Bringing your children to live with you in Shanghai can make you worry before your arrival. For any expat with children, options for the family are major considerations in any foreign assignment. Are there good schools and extra-curricular activities? Will my children be able to make new friends? Will they find any meaningful activities in Shanghai? These are crucial questions to explore, as are more simple ones: Are there parks? Is the air clean? Generally speaking, how will life be for your family in a country that is so different from yours? With the ex-pat busy with his or her new job, the kids will need healthy involvements that give life abroad in Shanghai meaning for them as well. Expat assignments can fail if the children are unhappy and make life miserable in the new home.
The good news is that Shanghai offers a wide choice in educational, recreational, and travel opportunities for the kids. See this Guide’s section on “After-School Activities for the Kids” for more information on this subject. Since China has a one-child policy, cities are very conscious of creating play areas and healthy activities for children. Shanghai has large numbers of child-friendly parks, museums, cinemas, shopping malls, and sporting events for the kids.
Let us put your mind at ease right away: you will find great international schools here, there are many Western food markets, the shopping for children’s clothes is beyond belief, there are ample opportunities for outings and trips to locations in and around Shanghai. Probably, your children will learn Chinese without having to study it in school. Your years here should represent a very positive part of your and your kids’ lives. This writer has seen an 8-year-old child talking naturally Chinese, English and Spanish in the same conversation. The gift of not only language but also exposure to a different culture and the ability to learn to adapt are skills that will last forever.
If your children are infants or young, then read the Guide’s section on “Babysitting.” In China, it is very easy and inexpensive to obtain the services of an “ayi,” or maid/cook/babysitter all in one. Of course, if you choose to live in the typical ex-pat residential areas, you will find many Western teenagers that can babysit as well.
Your children will have no problem eating Shanghai food since it is not overly spicy or oily. You can also find your favorite foods in the Carrefour, the Metro, or the City Supermarket. And yes, you will find an abundant number of Western establishments, such as Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, McDonald’s, KFC, Friday’s, and restaurants that specialize in American hamburgers, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Mexican, French, German, or Italian foods.
The bottom line is that your children will be safe in Shanghai and they will have a rich education, both in the classroom and in the Shanghai city itself.