Family Stories Travel 

Life for My Family in Shanghai: Meet William

This new series Life for My Family is going to explore what life is like for different families all over the Mandarin-speaking world, from Beijing to Xining to Singapore to Taipei. It’s meant to give you a taste of the prospective city you’re thinking of relocating to and check if the grass is greener… or rather.. if the jiaozi is better from that other dish.

This week, meet William who shared with us about family life Shanghai. 

I live in Shanghai with my wife (Lei), son (Owen, 9 years old) and daughter (Destiny, 11 years old). I am American and my wife is Chinese. Her family was originally from Shandong but my wife was raised in Xining, Qinghai which is located in the far west of the country.

[My children] both attend Wellington College International School in Shanghai.  My daughter is interested in playing the guitar and my son enjoys playing football. currently We love learning different languages, traveling and reading during our spare time. My wife and I are devoted to improving the quality of language teaching and learning in Shanghai. To that end, we created and founded Meiying Foreign Language Training Center 7 years ago. The center currently has around 550 students and employs 10 teachers and supporting staff.

School students at Wellington College International. Photo Rights Remain with Wellington College International.

How much is a two-bedroom apartment in your area of Shanghai (and estimate of size)?
A two bedroom in our apartment will cost about 8,000 RMB/month to rent (80 square meters).

If you would like to by such an apartment, it will cost about 800,000-900,000 USD.

How much is an order of jiaozi?
Good jiaozi aren’t too expensive. Niurou jiaozi cost around 26 kuai on the e-lema app.

How much is cheese?
Good cheese will cost between 25-60 kuai from the local Walmart depending on the quality.

What’s the best way to get around in Shanghai?
The best way to get around Shanghai is to take the metro.

Can you use only English in your part of Shanghai?
Definitely not. I live in Pudong New Area in a local neighborhood so we have to use Chinese mostly. There are other areas of the city such as the French Concession where one could get by using English primarily however.

How much longer do you see yourself living in Shanghai or in that specific area? Why?
We will be here for the long term and we see Shanghai as our base as we have bought an apartment here. Also the majority of our business interests are here.

Tell me about your friends and favorite thing to do in your part of Shanghai.
Most of my friends are also co-founders of companies or teachers and we usually get together to play Mahjong (believe it or not) as well as go to KTV to sing songs. My favorite thing to do overall is to drive around the Bund on the weekend and explore new areas of the city.

Tell us the most interesting or funny experience your family has had in your neighborhood in Shanghai.
The most interesting thing that has ever happened was the day that I dressed up as a bear (complete costume) and went to school. People thought it was funny and my children were trying their best to avoid me!

How many social events are there with expats? With Locals?
Expats are well established in the city. There are a cornucopia of events for expats. For example, I am a member of the Royal Asiatic Society, a group that meets to discuss Chinese history and novels. It is a group composed primarily of expats with similar interests. You can find other groups in the city as well with interests ranging from Capoiera to poetry and hip hop. The international nature of the city makes this possible. Currently, InterNations is perhaps the most popular app/website for connecting expats and locals around common interests ranging from e-commerce to social networking.

What do most families do for fun in your area of Shanghai?
I live next to the Expo site where Shanghai held the world expo in 2011. The area is currently hosts the River Mall, KTV, western bars, the Mercedes Benz arena and a BMW Experience site. Many people visit these places during their free time.

How are the schools in Shanghai?
My children really enjoy the schools here. I do not know much about local schools but the international school scene is very well developed and there are a range of options for expats. At their school, they have extra curricular activities every afternoon and they have an extra hour at the end of the day for completing homework so they can focus on other activities when they come home.

(By the way, check out Wellington College International’s video on their homepage. Pretty cool! Cost of tuition is similar to that of other international schools in Beijing.)

Is there work for expats other than teaching?
Yes, of course. In Shanghai, one can find expats working as engineers, cooks, waiters/waitresses and even at Walmart. An expat was passing out cookies at Walmart last week to boost sales.

For more information about Shanghai, check out these resources:

Shanghai Family

Time Out Shanghai

Urban Family Shanghai

16 Things to Do in Shanghai (awesome comprehensive listicle for travel!)

JingKids Shanghai (Chinese language)

Do you have questions about Shanghai? Planning on visiting or moving? Or do you have tips to give other expats who want to visit or move to Shanghai?

Click the link for the group of other China-focused parents on Facebook  or on WeChat by scanning my QR code and asking to join the WeChat group.

Vanessa Jencks founded China Family Blog to connect internationally-minded parents through semi-humorous stories and China-life-and-parenting fails. She is the former managing editor of beijingkids magazine; see her previous work here. She is also the founder of the 600+ member organization, Innovative Educators

WeChat: vanessajencks



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