American expat family on relocation and living in Shanghai

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Life in Shanghai as Expat Americans
We have only been in Shanghai six months. They say the first six months are the hardest. It hasn’t been very difficult to acclimate at all. Shanghai has a very large and strong expatriate population and has many services that make living here easier, particularly when you do not speak or read Mandarin.

There are a few things that must be sorted out prior to arriving in Shanghai which will make the adjustment easier and quicker. If you have school age children, choosing a school and applying is your first order of business. There are many good quality international and local schools (with international divisions) to choose from. The waiting lists are long. It is recommended that you research this on-line and contact the schools before arriving in Shanghai.

We decided to enroll our children in Shanghai High School (International Division). We made the decision based on the school’s curriculum, the school’s reputation, cost, and ease of admittance.

Once you know where the children will attend school and know where work locations are the next ‘to do’ is to find housing. SJTU staff were extremely helpful in arranging for realtors to show us housing in the area and to accompany us. However, this is not wholly necessary as many agencies do have English speaking staff. Being prepared by knowing what type of housing you want is helpful. Housing ranges from apartments to houses, city dwelling to suburban, inexpensive to posh. It’s best to go on-line for a quick view of what’s available. Just google ‘housing in Shanghai’ to see a sampling, in the end we used a realtor company called Salo Homes.

Once we arrived, it was important to get the children established in the recreational activities they had been enjoying at home. This helps them to make friends (helps parents socialize too), keeps them active, and adds some level of stability and familiarity to their routine. There are many kids groups such as Interkom (for teenagers), Girl and Boy Scouts, and sports leagues such as Active Kidz. Our boys now play soccer with DC Club – one of several expatriate soccer teams playing in the Shanghai International Youth Soccer League. Our daughter plays basketball through Activekidz and our youngest is playing recreational soccer through Active Kidz too.

Thankfully, we haven’t needed to visit with a doctor or hospital, but there are good services available through Parkway Health and Sino-United Health. It’s a good idea to check with your personal health insurance carrier to determine where you can go for medical needs and check-ups. Many foreign insurance plans are accepted here. Also, it’s a good idea to come with a supply of prescription drugs (at least 6 months worth) and any over the counter medications you regularly use. OTC medicines are not regulated and can be unreliable.

Each day brings a new challenge and provides a new ‘only in China’ story to tell. We have found that almost any craving for home can be satisfied by a trip to the market (there are many that sell American and other foreign brands), or to a favorite restaurant (KFC, Burger King, McDonald’s Dairy Queen, Papa John’s and Dominoes to name a few). We’ve purchased many videos – many are available in English or with English subtitles. We haven’t yet done so, but even a trip to a movie theater showing a film in English would help. There are six theaters around town showing English language films.

We’ve learned that just getting out and doing something or going somewhere new is a great way of adapting. The winter break will be a challenge – trying to find activities for 3 solid weeks! However, with the many tourist sites, museums, parks, and kids activities around town, I’m sure we’ll keep plenty busy.

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