We are relocating to China with our 4 year old

Hello everyone!

My husband got a job offer in China and we are thrilled to have the opportunity and can't wait to explore such an amazing culture. We were offered 3 or 4 bases and picked Shenzhen. However that base will only be available mid year 2018.  In the mean time we will live in Shanghai. I have a lot of questions mainly about housing (My husband is a pilot so he will go to the airport for work) schools, and meeting people. I will be taking care of our son while trying to meet friends and finding the best grocery stores :-)
It is very important for us that our son get fluent in mandarin so any suggestions about kindergartens that focuse on the language would be great. He already speaks French and English so I would love for him to pick up a third language. I hope to make friends with locals eventually but in the mean time what is the best way for and adult to learn mandarin? How much would a 2 bedroom apartment cost us? And what neighbourhood would you suggest? Which schools do you think will suit us and how much will it cost? What are the best places/things for families? Please feel free to leave me your contact so I can get in touch once in Shanghai. Any advice/help is welcome. What's your favourite grocery store? Activity for kids? How about healthcare? Do we need insurance? What clinics do you suggest?
Thank you everyone!

Shanghai is a very Westernized city.  You should feel very comfortable there.

Shenzhen is the best.  I lived there for many years. When you move,  would suggest Futian and Nanshan.  Louhu is a great area, but downtown is not for everyone.

Do what you can to make local Chinese friends.  Do not stay tethered to the expat community. I would suggest you get a ESL diploma and try to work at one of the language schools part time.  That will give you exposure to locals who can help you transition.

When you come here, you will notice that it is very different.  Please avoid thinking that the difference is bad. It isn't.  In many, many ways, China has "got it going on", and is far superior to the way things are done in the west.

You will note that Facebook, you-tube, pinterest, and Tumbler are banned. All nations ban social networks. Try getting Alibaba, Taobao, and Weixin in the UK and the USA.  You cannot.  They are blocked. You wll find that it is much easier (and far cheaper) to watch movies on QIYI and Funsion than by paying the outrageous costs on Netflix.

Eat local, and spend time with local people. I do not suggest that you start drinking 53 percent bai jiu while eating bull-penis, but I do suggest that you use every opportunity to integrate into the Chinese society.

Everything will fall into place.  Just come with an open heart, and make friends.  You will be fine.

Thanks Vannrox!! I sure don't entend on living in a western bubble over in China. I love the Asian culture in general and admire their history and civilization. I can wait to eat "real" Chinese food and make local friends. I know things will be different and I am aware of the negativity that the western media is good at spreading.  Thank you for all your suggestions. I did think about working in a school part time but wasn't sure about where to start. More detailed advice would be appreciated! As for the social media mentioned I have none but do use hangouts and whatsapp to stay in touch with friends and family overseas. I will look into QIYI and Fusion.
I am looking forward to Shenzhen! It seems like a great place to live. My brother in law has been living in HK sInce 2013 with his wife and kids so it will be nice to have family close by.

You should live in gubei road.there are a lot of expats and schools. It is not far away from hongqiao airport

The most important APP you will need is Wechat.  It is the dominant application for everything in China.  It is available int he USA.  The chinese name is weixin. It is sort of a cross between twitter, pinterest and an ATM. Get on QQ.  It is sort of like Facebook, only much, much larger.

A female westerner will always get snatched up by schools to teach English. You shouldn't have any problems.  You need a diploma from a university or college to quality for an "expert certificate". Then, to teach English you need an ESL certificate.  I got mine online.  It took me about 50 hours.

China is not at all like it is portrayed in the US media. Please integrate as much as possible. China is a nation of nerds, and for your children to be successful, they need to be integrated as well.  I sincerely hope for you all to do well.  Enjoy your time here.  I made the leap back in 2004 and there is no way that I am going back.

Thank you Kimigu! I will research gubei road. Glad to know that there are a lot of schools there and it being not not far from hongqiao airport is a plus.

