Where do families live in Shanghai? Where should we live?

One of the first questions for an expat family relocating to Shanghai is: where will we live?

It’s a fair question, as to look at Google maps provides no information. It is the most populated city in the whole world, after all!

First Tip: You can live anywhere!

Yup, in one sense, you don’t need to stress over the one single perfect place to live.

Transport around Shanghai is very good. People who already live here may tell you that traffic is bad, but that’s because our perspective gets skewed in Shanghai.

We think that Hongqiao/Gubei as it is known – Changning District – is ‘really far away’ from the Former French Concession — when in reality it’s a 15 minute taxi ride.

We think that Pudong is another world – when it is 10 minutes from Jing’an to Xuhui to Lujiazui, and another 15 – 20 minutes to Jinqiao.

There are family-friendly restaurants and thing to do in all areas of Shanghai these days.

Work convenience, then school

Unless (1) you have already visited a particular school and are set on only that, (2) your relocation company places you in a district or (3) there is a particular reason to live in one district, you need to see where your job will be, if one parent is sent to Shanghai on an expat package.

The international schools are in both East in Pudong and West of Puxi in the Huacao district — with some in Minhang, also West Puxi.

You can choose to (1) live in such a school district as most ‘expat packagers’ do, either Jinqiao or Huacao, or (2) live anywhere and your kid(s) will take a 45 minute bus to and from school.

All international schools have bus routes to all the city. So you need to make a personal choice whether you want them (perhaps depending on their age) to take the 45 minute bus ride to and from school, or if you need proximity to the hedonistic delights of Xuhui AKA the Former French Concession.

If you are not going on an expat package or your kids are younger than school age

Xuhui or Jing’an are the simple options.

Many expats live:

(1) In or near Yanping Rd and Wuding Rd in Jing’an, Eastwards all the way to Taixang Rd/Shimen Rd. The rent is reasonable and there are unlimited food and drink spots

(2) Anywhere in Xuhui. From Xujiahui up to Yan’an Rd to the North or to Ruijin Rd and Huiahai Rd to the North East, the entire area is at optimal convenience for general Shanghai life.

There are lots of kindergartens – none of them particularly cheap – in the city centre.


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