Where to live in … Shanghai!

At ASI Movers, we know how important it is to have our “home sweet home”. It is not an easy task to find a new one, especially in a big and unknown city. Furthermore, depending on your family status, your age, and your priorities, many criteria will ponder your choice.

Thanks to its 10-year experience in moving, as a Shanghai based relocation company, ASI Movers is now happy to provide you a small and comprehensive guide the main features and characteristics of Shanghai's main areas.

The Former French Concession

The Former French Concession (also called FFC) is one of the fanciest areas to live in. It is compound by Xuhui district, and a part of Huangpu district.

The FFC is filled with colonial style villas, most of the architecture is reminiscent of the art deco era (1920-40s), with their interior completely renovated for many of them. The streets are pretty silent, peaceful and lined with plane trees (as you can often see in the South of France). In some areas, you would not believe you are in China. This area is appreciated by the young expats,  also because you can find many little shops, bars and fancy restaurant serving occidental food.

However, due to its central geographic positioning and success, the FFC is quite expensive, considered rather upper class residential area.

  • Price range: Expensive
  • Life in the district: Many fancy cafes, bars and restaurants. Chinese alternatives can also be found.
  • Who: Young couple, it remains upper class. Not so many family live there, as many of the villas are divided in smaller apartments.
  • Transportation: Centrally located, the FCC is well served by the metro and buses. You can also easily access the city center walking or biking.
  • International Schools: No main international school is located in the FFC, but school buses exist, and the transportation system is convenient.

Jing'an

Jing’an is a popular district, close to the FFC. It is a great compromise for those who are interested in being in the core of the city, have a rather westernized way of living (due to the numerous occidental options available in terms of food, cafés, boutiques, etc.), for a lower budget than a house in the FFC.

Jing’an being busy and active (with fashionable boutiques, bars, and cafés), it is busier and less quiet than the FFC for instance. You can find there classical and pretty recent compounds, sometimes equipped with gyms and other facilities, as well as high-end houses.

  • Price range: Average to upper.
  • Life in the district: The most popular bars and restaurants are located there and some streets get quite animated at night with expats gathering to have dinner or a drink (the atmosphere remains healthy however). The neighborhood directly surrounding the Jing’an Temple itself also offers access to many shopping malls.
  • Who: Jing’an is popular among expat students, interns, young actives and couples.
  • Transportation: This district is well deserved by the metro. The fact that is central prevents its inhabitants for long journeys across the city.
  • International Schools: No major international school is located in the Jing’an district, and the latter is not close to the areas they developed in either.

Minhang

Out of the city, Minhang district is well appreciated by the expatriates family for its houses and villas, located inside secure compounds. Mostly comprised with a private garden, they offer some facilities for the whole family, and kids can go out of the home to visit their neighbor friends quite safely. However, offering larger green space and mansion options means being far from the city center, which might be inconvenient for the parents, taking into consideration the traffic congestion.

  • Transportation: This district is deserved by the end of some line subway, but you may have to consider take your car, at least to do a part of the trip.
  • International Schools: Major international school are located in Minhang district, such as the Lycée français de Shanghai, the British International School Shanghai and the American Shanghai School.

Changning

Two of the main places you would be looking for to live in are Hongqiao, which includes Gubei; and the surroundings of Zhongshan park. These residential areas are located in the Western part of Shanghai, a little bit out of the city center. These are rather popular area among expats, filled with high-end housing facilities. The perfect compromise for the family, at mid-way from the international school and the city center.

  • Price range: Average.
  • Life in the district: Western supermarkets and medical facilities are easily found in Changning, as well as chain restaurants and bars popular among adult expats. Nevertheless it is more of a residential and quiet area where you can find green spaces and pedestrian streets to hang around.
  • Who: Expat families, with an important population of Korean and Japanese in Gubei.
  • Transportation: Better served by public transportation than its west neighbor Minhang and Qingpu.
  • International Schools: A large panel of International Schools can be found in the area (Shanghai Community International School, Livingston American School, Shanghai United International School, among others).