Thanks again Vannrox. I really appreciate you taking time to give me all that good info. I can't wait for the adventure! I am excited for the little one to grow up in a different culture. Please feel free to add any other useful bit that you might remember down the road :-)

welcome to shanghai :D

Always welcome to help out an expat.  To be truthful,  do worry about rapid burnout.  Most Americans don't last 2 months let alone a two year contract.  It's sad.  Please don't get angry when you find grizzle in your BBQ or bones in your fish.  Chinese expect people to eat like adults and not like little children.  So it can be a culture shock.

OK.  Well, here's a little write up that I did about China.  Please take it in stride...

I have discovered that I have the most freedom  than I ever had outside of the USA.  I suppose it must be true for just about any other nation other than the United States.  This is true in every country where I lived, but none was ever so obvious as it was in “Communist” China . 

Let it be understood that what I am discussing is day-to-day freedom and liberty . This is the freedom and lifestyle that you experience every day .  This is how you live your life in doing your normal activities. These are the simple things in life.  These things include working; eating, spending time with your family, travel, saving money , and spending money.  These are the comparatives .  These are the measurables and the deliverables that one can use to actually determine how free they are .  As well as comparatively determine their overall standard of living compared to the rest of the world .

When I landed in China, the first thing I noted was that people were living their lives in a way that was alien to what I had become accustomed to.  They smoked in restaurants, drank beer in the street, slept wherever they felt like it – and no one even took notice. No, this was not some third-world banana republic where swarthy brown-skinned natives walked barefoot and wore cone shaped hats.  No.  They were as modern and erudite as modern Tokyo, and lived their lives as they saw fit.  The government did not tell them what to do and how to do it.  No, the Chinese government DID NOT tell their people how to live.  They were not controlled by the wealthy; those in power, and the corporate army . They, themselves, decided.

I, like all Americans, have been taught that China holds the world’s most repressive government. That the people in China are poor, starving, and in need of American help. We are told that they eat fish-heads, and rice; not because they like it, but because that is all that the government will let them eat.  Americans are constantly reminded of every single anti-government protest in China, whether it is about Tibet, or the Hong Kong Democracy movement .  They are constantly alerted to every downturn in the Chinese economy.  They are constantly told every bit of bad news that hits the American news wires.  But those events, even though they do exist, are not reflective of the true reality of what China is.  The actual reality of life in China is really, really different than what we Americans are told.  Why?  Why is reality so different from what we are told?

People; we are all the same.  All over the world we are the same.  We all want to go about our business, and not worry about the police pulling you over when you drive . (And, you and I both know how true this is in the United States.) We want to work at a job, and get 100% of our earnings paid to us.  We do not want some invisible person, or agency, removing money from our pay out before we see it (Impossible in the United States.). This basically means that we can order a hamburger and not worry about whether or not we should have a slice of cheese on it .  We want to live our lives without anyone telling us that we have to wear a seat belt , buy insurance , or show our ID  to buy beer . (In fact, today in America even the failure to have an ID on your person  can get you thrown in jail.) We just want to be left alone. (I ask the reader; for you personally, is this not true?  Or do you welcome having the nosey neighbor two blocks down the street telling you want to do about your front yard?)  To be left alone and to live your life as you see fit; that is the forgotten key component of liberty .

In an effort to “improve” the United States; to make it safer, more secure, and “better” , we have stolen from our most basic of principles; that of Freedom and Liberty.

Since I moved to China, I have never had to show my identification , I have never been stopped for a body check, or gave my cell phone to the authories to scan.   I never had to have a urine drug test, or a background check, or a financial report.   I never showed my driver's license  for anything.
When I order a beer, they simply just give it to me. (The last time I was in the United States, I ordered a beer in a Tex-Mex restaurant in Pennsylvania.  Despite the fact that I had greying hair, and dressed like an older gentleman, the waitress insisted that I be carded.  She said it was store policy.  Why?  Because in the USA, a restaurant can lose their liquor license for the slightest offense.  No one wants to take the risk.)

