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About Vivian

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  1. The French Concession was one of the first parts of Shanghai to take on the cosmopolitan flavor that the city is famous for today. A stroll through this area allows you to experience old-world colonial charm, ultra-modern skyscrapers and local Chinese culture, blended into a fascinating ambience that is hard to find anywhere else in the world. Nowhere is this more apparent than the area surrounding the luxury property named Patina Court, which offers a combination of business and residential spaces for the city’s elite to work hard and play hard. Patina Court stands right next to Xujiahui Road, a busy street buzzing with the frantic energy of small businesses and multinational offices. Nearby Jianguo Road offers a more intimate slice of local Shanghai life. The trendy café’s, boutiques and art studios of Tianzifang stands in between these two streets. This is a popular creative district perfect for those who appreciate art, fine wine and sumptuous meals. Further away is Ruijin Road, a busy thoroughfare which manages to retain its colonial charm by the plane trees and quaint boutiques lining the side. Sinan Mansions is a quick 5-10 minute taxi ride away (depending on traffic). This is a massive luxury-focused redevelopment of 49 colonial-era mansions built in the 20’s and 30’s, which now houses some of the city’s best lounges, restaurants and stores. This area epitomizes luxury living, and Patina Court allows Shanghai’s privileged to fully enjoy this district from a comfortable homebase. Patina Court is especially convenient for successful businesspeople looking to transfer their skills to Shanghai. This development consists of a 25-story office tower alongside a 28-story serviced apartment building. This is ideal for professionals, who can set up a comprehensive office space in the same development as their home. Unwinding on your own couch after a stressful meeting can be a simple pleasure, and a quiet lunch in your own kitchen can recharge your batteries for the second half of the workday. This apartment complex offers everything from 2- to 4-bedroom apartments, all decorated in a European Baroque style that is posh without being overbearing. Tenants have access to a high-class clubhouse, which includes everything from an indoor pool and gym to a beauty salon. Likewise, a highly-trained staff provides 24-security and housekeeping on a regular basis. The service and luxury provided by Patina Homes can truly enhance the type of high-end lifestyle that is perfectly suited to the surrounding area.
  2. Dapuqiao is a bustling area on the southern edge of the French Concession. This was one of the earliest areas in Shanghai to be developed, and is now home to a number of high-rise residential and commercial buildings. Tucked away amidst these skyscrapers is Tianzifang, one of the most popular creative districts in the city. Once a residential area, developers have converted these traditional Shikumen houses into a wide array of trendy boutiques, classy café’s, and charming art studios alongside souvenir shops that may provide the occasional gem. As Alan Garcia, an expatriate from New York, puts it, “Tianzifang is one of the best places in the city for alfresco dining, and has some of my favorite boutiques and stores that you just can’t find anywhere else.” The narrow lanes of Tianzifang rarely seem claustrophobic. Rather, the crowded alleyways tend to offer the area a quaint charm. However, the recent influx of tourists can be overwhelming during peak hours (usually weekend afternoons). According to Garcia, this area “can get a little too crowded and busy as it’s becoming more of a tourist destination. But seeing locals living in their old Shikumen houses alongside these chic shops and café’s is a can’t-miss experience.” Shoppers looking to bolster their wardrobe can check out La Vie, the flagship store of internationally-renowned designer Jenny Ji. Those interested in the local creative scene can stop by the Shoubai Art Gallery, a sprawling 2-story exhibition space featuring Shanghainese art. Those looking to kick back and relax also have a wide selection of café’s and restaurants to choose from. Origin is one of the most popular organic restaurants in the city, offering a mouth-watering array of fresh-squeezed juices, salads and sandwiches. Casa 13 is a trendy Mediterranean restaurant occupying an old 3-story lanehouse. The rooftop terrace is ideal for romantic summer nights, while the tasteful interior can offer a cozy retreat in the colder months. Tianzifang is on Taikang Road, right across the street from Dapu Bridge metro station (line 9). For those taking a taxi, the closest major intersection is Ruijin Second Road and Taikang Road. Luckily, the Dapuqiao area boasts a number of apartment complexes. In particular, Patina Court offers fully-serviced apartments for those who want to live a luxurious lifestyle within walking distance of Tianzifang. Stay tuned to Luxury Living in Shanghai if you want to learn more about Patina Court.