Pudong

Located on the Eastern side of the Huangpu (river), it is also one of the largest districts: indeed, this district is as large as Singapour. Being very recent (before 1990s it looked nothing like today), you will easily spot the very modern architecture of the area closest to the river, which also is the financial and industrial heart of the city.

  • Price range: Average, this side of the river is generally cheaper than the other.
  • Life in the district: Office building but the district is becoming more and more residential if you are going further east, with a general aspect somehow reminiscent of the suburban American communities.
  • Who: Expat families eager to find a comfortable westernized life, being close to their office and schools.
  • Transportation: Far from the city center, yet well-deserved by the metro. It is also close to the Pudong International Airport.
  • International Schools: Many international schools also have a campus located in Pudong (Yew Chung International School, Lycée Français de Shanghai, British International School, Dulwich College, Shanghai Japanese School, among others). Even if you decide not to settle in the Pudong area, International Schools usually arrange buses to help to children living in the city to come to class.

Qingming Festival: What Is It About?

This Friday 5th April will take place the Qingming Festival (清明节 Qīngmíng Jié), or Tomb-sweeping Day. This traditional festival is observed in China as well as by some communities in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Since 2008, it became also a public holiday long week-end.

ASI Movers main office being located in Shanghai, we will also close and stop our moving operations on this day. But before the week end start, let us explain what you need to know about the Qingming Festival, as expats' best partner for their relocation from, to and within China.

The Origins of the Ancestors' Day

Known also as the Ancestor’s day, the Qingming Festival was originally held to commemorate the action of a loyal servant, Jie Zitui, toward its master, Chong’er, a prince of the state of Jin in exile.

To save him from starvation, Jie Zitui cut a slice of his own thigh to feed his master. Later, when Lord Chong’er came back to his Jin state and position, he tried to find back Jie to reward him. Jie had retired in the mount Mian with his elderly mother. Prince Chong’er could not find him, so he decided to set fire on the mountain to force Jie out of the forest. But Jie and his mother were killed during this fire. Full of remorse, the Prince erected a temple in his honor, and order that only cold food could be eaten to commemorate the day Jie passed away. People start to visit his tomb at its temple to pay their respects.

Under the Qing dynasty, about 300 years ago, the practice to eat cold food was replaced, and instead of regularly offers ostentatiously expensive ceremonies to commemorate ancestors, such respects was declared to be paid only once a year, on Qingming day.

Traditional Customs and Rites

Qingming festival could be presented as the counterpart of Halloween or All Saints’/Souls’ Day, which takes place in western countries on 31st October-1st November. Mostly, the celebrants go to visit and honor the grave of their ancestors, cleaning it and offering food, tea, wine, chopsticks and paper accessories. Flowers can also be presented to the dead relatives, with good prayers expressed. It is also common to see willow branches on house gates and front door. This aims to help to ward off troubled spirits.

As Spring comes over simultaneously, these days off are a good opportunity for Chinese people to enjoy nature and have a walk in parks, so these place might be more crowded than usually. Flying kites is also a popular activity, on day or evening time with lantern, or appearing with animal shapes or Chinese character opera. Sometimes, people cut the strong to let their kites freely fly into the sky. It brings good luck and health.

Many people still observed the day before Cold food meal, cooked a day ago. Sweet green rice balls青团 qīngtuán made with glutinous rice powder used to be made, stuffed with red bean paste, but variants can be found with peanuts, salt eggs, or pork flavored. Juice from green vegetables give to glutinous rice its green color. Other crispy fried cakes are made, such as撒子sāzi or寒具 hánjù. Peach blossom porridge is also a popular recipe.

This year, the Qingming festival takes place today, on April 5th, as the 5th Solar Term of the Chinese Lunar Calendar.

About the Chinese Individual Income Tax

In any country you will live and work in, one question might be raised: where and under what kind of taxes will you be subjected?

This issue is appreciable for our individual customers, who will have their residency in China mainland. Some recent changes in the Chinese Individual Income Tax regulation have taken place in January 1, 2019. As such, it is important for newcomers as well as for those already living in China to be aware of the new regulation.

