Posts Tagged ‘relocation’

Beijing vs. Shanghai

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

We often get asked by expatriates, “What’s the difference between living in Beijing and Shanghai?”. Here’s an excerpt from an email sent to a Dutch client who may be relocating from Tokyo. His company gave him the option of moving to either city.
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Shanghai is quite different from Beijing. In Beijing all the development is on the east side, with the villas in Shunyi to the northeast. Shanghai’s divided by the Huangpu river. Puxi on one side, newer Pudong on the other. There are 4 main villa clusters (and several smaller ones). Three are on the Puxi side, and one on the Pudong side. Your office is in the Xin Tian Di area on the Puxi side of the city.

The villa area in Pudong is new and quite well planned. The ones in Puxi are similar to those in Beijing. None of the clusters in Shanghai have the same concentration of amenities that Shunyi (in Beijing) has. The area around your office is quite pleasant. There are a number of good apartment options, but being in the city centre, tends to be favoured by singles or couples with toddlers.

During peak hours, the commute between your office and the American School would take an hour while the commute between the American School and the newer Pudong cluster would take at least 90 minutes. Of course, there are international school in all the villa clusters. But in a nut shell, in Shanghai, your choice of housing location is VERY dependent on (a) your school and then (b) your office. In Shanghai it’s more like living in different townships rather than a single city.

As for lifestyle Shanghai is definitely more developed and a better run city. Beijing is catching up, with the Olympic infrastructure being the driving force. For Chinese culture, Beijing is richer. For nightlife and foreign acts, Shanghai is more like Hong Kong. Many Beijing expatriates learn to speak at least rudimentary Chinese within a year. In Shanghai few do as English gets you further - Philippino waiters and maids are common there. Shanghai shopping is definitely superior, expecially in the higher end. But for mountains and outdoor excursions, Beijing has more to offer. It really depends on what your interests are.

One last thing, please budget for Beijing short-term housing to be very expensive in the summer next year due to the Olympics. Expect rents for small serviced homes to be similar or more expensive than for a long term villa. Also, you should book now. When relocating to most cities, it’s normally a good idea to spend 1-2 months in a serviced apartment during which you find a more permanent home. However, in Beijing (and Shanghai) expatriates cluster in a handful of high-occupancy villa communities. The turnaround is over the summer, and by July each year, many of the better homes are leased out. By August you’re left with either poor decor and/or crazy rents (from wealthy landlords who are not price-sensitive). If you’d like to be here for the Olympics, you need to prepare early - either by staying in a serviced apartment, or selecting your permanent home in say, May. If the Olympics is not important, I recommend selecting your home in June and moving in as soon as the games are over.

Hope this helps in your decision making. Do let me know if you have any questions.

Best regards,

Carol