  3. The pearl of the Orient. The whore of the Orient. Depending on the individual, Shanghai can conjure up a lot of different images for people who have never stepped foot here. For most Westerners, this city offers a mix of opulence and opportunity, exotic experiences and culture shock. Most importantly, Shanghai is the commercial vanguard of China’s sprint into the 21st-century. Once upon a time, multinational companies had to offer lucrative compensation packages for their employees to move to the ‘3rd-world’ region of Shanghai. This city has long since cast off the undeserved reputation of an undeveloped environment. Indeed, Shanghai has become one of the most sought-after destinations for those with dollars in their eyes and adventure in their hearts. Entire industries have sprung up to provide luxury living to Shanghai’s 130,000+ foreigners, offering everything from spa resorts and yacht clubs to lavish lounges and the trendiest boutiques. Life in Shanghai can be rich, fulfilling and completely unique. However, a comfortable lifestyle requires preparation and knowledge. Dirt-cheap dumplings (jiaozi for those living here) can be a great snack right after touching down in Shanghai, but there comes a time when many foreigners start craving the cuisine of home. While the skyscrapers here can be breathtaking at first glance, they can become claustrophobic at the 100th glance, making the city’s green parks a welcome respite. Likewise, this city offers a wide range of luxury villas and fully-serviced apartments for wealthier foreigners. However, many are located in areas which may not be ideal for certain lifestyles and certain demographics. It can be tough enough adjusting to the drastically different culture and language after touching down. Fortunately, there are professional relocation agencies that can help you find a home, process your visa and even find the perfect international school for your kids. However, a truly luxurious lifestyle requires knowledge: for example, of where the best spa’s and boutiques are, of where you can go to get away from the frantic energy of Shanghai’s urban sprawl, of what each serviced apartment complex offers. This section is for readers thinking of, or preparing to, move to Shanghai. Luxury Living in Shanghai will act as a guide for those readers who want to continue their luxurious lifestyle in this city.
  4. Jing’an Residence 8 is a fully-serviced apartment complex offering tenants opulent living right in the heart of the French Concession. The front doors of this complex open right onto the tree-lined streets of this historical district. This area is home to a large number of international companies, making Jing’an 8 a convenient base for those seeking easy access to these offices. These surroundings are ideal not only for businessmen, but also for those looking to enjoy Shanghai’s vibrant social scene. Jing’an 8 is within walking distance from many of the city’s most popular restaurants, lounges and café’s. It is easy for tenants to enjoy after-work margaritas at Cantina Agave, or to experiment with everything from Nepalese to Phillipino cuisine in the eateries lining the nearby Julu Road. Jing’an Residence 8 offers recreational facilities suitable for all sorts of people. Aspiring athletes have access to a fully-equipped gym and aerobics room, as well as sauna and steam rooms to unwind in after an intense workout or a stressful workday. Parents looking for a bit of quiet time can place their kids in the playroom while they catch up on the latest edition of the Economist in the reading area, or sip on a cappuccino in the resident’s lounge. Interested apartment-hunters can find 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom units, all furnished with the highest-quality and most aesthetically-pleasing decorations. A fully-trained staff offers 24-hour security, 24-hour customer service and housekeeping. Tenants also have access to a fully-equipped business center for the premium balance between luxury and convenience.
  5. Sitting just at the edge of the edge of the Inner Ring Road, Belvedere Serviced apartments offers tenants the chance to experience luxury living in one of the most appealing parts of Shanghai. Almost every major city in China boasts its own Zhongshan Park. Shanghai’s Zhongshan Park is a brisk 5 minute walk Belvedere’s front door, offering pedestrians a convenient oasis to recover from the city’s frantic streets. The park is ideal for lazy Sunday picnics and impromptu games of soccer. Sunny days almost always bring a large crowd of local kite-fanatics, flying a variety of colorful, elaborate kites high above the city skyline. Belvedere is also ideal for epicureans keen to experience exotic cuisine from all over Asia. The cavernous Cloud 9 shopping mall boasts dozens of restaurants, offering everything from standard Cantonese cuisine to Japanese teppanyaki restaurants and Korean barbeques. This area is also home to Dingxi Road, a street famed throughout China for its restaurants. An eating tour down this road will bring you into contact with cuisines from all over China, many of which are sure to both shock and satisfy new arrivals in China. Belvedere is only a 2 minute walk from the closest metro station, which offers tenants convenient access to some of the most popular metro lines in the city. A 10 minute ride on metro line 2 will take you to the posh bistro’s and classy shopping centers of Nanjing Road. Likewise, this apartment is only a 15-minute drive from Hongqiao Airport, which receives flights from all over China. Belvedere is a fully serviced apartment, offering apartments suitable for everyone from bachelors and bachelorettes to families. Tenants can shop for essentials without ever having to leave the building, with a supermarket and department store right in the basement of the facility. The apartment also boasts its own restaurant and coffee house. Fully-trained staff offer 24-hour security and a housekeeping service. Belvedere truly offers its tenants first-rate service in a luxurious environment.