ASI Movers - as expats' best relocation partner from, to and within China - will offer a brief overview on the topic for those planning to move in China this year.

Who Is Subject to China's Individual Income Tax?

If you are planning to stay in mainland China for more than 183 days (cumulative), with a domicile or not, and in a single tax year, you will be therefore considered as a Chinese tax resident and must pay the Individual Income Tax. This will be derived from any income earned inside China as well as overseas income.

In the case of individuals who have no domicile in China but stay longer than 183 days (in a tax year), they shall be exempted from this Individual Income Tax if and only if they are out of the country for more than 30 consecutive days within the 6 years. To benefit from this exemption, this trip shall be notified to your local tax bureau in advance. Before the updated regulation, this exemption was known as the “Five-Year Tax Rule”, as the count was hold for 5 and not 6 years.

For those who are non-resident, and stay in China for less than 183 days (in a tax year), their China source income is still taxable.

Which Income Are Taken Into Consideration & At Which Rate?

Taxes will be collected, directly on wage, on the following income:

  • Income from wage, from your employment contract;

  • Income from contract or lease of a business;

  • Author’s remuneration and royalties;

  • Interest, dividends and profit distribution.

Under the new Income International Tax, these four categories followed the same seven brackets of progressive tax rates.

Commissions and bonuses are included in this calculation. Some deductions (up to monthly RMB 5.000) can be applied for the following expenses on the cumulative individual income:

  • Children education: 1.000 RMB monthly per child;

  • Continued education: 3.600 RMB/year;

  • Caring for the elderly (over 60 years old): 2.000 RMB/month;

  • Medical expenses for serious illness: less than 80.000 RMB;

  • Housing loan interest and housing rent: depend on the city.

 

The individual income tax impacts both local and foreign employees who received income from a working contract in China. These new regulations take into account the situation of the expatriate families with children or dependents elders.

Shanghai & Expatriates: a Long-Lasting Dynamic

Shanghai and expats’ relationship is as long as it is peculiar. From the 18th century premises, to nowadays dynamic foreign population, expats have been witnessing and participating in the city’s expansion. To understand why Shanghai is still one of the most attractive cities in China, ASI Movers - expats best relocation partner for more than 10 years - has thus decided to take a look back at the past but also have a look at what characterizes the expat population today.

Let’s explore who were and who are the foreigners living in Shanghai!

Shanghai: Expatriation as a Tradition

The Premises

It all started in the 18th century, when Chinese silk, porcelain and tea started to become popular in Great Britain and imported there. While Chinese rulers at the time were not interested in foreign goods, Great Britain nevertheless took advantage of the possibilities Chinese population represented and started to export Opium to the Middle Kingdom, as to re-equilibrate the balance. The infamous Opium Wars started just after, with the outcome we all know.
One of the many of the consequences has been the installation of a British autonomous settlement along the Huangpu River, whom « remains » are still visible today and among the most famous elements of Shanghai Patrimoine.

 

The Golden Age for Foreigners

American, French, and German quickly joined, forming a great foreign community and gathering in international concessions. The particularity of these concessions was that trade within their « borders » were not subject to Chinese law and could therefore trade freely.Then began a period prosperity for Shanghai’s « expat » community, not only in terms of trade, but also in terms of infrastructure (from new roads to fancy hotels, Shanghai looked nothing like the rest of China), making it the wealthiest and most cosmopolitan city in Asia. In the 1930s, Shanghai foreign communities already counted at least 60,000 individuals. Cultures started - if not to mix - to cohabit and westernized leisure places started to flourish (cafes, restaurants, international clubs, etc.) paving the ground for what Shanghai looks like today.