When I want to smoke, I pull out a cigarette and smoke right there on the spot.   (Try doing that in your work office in the USA, or in a restaurant, or even in your car or truck.)

If I want to walk into a restaurant without a shirt on, or shoes, no one will stop me or say anything to me.  (Not only is this impossible to do in the USA, but there are often signs specifically stating so. In fact, one of the first things I noted, on a return visit to the USA, was the presence of these signs.  Disgusting and disturbing. The second thing I noticed was that you had to PAY for Internet access.  What decade is the USA in? Jeeze!)

If I want to bring my dog into the restaurant with me, no one says anything .  (Actually, the waitress staff is often playing with the dog, taking selfies, and rubbing his nose.  Oh, he’s a real chick-magnet.) No one cares. No one looks at me with disgust, or tells me to step outside.   It just never happens; never .

Let me elaborate this point again.  No fat American woman arches her back, sticks out her chin and says “Excuse me!” with disapproval.  No policeman looks you up and down in any way.  (They are too busy chatting with the pretty girls, or playing on their iPhones.) 

No company demands that I fill out a W-2 form, sign up for a urine or background check, puts down a long list of dress codes, demands that I have a cell phone so that they can have 24 hour access to me when they want.  I have never been asked (with negative consequences if you don’t comply) to “donate” blood, participate in fund drives, or  donate my time to some special event during my “off hours”.  These things are all unheard of outside of the United States.

In China, you are NOT compelled to buy or purchase anything or be forced to pay fees or fines otherwise. Of course, under President Obama you MUST purchase government health insurance, and pay into it monthly.  Additionally, if you fail to buy insurance, you will be penalized financially.

You do not have to report your earnings every year to the government.  That’s correct.  This requirement is absent from most other nations.  Other people, elsewhere in the world NEVER have to report anything to their government.  They don’t spend any time doing so.  They don’t hire anyone to help them in the reporting effort.  They don’t try to do the reporting themselves by purchasing “taxation software”. They don’t even buy stamps to mail a letter to the government. They are FREE to live their lives and not tell the government anything.  WOW!

You do not have to fill out forms to the federal government if you want to move large sums of money out of a bank.  You do not have to ask permission to cut down a tree in your yard, haul things with your car, dig a well, add a room to your house, or fly a flag.  So many restrictions of freedom in America are simply not present outside the American borders.

I most especially like the concept that if you buy a house it is yours.  No government can tax it for any reason. When you die, no government can take it and give a portion to your children. No government can take it and tear it down to preserve the habitat of the endangered tiger-boob-dodo-fly. Finally, no government can require that you submit bank and real estate appraisals as part of your annual income.  The concept that what you earn is yours!  It’s wonderful!  But, yet so un-American.

In America, what you “own” is actually owned by the Government. You are just a tenant.  You pay the government rent.  You don’t really own anything.  You just have a name on a paper that permits you to live in a certain location as long as you pay your fees and taxes on time to the proper authorities.

So what is China like? Is it full of bicycles  and people running around in little blue coats? Are the people 3rd world, poor, and uneducated.  Are the roads all unpaved; consisting of mud or dusty billows of dirt? Are they hungry and starving; living off of fish heads and rice? Are they little people, with brown swarthy complexions walking barefoot on dirty filthy roads?Are the portrayals of China by the American media correct? 

I landed in Shenzhen .  Shenzhen began as an experiment by Mr. Deng . He believed that if you created a “free market” area, next to Hong Kong, that the area would prosper.  He worked hard to prevent the socialist controls that the Communist leadership in Beijing insisted be imposed. Time has proven him correct.

Today, many businesses and factories all around the world come to Shenzhen to do business, and to set up remote operations in China.  I know.  I was part of the contingent that was engaged in moving factories in the United States to China. It is what I did as an engineer from around 1988 until my retirement.