  6. Leasing an apartment in Shanghai can be a high-pressure experience. This is not a buyer’s market, where eager apartment-hunters can take their time sampling properties. My first experience renting an apartment in Shanghai went without a hitch. The first place I saw was perfect in terms of location and price. The interior was older than what I was used to in Canada, but it was comfortable and more than adequate for my needs. My second experience showed me just how urgent a Shanghai apartment-hunt can be. I decided to move into a new place once the lease was up, and was lucky enough to receive the help of Julie (one of our top property consultants). I found 3 places which I liked, but all fell through for one reason or another (one uncooperative landlord and two which were leased out to other tenants before we could close the deal). On Tuesday the 14th we saw a unit in Wuyi Gardens, an older complex just south of the bustling Zhongshan Park. The buildings’ exteriors were utilitarian and ugly, but the compound had a nice garden and well-maintained facilities. Besides for some frilly purple curtains, this 11th-floor unit met all my needs for an apartment. It had a great view of the city with a roomy interior, two balconies, a good price, and most importantly (for me), a great location. I called my roommate and told him to get down here as fast as possible, but he was coming from Hongkou on the opposite end of the city so I knew it would be a while before he got here. The agent that Julie and I were with (a close contact of our company) knew of another open apartment a few blocks away. Although he claimed that the unit was amazing, he also said informed me it was a 1st-floor unit slightly more expensive than the one I was standing in. Immediately, I decided against leasing it, but out of sheer boredom I agreed to go see this place. After 10 miserable minutes in the rain, we opened the door and I paused in the doorway, shocked at how nice the place was. A big dining room stretched out into an even bigger living room…which stretched out even further into a roomy private garden out back. Author’s Note: ‘gardens’ are how the locals describe the small, private courtyards behind many 1st-floor properties. Some of these might have actual gardens in the Western sense of the word (with flowers, shrubbery, etc.) However, many of these are just walled off backyards. This place was a slam dunk. I knew it was perfect on first sight, but I had just started my job at Shanghai Housing and didn’t fully appreciate the cutthroat nature of a Shanghai apartment-hunt. I wasn’t sure whether my roommate would be willing to pay the premium for this place, so I decided to show him the first apartment before bringing him back. Julie was sick (and had been running around with a rough cold for much of the week), so she opted to stay in the apartment instead of walking further in the rain. In the 30 minutes that we were gone, she fended off two other parties of apartment-hunters who showed a lot of interest in the place. My roommate had the exact same reaction to the garden flat that I had. It took us about 2 minutes of giddy exploration before we decided to sign the lease. It was a huge weight off my shoulders to find a new apartment…one that not only met my requirements, but that exceeded all my expectations as to what was within my budget. It was pure luck that Julie decided to stay behind, and if she had been feeling a little healthier I would probably have lost that apartment to someone else. Shanghai’s a big city, and I’m sure I would have found another great place to live in…but I think I might have felt a little bitter if we had ended up moving into another place. Luck was how I managed to get this apartment. But now I know the importance of decisiveness and quick-thinking when finding a new home in Shanghai.
  7. The name ‘Shanghai’ evokes images of skyscrapers, elevated highways and traffic jams. Indeed, most of the urban core reflects this stereotype. Although this manic energy can be captivating, it can also be overwhelming at times. Fortunately for long-term residents, there are a number of opportunities on the outskirts of Shanghai to enjoy the natural beauty of the region. Among these is the Shanghai Boat and Yacht Club (SBYC), which allows members to sail on the gorgeous Dianshan Lake, a 62km2 freshwater lake in Qingpu County. Dianshan Lake has a long history stretching back nearly 6000 years, when Neolithic cultures such as the Songze and the Fuquan Hill people flourished in this region. This area has long been revered by the Chinese for its natural beauty. As such, Dianshan Lake makes an ideal location for sunny Saturdays spent on the water. With its gorgeous landscape combined with its convenient location to downtown Shanghai, it is not surprising that this area has become popular for wealthier expatriates and locals looking for a peaceful getaway. The area boasts a number of attractions and facilities that are ideal for families, including a variety of historic landmarks and clubs offering everything from golfing to rowing. The SBYC is one of the best-known clubs in the area. This non-profit was founded in 2001 by a group of avid sailers. This passion for the sport has continued to be an integral part of the club as it has expanded into one of the most popular water-sport groups around Shanghai. Although they have changed locations a number of times, the SBYC has settled into the marina of the Shanghai Country Club, which boasts a driving range and luxurious resort facilities. This means that SBYC members can relax in the restaurant or shoot a game of pool after a day spent sailing. Note: The SBYC is a separate organization from the SCC While sailing is far from a mainstream sport in Shanghai, the club has grown to 180 members, many of whom are local Chinese who have grown to love the sport. Much of this success has been due to the Open Days, which offers all members of the public (regardless of sailing experience) a chance to come try their hand at sailing. More experienced members can take part in races that are hosted on a regular basis throughout the warmer months. Interested sailors can pay 50RMB for the special charter bus to the SBYC facilities. This runs on most Saturdays and Sundays from East Xujing Metro station (at the west end of Line 2, past Hongqiao Airport) at 9:00am, and departs back to Shanghai 5:00pm. Times and arrangements are subject to change, and you should keep an eye on their website. You can also take the Hu Shang Xian (沪商线) public bus for 8RMB, which departs from the intersection of Danshui Road and Changle Road. Readers interested in schedules, membership information and other related material should also check out the SBYC website.