The Modern Times

This era of blossoming Shanghai took an end after the Japanese took over the country and did not resume when the Communist Party took power since the foreign way of living as well as the foreign communities were looked down as forming part of the « Four Old »: old habits, old culture, old customs and old way of thinking.
It’s only a decade after the first economic opening measures that took place in 1978 that Shanghai started to re-conquer its old status as the flagship of the revenge the country was going to take over its History. As such, investors were enjoined to take part in the cities’ development. From then on, Shanghai’s development has been impressive, and the degree of change has nearly no equivalent elsewhere in the world.
Job opportunities came along with investment opportunities as the country’s opening-up process increased.

What Is Shanghai Expats Community Like Nowadays?

Shanghai expat community is now China’s first (2017), before Beijing and Hefei, with about 150,000 foreigners registered as of 2019 (the real figures are thus believed to be greater).

In terms of country of origin, one might not find the ones who ran the international concessions back in the early 20th century, as Great Britain does not even appear in the top-10.

Japanese, US citizens and South-Koreans account for respectively 17,8%, 13,6% and 12,2% of the international community, Japanese and South Koreans alone accounting for nearly 30%.

Data source: Shen Xinyi / SHINE

The three main reasons for expats to relocate to Shanghai as in 2016 were work (50,6%), family reunion (26,5%) and education (10%) (Shen Xinyin/SHINE). This is aligned with Shanghai current dynamic as a hub for international trade and investment. Consequently, when one member of the family moves for career purpose, her/his family follows.

Shanghai also is home for many students eager to get familiar with Chinese language, way of doing business, and culture.

As for China is general, the average age of expats is 41.7 years old, there is a majority of male and most of them are in a relationship.

Nowadays, Shanghai has reconquered its reputation of Chinese most vibrant city. With business still flourishing, expats are naturally attracted by the opportunities it represents.

A younger population is also coming, with the idea of learning about the country but also be part of what is happening here in mind.

The city can be disarming for newcomers, as change happens fast and in impressive scales. Not only is it true for the city itself, some neighborhood disappearing and being replaced in a blink of an eye; it is also accurate when it comes to the business environment: it follows trends, and the opportunities available as well as the way one is exercising one’s job can vary rapidly. For someone to stay long-term, it means it requires to be adaptative, responsive to change.

However, that does not mean the city has no soul or deep identity, change is simply part of its nature and - as we have seen throughout its History - the constant is its dynamism.

ASI Movers has been helping expats relocating from, to, and within China for more than 10 years, accompanying them in their international journey with the most qualitative and comprehensive support. Because moving is always a challenge, we aim at making this journey the easiest possible for you!

The Expats’ Guide for CNY

What Is CNY About?

Chinese New Year (CNY) marks the beginning of the lunar calendar and Spring. As you might already know, each year is associated with a zodiac sign. In 2019, we enter the year of the pig which is synonym of luck, good fortune, wealth or more generally prosperity.

The celebrations are divided in 3 parts, the dates varying from one year to another since they follow the Lunar Calendar:

  • The so-called « Little Year » (Jan. 28 – Feb. 4th 2019) when are held the preparations of the actual New Year.
  • The « Spring Festival » (Feb. 5th – Feb. 15th 2019) which begins the celebration of the New Year.
  • The « Lantern Festival » (Feb. 16th – Feb. 19th 2019) which official date is Feb. 19th.

CNY is one of the two Chinese National Holidays and is the occasion for families to gather and celebrate together. As workers are returning home, the country practically shuts down for a period of 2 weeks up to 1 month. Factories and administrations close as the population is pouring into train stations and airports to travel across the country, and – more and more – to go abroad.

It is then not the best period to travel around China and we advise you to go abroad if you have the opportunity to do so. However, there are a few places in China where you can avoid the crowd. It is a good period for instance to visit Beijing or Shanghai as most of the population has headed back to the countryside, even though one can feel quite disoriented with seeing the busiest cities that empty.

 

We would advise you to refer to the China highlights' handful guide for CNY 2019. It will help you navigate through the most important and busiest time of the year more easily, especially if you are not familiar with the country, its traditions and thus its flows of population:

Traditions and Good Practices You Should Follow

People usually visit family members and relatives with their hands full of presents. Food and sweets are very popular gifts, such as fruits, cakes, biscuits, chocolates or candies. If you ever are invited to a CNY dinner and thus are thinking of offering gifts, the number is important as even ones symbolize happy occasions and odd ones unhappy occasions.

