, but we aren't up for living in a quonset hut.

We continue to evaluate a couple other key locations around the globe, and once we have it narrowed down to our top choice, we will certainly visit first - we are brave, but perhaps not foolhardy enough to move continents without a test drive. ... Unless it's Paris. I feel I could live in Paris sight unseen. Good to know: Paris is not an option. (sniff)

So ... does anyone like living in Shanghai? The city that's also a verb? ... Please say that's the unofficial tagline. That will make my night.

Cheers.


What specifically are you interested in hearing about? It's a rather vague and open-ended dialogue you're insisting upon.

All I'm getting from your story is a lot of vagueness.

I love living in Shanghai. But I'm aware of the fact that I'm in a specific situation and have a specific temperment. I certainly don't like everything about living in Shanghai. There are some aspects that can be particularly burdensome. But on the whole I enjoy it immensely. You may like it or hate it for different reasons.

What are you going to be doing for work? Will you be travelling or staying mostly in Shanghai. Why exactly would you choose Shanghai or HK? Without knowing any of this stuff it's well nigh impossible to advise and this is just starting to sound like you're looking for validation.

FYI - Nothing in Shanghai is anything remotely like anything in Brooklyn. Well - except perhaps for a few confused hipsters. Anfu lu can sometimes be a little like Williamsburg on a Sunday, but not in a good way.
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby Klick » Sun Jul 15, 2012 6:42 pm

Some days I totally love it here and the thought of leaving feels heartbreaking. Other days I freakin hate it and wish I could be anywhere else on the planet. More of the former than the latter, thankfully. But those are the extremes of course: most days I feel like, yeah, this place is alright. I'm happy, we have a decent life, I've made great friends and good opportunities for myself, my kid is enjoying things that I couldn't even have dreamed as possible as a child and my husband, even though his life is much more stressful because he is under more pressure, is forging professional relationships and making career moves that will underpin the remainder of his working life. I'm not so all kinds of in love with the place that I want to spend the rest of my life here, but for now it ain't half bad and there is something to be said for a place that fairly regularly pushes you beyond the limits of your comfort zone, if you are open to letting it.
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby Chavster » Sun Jul 15, 2012 7:54 pm

So ... does anyone like living in Shanghai? The city that's also a verb? ... Please say that's the unofficial tagline. That will make my night.

Cute.
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby mamabutterfly » Sun Jul 15, 2012 8:18 pm

Darn. If we move there, I'm going to lie and tell all my American friends it's on a marquee outside the airport. "Y'all they are so funny and self-referential in Shanghai, you would love it."

In this first posting, I've already learned so much from everyone who responded - I've started to get a sense of some of the challenges of Shanghai, and I'll probably post some more specific questions as new threads, now that I actually know what to ask. Before I joined this forum and posted this thread, I didn't have any real idea of what the city was like. Wikipedia can only take you so far!

Thanks again to all posters.
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby hammerforlife » Sun Jul 15, 2012 10:00 pm

There has been a mention of school fees but it seems to have been passed over. To have two children in an international pre-school you won't get much change from USD 60,000 a year. There are local options I understand and I don't know whether these are OK or not, but certainly don't assume that good free schooling is available in Shanghai.
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby Klick » Sun Jul 15, 2012 10:16 pm

There are several very good local preschool & kindergarten options around town that are highly affordable. It is once a child gets to be primary school age that things become rather more difficult.
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby Humac » Sun Jul 15, 2012 10:18 pm

hammerforlife wrote:There has been a mention of school fees but it seems to have been passed over. To have two children in an international pre-school you won't get much change from USD 60,000 a year. There are local options I understand and I don't know whether these are OK or not, but certainly don't assume that good free schooling is available in Shanghai.

My thoughts exactly. I have a colleague who can't afford to send his children to school here. He also investigated local Chinese schools. I'd assumed, mistakenly it seems, that getting them into a local school wouldn't be a problem.

Do you have any suggestions for local primaries Klick? I know my colleague is still keen to have his family join him in Shanghai but last time I talked to him it didn't seem possible.
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby Chavster » Mon Jul 16, 2012 1:20 pm

To my mind there are several other major stumbling blocks to be overcome before one worries about school fees, but of course it's a major concern.
Not sure why anyone would willingly bring kids into this environment without a solid schooling option (paid for) on the table.
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby Humac » Mon Jul 16, 2012 2:47 pm

Agree 100% Chavster, I don't understand why people would bring young children here but maybe it's an improvement on their home situation. But even if everything looks good for a move here then school fees can be a killer unless the company is paying. I'm not sure if the OP has taken that into account.
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby wagnett » Mon Jul 16, 2012 2:50 pm

OP mentioned that kids will be 2 and 4.5 at time of move, so schooling probably isn't such a concern for the first couple of years. Lots of kindergarten options around although some are quite expensive, and some quite full. But I agree in the longer term it is an issue; different kids have different needs and different capacities to adapt to situations.
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby Humac » Mon Jul 16, 2012 2:56 pm

wagnett wrote:OP mentioned that kids will be 2 and 4.5 at time of move, so schooling probably isn't such a concern for the first couple of years. Lots of kindergarten options around although some are quite expensive, and some quite full. But I agree in the longer term it is an issue; different kids have different needs and different capacities to adapt to situations.

The older one would be of school age when they get here, or just months away. International schools take pupils from the age of 3. (At least at the one I'm familiar with).
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby btravers33 » Mon Jul 16, 2012 3:42 pm

Shanghai is actually a noun and not a verb, or did I miss something?
A state which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands—even for beneficial purposes—will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished. - J.S. Mill
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Re: HK or Shanghai? Relocating w/young kids, not under corp

Postby Humac » Mon Jul 16, 2012 3:57 pm

btravers33 wrote:Shanghai is actually a noun and not a verb, or did I miss something?

Yes.
shang·hai
tr.v. shang·haied, shang·hai·ing, shang·hais
1. To kidnap (a man) for compulsory service aboard a ship, especially after drugging him.
2. To induce or compel (someone) to do something, especially by fraud or force: We were shanghaied into buying worthless securities.
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