  8. Casa Lakeville is a high-end residential development on the east-end of the French Concession, just steps away from the posh entertainment district of Xintiandi and the bustling commercial area of Huaihai Middle Road. Completed in 2009, this is one of the most modern and luxurious apartments available to Shanghai residents. Despite being located in one of the most vibrant areas of the city, Casa Lakeville offers its residents a lush, green environment that is perfect for relaxation. Residents are a quick 2 minute walk from the gorgeous Taipingqiao Lake, a manmade lake and park in the heart of Xintiandi. Likewise, the compound itself offers a picturesque array of ponds, gardens and other greenery that can be a peaceful oasis in the middle of Shanghai’s busiest areas. Casa Lakeville is located in one of the most convenient districts in the city, especially for high-end professionals with high-end tastes. Corporate Avenue, on Hubin Road at the north-end of Taipingqiao Lake, is only 3 blocks away. This is a collection of Grade A office buildings meant specifically for multinational offices. A 10-minute walk north will bring you to the famous Huaihai Middle Road, which offers a dazzling array of trendy boutiques, world-famous brands and high-end commercial buildings. Xintiandi, one of the trendiest entertainment districts in the city, is on the doorstep of Casa Lakeville. The shops, café’s and restaurants of Xintiandi were re-developed from an old collection of <em>Shikumen </em>houses (literally, ‘stone gate’ houses). <em>Shikumen</em> houses offer an appealing blend of Eastern and Western architectural designs. These were popular in the 1920s and 30s, and are unique to Shanghai. Residents of Casa Lakeville have convenient access to this trendy area, where they can experience world-class luxury within the quaint ambience of these traditional Shanghainese buildings. Residents also have a wide-range of comforts at their disposal within the compound, such as the state-of-the-art clubhouse. Fitness fanatics can work out in the fitness center or indoor swimming pool, while those with a love of fine living can enjoy the quiet atmosphere of the café, art gallery or cigar lounge. Residents with a busy work schedule can work in the fully-equipped business center while their children enjoy the playroom. Fashionistas can also enjoy the Casa Lakeville fashion center, which boasts a number of flagship stores for international brands, a design training institute and a City Shop supermarket, offering residents the best organic ingredients around. The apartments within Casa Lakeville are all designed with a modern, minimalist decoration scheme in mind. The furniture is both tasteful and comfortable, which will impress guests with both its aesthetic qualities as well as its relaxing nature. The apartments were constructed specifically to suit international tastes. As such, the central AC/heating and the double-glazed windows (both rare in Shanghai) offer a welcome respite from the bitter winters and humid summers.
  9. Keeping yourself safe and looked after as an expat means having a reliable and solid health insurance policy. Whilst health coverage for expats can be more expensive whilst living overseas than at home, there are ways of minimizing the impact on your pocket. First of all, it helps to understand the basics of how insurance premiums are calculated and the variables which fit into the equation. Age is obviously one of the biggest factors. You can’t of course make yourself younger, but you can shop around as different plans and different insurers take this factor into account differently which of course results in different premiums. With so many packages and options on the market, it’s easy to get bogged down in details and end up being covered for certain things which you may not require - so work out what you really need. Think about what kind of coverage is essential - you may be offered full coverage which covers things like pregnancy which can add to the overall cost significantly. Does your health insurance include an medical emergency evacuation plan? No doubt this is something which is great to have. But you may feel that your budget doesn’t stretch so far and that you are confident enough to be treated in local facilities should something serious happen. So think carefully about the minimum you need for peace of mind, and make a list of these items. Once you’ve done that, you will be better equipped to find a policy which matches your needs and doesn’t stretch your wallet too far. In terms of geography, most expat health insurance policies offer worldwide cover, or worldwide excluding the USA. Due to the high cost of the American medical system, premiums for packages which entitle the holder to cover in the United States can cost twice as much. So it’s a no-brainer to buy cover that excludes the US if you never find yourself in the US. Your insurer may also offer even cheaper policies based on individual country coverage, but be careful that you will be covered where you need to be. Generally speaking, for most expats living in Asia who are not American citizens, worldwide excluding US cover is a popular option, but if you do not plan to be outside of your host country for any specific length of time, then cover for that country alone will bring down price. Some insurers also offer very customizeable plans which enable you to select co-pays, coinsurance or deductibles which reduce premiums but may require you to pay for more treatment as and when you require it.
  10. As much as you care about the health of your family, you need to consider the health of the people who care for your family. Communicable diseases such as hepatitis and tuberculosis are more prevalent in China than they may be in your home country, and these diseases are relatively easily transmitted through common household tasks (like food preparation) that an Ayi might undertake. As your Ayi and driver become an integral part of your family, their health becomes an important factor in the smooth running of your household, and is important to protect the health of your family. Whether caring for your children, preparing family meals, or driving you to work, feel secure knowing that they are healthy members of your household. The health checks can be conducted in most hospitals in Shanghai.