Elders and married couples also offer hongbaos to younger relatives and family members. You might already be familiar with the red enveloppes one gives with two hands in real life, and more and more digitally.

It is interesting to note that digital hongbaos are becoming more popular but also a communication tool for high-end brands. Tencent QQ for instance, offered the occasions to luxury companies to design branded red packets as for users to send them to their friends on the App. As such, a limited number of users had the occasion to send Ferrari, YSL Beauté or even Burberry hongbaos.

Keep in mind that 8 is the luckiest number in China while 4 is synonym for bad luck, if you have in mind to give a hongbao to someone.

Red is the color: from red items of clothing to red lanterns, including red couplets with the character  福 (happiness) held on the doors, as it symbolises prosperity.

As your trusted relocation partner, ASI Movers at helping you navigating through CNY peacefully. We are here at every step of your international journey to help live a happier and simpler life!

Debunking the Myths about China: What Expats Need to Know

When coming to a new country - namely China - or even just when being interested in one, it is normal for expats to have prejudices. Our education, the media, the History, the work from scholars that have penetrated common knowledge, etc. All of this contributes to help us build a general idea of a given country’s culture.

The hard part begins when one tries to overcome preconceptions to acquire a more genuine understanding of the host country. For business purposes, by curiosity, or simply because it eases the integration process, the reasons of such an initiative are numerous.

As a newcomer on the Chinese soil, or even if you have been here for several years, it is always interesting – and useful – to challenge your believes and to explore more about local psyche.

Cultural Awareness: Why Has It Become Essential?

Two groups are interested in the concept of cultural awareness: expatriates and companies.

  • The former do because being familiar with local customs and way of thinking help them living a balanced life, avoiding conflict, and predicting the general people attitudes' toward a given situation. Being able to accurately predict someone’s response to an event is essential for individuals to build stability in their life.
  • The latter do because the well-being of their employees often means more chances of them being more productive, more easily integrated in the company, and more smoothly transitioning to their new tasks. Expatriation failure (when an expatriation ends before its term or is considered not fully achieved) is most of the time linked with poor employee’s integration and great costs for the company.

As put by Kate Hutching in her article Cross Cultural Preparation of Australian Expatriates in Organizations in China: The Need to a Greater Attention to Training:

"The removal of national protectionist trade policies, de-regulation of international fiscal and monetary markets, and rapid advances in communications and distribution channels, has contributed to the increasing numbers of organisations that have decided to expand their operations across international borders in the last two decades.”

What could be overlooked in the past decades, i.e. cultural awareness, has now become essential as international assignments – or more broadly international mobility - are getting more common.

How to Increase One's Knowledge and Cultural Awareness?

Tons of means are available to increase one’s knowledge about Chinese psyche: reading the news, watching documentaries, looking for scholars’ works, meeting locals and discussing with them, attending training programs or conferences, etc.

Yet, the most important, apart from exposing oneself to this information, is to stay open to whatever could contradict one’s believes, past experiences, or what has been previously learnt. Open-mindedness is key when it comes to understanding your host country and effectively grasping what traits make up its personality.

Debunking the Myths

If one agrees with continue down this path, then the Harvard Business Review article "China Myths, China Facts" written by Erin Meyer and Elisabeth Yin Shen would be of great help. They identified 3 common myths that have been “perpetuated informally through stereotypes, and formally through management-training programs”.

