In the months prior to actually making the big move to Shanghai, you may have the opportunity to visit the city for a look-see trip. These trips are usually brief – a week or less – because employment obligations usually don’t allow for more. The primary objective of the look-see trip is to choose a school and accommodation and due to the limited amount of time allowed for the trip, the process is usually a bit frantic.
Most likely, the biggest choice you have to make on your look-see trip will be made for you by the location of your company. That decision is whether you will live on the Puxi or Pudong side of the river. For the most part, expats will choose to live on the side of the river they work on so as to avoid the unpredictable rush hour traffic on the bridges and in the tunnels. That is not to say you couldn’t live in the French Concession if you worked in Lujiazui because you could. Almost invariably, people who cross the river for work do so on the Metro.
Once you’ve decided the general area you will live in, most look-see trips start with a city orientation. The destination service provider conducting your look-see trip will give you a tour of the main parts of the city and show you services that you have identified as important like hospitals and schools.
It is generally recommended to parents that they choose a school for their child before looking at accommodation. However, in areas such as Jinqiao where there are a number of schools close to the town center as well as reasonable bus rides to schools outside the neighborhood, parents will often choose the neighborhood first and their child’s school second.
On your look-see trip it is important that you prioritize your needs before you start the search. It may be that proximity to your child’s school is not an important factor, or it may be that you prefer to be walking distance to your child’s school. Whichever is your preference, you need to inform your relocation agent. Should you want to live off the beaten expat path, there are also many options, though your agent will default to the more popular areas.
It’s important to keep in mind that if you choose to live in an area like Jinqiao, all your daily needs will be met by the community. Enclaves like Jinqiao were designed from the beginning to be mostly self-contained. Health clinics, dentists, supermarkets, shopping, restaurants and schools will all be located centrally in the town.
Due to the limited amount of time you have on your look-see trip, it’s important to focus your energy on the area you most prefer. Getting the advice of other expats is also very helpful. During your school visits, you can ask if the school has a parent ambassador who can help by giving you a better understanding of what it is like to live in the area.