  11. Relocating to Shanghai can be a frustrating and scary time for even the most traveled expat families, moving house stressful, but when relocating to Shanghai, its a new not just a new home, its a new lifestyle, new country, new laws and a totally new language and getting things done isn’t so easy, which is why you need a relocation team who can support you and your family every step of the way. Its important to research online and get as much information about your relocation to Shanghai as possible, and maybe even visit Shanghai for a short holiday before actually relocating, to get you and your family prepared. Shanghai is currently the number 1 destination for expatriates, with many other families in the same position as you, information sharing, advice and answers to your relocation questions can always be found. Shanghai is full of housing suitable for expatriates depending on your shanghai relocation budget, prices range from as little as $700 for a small downtown apartment to $7000 for a large luxury duplex apartment, lane house or villa. Where you decide to live in Shanghai is very important, its a huge city and traffic can be bad, however the Subway lines are very convenient. We would suggest finding out where you will be working and also what schools your children will be attending before deciding upon a area or accommodation, this is another reason why we suggest visiting before actually relocating to Shanghai. Helpful real estate and relocation professionals are available in Shanghai, Shanghai Housing has English speaking and expatriate staff who are available 24/7 to assist you with your relocation and housing search. When searching for an apartment in Shanghai you should be ready to place a deposit, with Shanghai being such a hot relocation destination good deals move fast, If you visit Shanghai before relocating, we would advise you of visiting a few housing compounds in the area you wish to stay and advise Shanghai Housing of your specific requirements before your actual relocation to Shanghai. https://shanghaihousing.com/
  12. Seasoned parents will tell you that raising teenagers anywhere in the world requires, above all else, building trust, establishing expectations and setting limits through clear two-way communication. It’s no different in Shanghai, but the size of the city and all its temptations provide some specific challenges. If you are inclined to worry about your teenagers striking out on the road to independence here, there are some important things to keep uppermost in mind: your teenagers are in a very exciting city that is relatively safe for them to explore. They have an opportunity to learn about a wealth of cultures and to cultivate a life-long habit of respecting differences in others. In many cases, they attend schools that provide a more rigorous education than they would find at home. They also have an opportunity to learn Mandarin Chinese, a language that schools elsewhere are scrambling to add to the curriculum. You have provided them with enormous advantages by settling them here for their teenage years. Seasoned parents will tell you that raising teenagers anywhere in the world requires, above all else, building trust, establishing expectations and setting limits through clear two-way communication. It’s no different in Shanghai, but the size of the city and all its temptations provide some specific challenges. If you are inclined to worry about your teenagers striking out on the road to independence here, there are some important things to keep uppermost in mind: your teenagers are in a very exciting city that is relatively safe for them to explore. They have an opportunity to learn about a wealth of cultures and to cultivate a life-long habit of respecting differences in others. In many cases, they attend schools that provide a more rigorous education than they would find at home. They also have an opportunity to learn Mandarin Chinese, a language that schools elsewhere are scrambling to add to the curriculum. You have provided them with enormous advantages by settling them here for their teenage years. Moving to China. Chances are that your teenager didn’t have a voice in the decision to move. In some lucky families, the child may nonetheless embrace the adventure. But for many, the move is wrenching, coming at a time when their peer group is paramount. Suddenly, your teenager finds him/herself in a school where the other kids don’t dress the same, don’t do the same things after school, don’t care about the same sports teams, don’t listen to the same music, and, in the school corridors and at lunch-time, may be conversing in a language s/he doesn’t understand. Parents need to recognize just how powerless and alone their child may feel and react accordingly. If you have any say-so, arrive in Shanghai shortly before school starts, since a June arrival offers the specter of months with a sad/angry teen alone and using every electronic means available to contact friends at home. But if early summer is when you must come, do your best to connect your teen with peers through the Community Center Shanghai (see below) and by joining expat organizations, some of which have activities in the summer, that will connect you with other families. Another bit of advice: whenever possible, try to include your teenagers in the major family decisions that flow from the decision to move. Would they prefer to live in downtown Shanghai or out in the suburbs closer to the international schools? What are they interested in experiencing in China – including concerts and major sports events that are only available in such a large city? What are the vacation destinations – many inaccesible from their home country – which hold special appeal? Scuba diving in Thailand? Hiking along the Great Wall? Riding a horse in Mongolia? Don’t be surprised if it takes quite a while for your child to grow comfortable in his or her new home. The positive side of the equation is that by genuinely sharing the adjustment, modeling positive behavior by engaging the opportunities here yourself, and making yourself available for plenty of listening, you will strengthen your relationship with your teenager in ways that you probably never would have if you had not left home. Social Life – and issues. Your teenager’s new social life will probably begin once school starts and, especially for younger teens, will largely be organized around school activities. Some do a better job than others at offering an after-school life, with sports teams, clubs, community service projects, and general hanging-out time and space. The latter is especially important given how far-flung are the students’ homes. At Shanghai American School, for example, about once a month, parents and school cooperate to hold a Friday afternoon ‘open gym’, where kids have the run of much of the school to play ball, watch a movie, see a school play or other performance, while munching on pizza and snacks. Beyond school-based activities, the Community Center (with locations in Hongqiao and Pudong) offers many opportunities for teens to get together, including writing classes, inter-school dances, coffeehouses, and half-day trips within