  • Myth 1: China is a collectivist country. Even Hofstede’s works state “At a score of 20 China is a highly collectivist culture where people act in the interests of the group and not necessarily of themselves.”
    In this article however, the authors state that Chinese people, especially the younger generation, are more on the individualistic side of the spectrum. One of the interviewees argues that “as a child, I was punished for stepping out of the box and told to be ‘average’. But we have left this mentality with passion. In China, we are so eager to move ahead. Westerners often feel our style is pushy and aggressive”.
  • Myth 2: Long-term deliberation is preferred. However, for whoever has been working in China, or has simply followed the past decades’ economic growth, it appears obvious that Chinese psyche now tends to “real-time reaction” as stated in the article, and quick decision making. This tendency is in accordance with the government aiming at fostering innovation.
  • Myth 3: Chinese people are risk averse. However, given the decision process is usually quick, risk tolerance is nowadays quite high in China. One of the interviewee stated that the country’s growing GDP is a proof that “the level of entrepreneurship and risk taking” is high.

Understanding the ever-changing psyche of China is key when it comes to not being lost in the Middle Kingdom. Debunking myths as the Harvard Business Review did is very useful for expats aiming at being at ease in the country, and being successful socially and professionally.

At ASI Movers, we aim at making your relocation process the smoothest possible, and this is aligned with providing you the best insights on the country’s state of mind. After more than 10 years operating in China, we are aware of the challenges one faces, and work hand in hand with our customers to provide them the best services and support possible.

The Golden Week: All You Need To Know About Chinese National Holiday Before It Happens

Starting October 1st, China is gonna witness one of the two greatest flows of population of the year: the Golden Week. More than just a National Holliday, this period is a very peculiar one in China, challenging its infrastructure and affecting its economy.

Let’s discover more about it with ASI Movers, expats’ trusted moving partner from, to, and within China!

What Are Its Roots?

Image source: Source: http://www.chineseamericanfamily.com/national-day/

Twice a year, Chinese population enjoys a one-week holiday period: one in January-February (around Chinese New Year) and one starting October 1st.

The second one was initiated in 1999 by the People’s Republic of China, in order to commemorate its foundation in 1949 (even though it was actually founded on September 21st).

Arrangements are made every year as for the 3-day holiday to become a week-long holiday, as to enable the population to make long-distance trips to visit their family. It is also a mean to foster domestic tourism as, as we will explore in more depth later, tourist attractions are taken over during the period.

What Is Happening During The Golden Week?

Celebrations take place on Tiananmen Square every 5 and 10 years, namely military reviews and parades, as for the population to manifest its patriotic feelings, but these holidays are mostly about visiting family and sightseeing.

As such, means of transportation (buses, cars, trains, and flights) become crowded, as well as tourist attractions. In 2017, the most popular destinations were Sanya, Beijing, Kunming and Shanghai.

Yes, during Golden Week, it seems China is crowded everywhere. Millions of migrant workers go back home, overseas Chinese come back to visit their family, and major part of the population takes the occasion to visit their homeland or simply go sightseeing. 

Many malls and supermarkets offer discounts and promotions, while small shops and restaurants are closed during the period. Urban transportation systems are working as during normal time, while government offices, schools, embassies and private companies close.

Some underline the fact that these vacations create disruption in the economy and that they does not achieve significant results in promoting internal consumption. Moreover, the fact that government agencies – namely customs, tax and tariff collection, legal affairs – close for a week is an impediment for normal functioning of the country.

Key Figures (2017)

000
million People on the Move
0
Million Outbound Tourists
000
Million Trips
000
Billion RMB of Tourism Related Revenue

Tips For A Stress-Free Golden Week

  • If you can, avoid traveling in or from China during the Golden Week. The busiest days are the first two and the last one (for transportation and sightseeing). If you choose to travel just before or just after, you will enjoy lower costs and less tourists in the scenic areas and main cities.
  • Book your tickets (bus, train, flight) and make your hotel reservation well in advance, not only will you enjoy better deals, yet you will also make sure to not falling short of sits or rooms on the D-Day.
  • Try to find less touristy spots on the Internet or thanks to your friends' recommendations. There are many hidden and beautiful places in China, Golden Week is the perfect moment to explore them.

With a 10-year-long experience in relocating expats from, to, and within China, ASI Movers has developed a very strong expertise in understanding the challenges the latter face, as well as their expectations.

We are here to help you make your stay in China the smoothest from the beginning to the end.

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