Many factories and businesses can no longer operate profitably in the United States, Brussels and the EU.  That is because the governments in these areas are tying to “improve” their nations by implementing (already failed) socialist business models.  You, the reader know this is true, though it sounds like a really radical thing to say. So what is a factory to do?  They move to Communist China… a place that does NOT EMBRACE socialist economic models, but rather uses FREE MARKET business models. Thus they move their entire factories to China…to a land where the free market dictates whether or not a company can succeed or fail.

Most Americans are not aware of this.  They think and still believe that Communist China is 100% communist.  They do not realize that Communist China has morphed into a free market nation with socialist tendencies.  It is not the communist reality that many Americans expect.

One of the greatest shocks that I experienced in China when I first arrived was how the children were treated.  They often walk around without pants on, and when they have to go urinate or defecate, they do so on the spot.  (Or, if they wear pants, have a huge hole cut out in the groin area.)  In fact, many parents will hold them while they do so, whether it is on a sidewalk, or outside a restaurant window.  That is correct; they would stop in mid walk.  Pull their pants down, and squat while they took a dump right there!  In the middle of the sidewalk!  (Now not everyone does this.  Most urban folk discreetly go to the edge of the sidewalk while they tend to their child.)  It is shocking.  Because in America, if you do that, you would get arrested.  You would be arrested for public indecency (certainly), child endangerment (probably), and even child pornography (possibly).

In fact, all the Chinese proudly have pictures of their sons with the legs wide open and his genitals exposed.  The Chinese think nothing of this.  But to an American it is a real shock.  “It’s his gunk”, they explain.  “He’s a boy.  So what?  Why are you so offended?” You shrug your shoulders and say nothing.  You are speechless.  But over time, you begin to understand.  You begin to accept that different places and different people have different customs.  What is important to one group of people is of no consequence to another.

Go to the Chinese website QQ.com, which is the Chinese equivalent to Facebook.com.  (And is also much larger than it. LOL!)  Look at all the pictures of the children.  They don’t care about what a person looks like.  They are proud to show them nude and exposed; hopping and dancing completely nude for the entire world to see.  It is their God-given body, and they are proud of it.

Yeah, it is weird.  In China kids are half-naked on leashes while dogs roam free in sweaters and shoes .  Seriously, the Chinese love their pets and dress them up in socks and shoes with shirts, pants and sometimes even a hat.  Many times they dye their fur different colors as a fashion statement; bright orange and green seem to be the most popular.  (Yuck!) Yet the children go around with big holes in their pants so that the genitals are exposed and fling around in great abandon.  These things take some time getting used to.  Truly.

I have pages and pages of this.  I have been told to publish, but I don't really think it is publish-worthy.  Just my opinions and impressions.  Anyways, here's some more while I am at it...

China is big. It is, really, really big. It is actually bigger than the USA. There are more people in China that speak English (as a second language) than there are Americans on the entire planet! There are all kinds of climate, places, regions, cities and towns. Every place and every city is different. Compare that to the USA. It is the same thing.  It is hard to tell you what the USA is like.  Is the USA like LA, Chicago, NY, Dallas, or Boston? They are all different places. The same is true of China.

In China, are areas of amazing beauty, as well as areas so polluted that you wonder whether humans should be allowed to occupy the globe. There are huge old cities full of history and people that have stubbornly held on to their traditions, as well as areas that are ultra-modern and simply amazing.

I will tell you about the little part of China where I lived. In the past, I had lived in numerous cities including Wenzhou, Zhuhai, Dongguan, and Shenzhen. Shenzhen is next door to Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a small city (by Chinese standards), being only 7 million people. Shenzhen is a medium sized city, holding 14+ million people. The people of Shenzhen and Hong Kong travel back and forth between the cities quite regularly. Thus turning the entire region into one big mega-city. That is 21 million people! 

Consider the USA has a total of 300 million people.  Combined, to put this in perspective, Shenzhen / HK is about the size of Miami (0.5 million), and Boston (0.5 million), and also Philadelphia (2.5 million), added with Chicago (2.7 million), and Atlanta (0.5 million), with New York (8.5 million), and also Los Angles (4 million) and finally Houston (2.2 million) combined all together!