the city. Teenagers of all ages might enjoy some of the following activities on their own or with friends: going rock climbing at the climbing wall at Shanghai Stadium, catching a movie in English at a local theater, going bowling, or ice skating at several places around town. (For specific information, see Resources, below.) As early as eighth grade, many expat teenagers like to go out to eat at local restaurants and sip a drink at Starbucks with their friends on weekend evenings. Because the city is so safe (relative to large Western cities), while taxis are inexpensive and reliable, and the subway system is extending rapidly, youngsters can have the run of the town. As they get older, teenage social life often shifts to Shanghai’s nightclubs. If you don’t know them, you can check out their ads in the local expat publications: Bonbon, Murals, The Shelter, to name a few favorites. Worry about drinking in the clubs can send a parent’s blood pressure through the roof, and for good reason. Beer is cheap, and so are shots sold by the tray; some clubs offer all you can drink for a fixed (low) price. Binge drinking can and does happen. Whether to allow your children to go clubbing, at what age, and until how late are questions about which families must reach their own conclusions. But consider the following. With alcohol cheap and available at every convenience store, you are going to have to address the issue of drinking head-on. Kids can drink in public parks, and they can (and do) in restaurants. Forbidding them to go clubbing will not, in and of itself, keep them from drinking. Strange as it may sound, the clubs also meet some legitimate social needs, providing an opportunity for teenagers from all over the city to meet casually in a central place, chat, listen to music, and dance. Unlike in the States, however, if they want to drink, they don’t have to load up in furtive binge drinking before heading to the party. Clubs actually offer an opportunity to learn responsible drinking in moderation over the course of an evening. Perhaps not surprisingly, many Shanghai-raised teens report being bored or annoyed with the emphasis on very heavy drinking at parties that they encounter in college. And,thankfully, unlike many parents in other countries, parents here are not sick with worry over whether their child is driving or riding with a drunk teenager. Whatever rules you decide upon, you are well-advised to communicate with your child’s friends’ parents. Norms about curfews and the age at which it is OK to drink socially vary hugely according to culture in Shanghai. You will want to settle on realistic limitations that you are comfortable with, and expect your teenagers to understand and abide by them – and you will want to monitor their activity. If you are opposed to your children smoking cigarettes, you are also advised to be very clear with them about the dangers and likelihood of addiction even from casual smoking. Cigarettes may be purchased in China by anyone for just a few yuan. Attitudes toward smoking vary greatly here, even among Western cultures, so you may find that your teen’s friend’s parents, whether Chinese or Western, aren’t particularly bothered by their teenager’s smoking. If you don’t want your teenager to smoke, you must be very clear about this. Now to the other big concern: drugs. Whatever goes on in the clubs, it is a certainty that marijuana is widely available to youngsters in Shanghai. Parents whose children talk openly to them are surprised at where, and how often, total strangers offer to sell it to them. Unfortunately, the natural sense of infallibility associated with adolescence sometimes seems to be heightened in expat teenagers, much of whose lives take place within a rarefied bubble. You may want to stress, over and over, with your teens that the laws in China are strict; whether or not strictly enforced against expats, they could be at any time. Their legal rights may be quite limited and the process and sanctions could be severe. This is not a risk worth taking nor a limit that can in any way be stretched. When teenagers visit from other countries, you may want to reiterate this – whatever they may do in their home countries, they may not use drugs here. Repatriation. These days, there is a growing recognition that children raised overseas, including those who may have spent only a few years of high school away, are ‘third culture kids’, also known as ‘global nomads’. What’s special about them is that they are at home as foreigners; although they don’t feel that they are Chinese, when they return to their home countries, they may feel that they are somehow different. The negative aspect of this is that, to varying degrees, they may again feel especially lonely, and wonder what’s wrong with them when ‘home’ doesn’t feel like home. Fortunately, there are a number of books and articles available (see examples below) to assure kids that these feelings are quite natural. And for parents who wouldn’t have them any other way, it’s important to help our young men and women realize that their unique ability to understand the viewpoints of others, and the openness to learning and questioning that are characteristic of third culture kids, are enormous gifts in the world that they are entering.
  13. You get the calls most day from IFAs – or Independent Financial Advisers in Shanghai and other big business centers in Asia. Sometimes they seem like an unwelcome intrusion, but the irony is that some of these guys really do know what they’re talking about and can really help you get a handle on your long-term financial planning. But some don’t. How do you tell the difference? Begin your due diligence with a few basic questions. Start from the perspective that there are two ways for an advisor or planner to ruin your life. Some are simply dishonest – and these bastards are evil and toxic. But even more dangerous is the well-meaning incompetent who really, truly believes that highly leveraged forex contracts are appropriate for middle-aged managers trying to send their kids to university and retire comfortably. These are the guys who slip under your radar and get past your defenses because they are honest and sound credible. In time, they’ll learn their trade – or find their dream-job in investment banking – but you don’t want to be the horror-story that helps them find their way. The single most important question to ask is “where is my money going”? Good planners will never take possession of your funds – they are representing BIG, STABLE institutions that will be around come hell or high-water. When the world ends, the only thing left will be cockroaches and insurance companies – and cockroaches don’t offer fund management services. (insert your own insurance/MBA banker/lawyer joke here) 5 burns that China-based financial planning clients need to beware of. 1) The Big Promise. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If the phrase ‘guaranteed’ is in the same sentence as ‘above-average returns’, you have a potential problem. There are instruments out there that do offer certain guarantees, but these are usually linked to bonds – and pay out in the neighborhood of 4 – 6% per year over 5 – 10 year terms. No one can guarantee that they can double your money in one year. This is more of a local issue than an ex-pat one, but those of you with wives, girlfriends and associates who day-trade may find yourselves tempted. Don’t go there. 2) Churn & Burn. Some brokers and companies get paid by the transaction—not the performance. Switching from one fund to another can be expensive – in some cases VERY expensive. It doesn’t matter how blue your blue-chip instrument may be – when those chips get tossed around too much you can expect to lose a few – or a lot. Good planners will make sure that your account is not getting traded unnecessarily often – or that you are not paying for the trades. 3) Selling proprietary products.Different instruments and services can have wildly different commissions for the seller – regardless of performance. Big fund management companies like Merrill Lynch and HSBC don’t really care that much about individual front-line sales organizations (like your financial planner), and offer similar deals across the board. Property developers, commodities traders, structured products, gold mines and other special situations should be analyzed on a case-by-case basis. Some may be fine. Others could be far riskier for you than for the guy offering you the inside track. (The big banks and institutions have been offered EVERYTHING first. If you are getting in on the ground floor, it’s because Wall Street and Exchange Square have already passed on it.) 4) Opaque fee structures. This is a tricky one, because the best insurance companies tend to have the most maddening contracts and fee structures. A good planner will take the time to attempt to explain things as clearly as possible. It’s normal (but not necessary) to see entry fees, exit fees, administration fees, management fees and set-up fees. The underlying mutual funds that will ultimately grow your investments have their OWN sets of fees. You are looking for 2 things from a good planner, and the first is an illustration or projection that is NET of fees. (For instance, the firm I work with uses internal projections of 12% returns, but shows clients samples based on a 9% return – net of fees, and then some.) The second thing to ask about is official documentation covering the significant fees and charges. Your contract (and yes, you not only need to receive a contract – but you really have to read it) will include everything – but is very hard to figure out. If you are investing in mutual funds through a large insurance company, you can expect to pay something in the neighborhood of 2 – 3% per year OVER THE LIFE OF YOUR INVESTMENT CONTRACT. Don’t be afraid of high charges at the beginning – or fooled by seemingly inexpensive products that have big exit-fees or administration charges. Your planner should be able to give you a life-of-contract fee breakdown (or at least an estimate), in addition to itemizing each individual charge or fee. 5) Good intentions. Who is making the ultimate decision about where your funds end up? Some front line salesman who is minding your portfolio while reading the financial headlines (or football match scores) – or a professional fund manager who does this for a living. Selling and managing are two completely different jobs. Balancing your portfolio shouldn’t be a hobby and it shouldn’t be a sideline. No matter how much you may trust or respect the person selling you the funds, you need to know that he is supported by an organization with a systematic approach to investing that will remain in place after your man is back home with the lads at the local. This is list is just the beginning –and it may be more appropriate in China than it would be back home. You should be skeptical, but not cynical. The best way to protect yourself against financial planning trouble is to be proactive about educating yourself and checking out your prospective advisers thoroughly.
  14. Housing is an issue that you don’t want to deal with too lightly, for reasons that are obvious: budget, comfort, safety and privacy. Housing in Shanghai is still relatively cheap compared to the fees that universities charge for dormitories. As a foreign student in Shanghai, you will have two housing options: on-campus accommodation and off-campus apartment rental. On-campus Accommodation Most major universities in Shanghai have their own foreign student dorms. The rooms vary in size, pricing and amenities. Not all universities offer single rooms, and those that do, charge a fee that can easily get you a two-bedroom apartment off-campus. If you get a shared room, you will be assigned a roommate. Usually, you have no say in choosing said roommate, but sometimes it can be worked out, provided the school administration approves. Single rooms and shared rooms are virtually identical in size, and allotted furniture. Shared rooms usually do NOT have air conditioning and generally don’t come with a private bathroom. Bathroom and showers are shared by an entire floor. Facts to consider: For single room accommodation, universities charge a daily fee ranging from US $10 to US$20. Most phones in dorm rooms do not allow direct dialing out, instead they use prepaid cards. You can, however, receive phone calls in your room. You are not allowed local visitors in your room, unless they are foreigners or Chinese students enrolled in your university. The latter must register at the front desk and must leave campus before 10 pm. Some universities have recently enforced regulations that, for “security reasons”, don’t allow foreign visitors on the premises, either, unless they can prove their residence at the dorm (usually showing your room key will suffice). Off-campus Accommodation For reasons of convenience and privacy, many students choose to rent apartments off campus. Monthly rent is usually the same, if not cheaper than living in the student dormitory. Apartment rental generally varies from US$400 to US$600 for a one-bedroom and US$650 to US$950 for a two-bedroom apartment. Most apartment compounds in Shanghai have security 24 hours a day, and apartments come with cable TV, phone, air conditioning and, depending on your landlord, ADSL and all necessary furnishings. Less expensive apartments are old-style both in terms of design and the interior accommodations., while pricier apartments come with big screen TV’s, DVD players, washing machines, microwave, refrigerators, some even with satellite TV. Facts to consider: Living off-campus will boost your conversational Mandarin by providing more opportunities to interact with the local Chinese. By living off-campus, you are guaranteed privacy. Dorm rooms don’t have private kitchens, refrigerators etc. Though some dorms may have kitchens shared by an entire floor, cooking is significantly more convenient for off-campus residents. Gas, water, phone and internet bills are far cheaper than in Western countries. Electricity is not expensive, either, unless you go overboard. You can have as many guests as you want, anytime you want. Provided you let your neighbors know in advance, you can even host parties. Certain convenience stores inside residential complexes offer delivery service.
  15. ‘Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing.’ – Warren Buffett Investment is a topic rich in flavour. Whatever takes your fancy is possible to become an investment with the right attitude and a little work. I mean that sincerely. Almost anything can become an investment. I will explain a little about asset allocation. For many, this is a subject just as important as stock picking or any one of a number of other issues. Rather than explain to you what to do, I am going to try and explode a few myths about things you should definitely not do. Asset Allocation by Dummies Why say that? Why am I being so mean? Especially to those that know no better? All will be revealed. I would like you to think about a word for a few moments. That word is: Risk What does it mean to you? Especially when related to money it is very important. If I have had one bizarre conversation about risk with someone who obviously has no clue to the meaning of the word, I have had one hundred of them. To make it easy, think of risk as this: The value of your asset might fall quickly at almost any time and never recover the sum you initially invested. The asset might actually become valueless or impossible to sell at any price. I’m just guessing here, but that might not be how you think of the word risk. If I were to tell that to you just before you bought shares with your life savings, you might want to reconsider. Not many people like that definition. Yet, that is the reality with many, if not all investments. What needs to happen is for risk to be assessed clearly and thoughtfully and a decision made. The decision to make is this: If the asset falls in value unexpectedly, how will it alter my life? If it will have an adverse impact, should I still invest? For what was the money intended to be used? Will your kids be unable to go to university? Will the mortgage not be repaid? Will you be unable to sleep at night because of the extra stress? Will your retirement be postponed? Hmmmm. These are some serious questions that probably do not come to mind when you are posting the cheque. Diversify Whatever you may be doing in life and with your money, to be a little safer, you might want to consider placing a few eggs into a different basket. An example for you (of what not to do) is the one company investment plan. This is VERY common in society. By one company, I mean that almost all a persons assets are held under one roof. For example: you work for a bank, who pay your wages into an account held at your local office, your savings are in a separate account, your pension is with the bank and you receive and own shares in the company through bonus systems and purchase arrangements. What happens if it goes under? Ask a former Enron employee what happens. The answer, I’m afraid, is that you lose virtually everything. You lose your job, which makes it hard to pay the mortgage and so your home is at risk, your pension is disappearing and the shares are worth nil. Another similar occurrence is property. Many buy property as either a developer or landlord to assist their pension planning. As a strategy it is fine. But many of these people buy property because it is ZERO RISK. Who told them that? Property can be a very risky investment. Here is another scenario for you to think over. You buy, say, five houses in a town. On each one, you use a minimal deposit and take a substantial mortgage. Some time later, things turn bad. The local factory closes, unemployment rates rise steadily and your properties lose their tenants. This happens across the town and property values start to fall as people sell to move elsewhere to find work. You now have several properties that are standing empty, mortgages to pay on each one and asset values below the value of the loans. This will stop you from selling as the bank needs more than the houses are worth. If this economic slowdown is nationwide, interest rates may rise too. This makes the monthly repayments on your mortgages impossible for you to pay alone. Does this sound potentially risky to you? I have a number of clients that are nearing retirement, would call themselves low risk who just want a quiet life. And yet, they are the unlucky owners of a technology portfolio bought before the crash. Were technology shares for them? I doubt it very much. The point of this diatribe is a simple one. Investment is risky in nature. Before investing, you need to fully appreciate the risks you are taking on and give some thought to their potential impact to your lifestyle. If you really do not want to understand the risks you are taking on when making an investment, you should spend the money on something nice instead. Think of it this way; if you lose money in an investment you didn’t understand, you will always feel bitter about it and wish you had not invested. You will probably also not wish to invest again. However, if you instead, spend the money on a nice family holiday, you will at least have fond memories of the cash! This isn’t the kind of advice that investment advisers normally dispense, I know, but I’m sure you can see my point. If you are willing to invest just a little time and thought, with the help of a competent adviser you can make money work for you. If not, do you need a new car? If we can now presume that you want to read on, that you have just spent money on a family holiday, I will explain some basics about low risk investments. I will not even touch on anything considered risky by the mainstream financial industry. I am doing this very deliberately. Most people seem to take the view that investment should be risky but there are many safe and relatively secure investments available to the average person. The exciting and risky investments should really only be investigated once you have sufficient holdings in safer areas. Therefore, the following is my top 5 list of things to do if you are starting out in the world of investment… Pay off any UNSECURED loans Think of it this way, if you invest money into a collective fund, you will be really pretty happy if the investment returns say, 10% each year (ignoring inflation). 10% might not seem too demanding, but plenty of funds DO NOT achieve this. On the other hand, your store cards or credit card are probably costing you interest at 20% or more each year. This means that whilst repaying a store card doesn’t actually earn you money, it will save more than it was likely to earn. Your money will be guaranteed to have a positive result. If only all invested money was guaranteed a positive result! Take advantage of it.