Shenzhen, also known as SZ, is a young city.

20 years ago it was a small fishing village with dirt roads. Now it is a gleaming metropolis sort of like the city of OZ. Today it is ultra-modern, and rivals that of Tokyo Japan. It has everything. Nightlife. Elaborate and modern subways. Modern high-speed roads. Taxis. Museums. Restaurants and social gathering places. The people in SZ are mostly young. Most are in their 20's and lower 30's.

It is an entrepreneurial city, and international to boot. People from all over the world come to it to invest and do business. I often saw people from the EU, Africa, and South America. There is a rising middle class throughout the globe (except for the USA), and they all come to China to do business, set up business relationships and conduct trade. While many people speak English, I am finding more and more businessmen being able to speak Chinese. It is now slowly becoming the language of trade. Though, I don't ever see the Chinese language displacing English completely.

Pretty girls abound, all are slim and cute. They like to wear mini-mini dresses , and super-impossible high heels.   Most have super long black hair that cascade down their backs. Hot-shorts, painted-on tight-tight jeans or leggings, and crotch riding dress hem-lines are the norm.   Everyone wears modern and fashionable clothing. (Though, Chinese fashions tend to be slightly different from American and European fashions . They hold their own here.)

The Chinese have their own (often three character) names, plus an “English” name. 
Their selection of the name, however, follows different conventions than what Americans would use. There are a fair share of Toms and Jerrys who often name themselves after the ancient MGM cartoon, that for some reason has taken China by storm. There are a lot of Echos out there inspired by the English name of novelist Sanmao (三毛), Echo Chan, who named herself after the Greek nymph.
Due to the frequent use of consonant endings and the numerous conflicting Cantonese romanization systems still in use, familiar Mandarin surnames quickly become quite comical.

You can see with spellings like this how all fun starts to ensue. Work safe examples would be Annie Tang (anything), Harry Thai (hairy thigh), Barbie Kiu (Barbecue) and Never Wong. Take the actor Chow Yun-fat (Zhou Renfa), if you say his name based on the Western convention of first name in front of surname, you get Yun-fat Chow.  A hilarious example is the popular Wong Fuk Hing Bookstore meme. Can’t find the book you’re looking for, you’re obviously in the Wong Fuk Hing Bookstore!

Almost all the clothing in the world originates from the province of Guangdong. (That is changing, with India, and Vietnam becoming the preferred manufacturing locations.) In all my 55+ years that I spent in the USA before I moved to China, I have never seen so many expensive cars and wealth as I do today in China. Bentleys, Lamborghini's, Maybach's, Ferrari's and Maserati’s are a daily sight. Truly! It is amazing.  In fact, up until I moved to China, I never saw a Bentley or Rolls Royce outside of a television or movie. (I think I saw one once on the television show “Magnum PI” .)

What is even more amazing is that these cars were paid for in cash, with an equal amount paid for the excise tax .

Like most people who have never left the USA, you'd think China was full of people riding bicycles and wearing little blue jackets. Boy! Is that view wrong! China (at least in SZ/HK) looks a lot like a cross between Tokyo and Sydney. It's active, MODERN, and full of life and activity. It is truly a city that never sleeps. There is always a BBQ somewhere on the street for a late night snack, and couples chatting on public benches at 5 am are a regular sight. You are never alone in China.

Costs are cheap.  A breakfast costs under $us 0.25.  A full meal with fall-on-the-face amount of beer for two people will run you $us 20.00.   Taxies are $us 3.00 a ride.  The subway will cost between $us 0.25 and $us 1.00.  There is no tipping.  There are no taxes on anything purchased.  The tax system is simple. Most Chinese pay a small tax based on their income. It is not too bad. But it does jump up if you make more than 20K yuan a month (which is less than 20% of the national median income). But there are no other taxes. No excise tax on things you buy (one exception is cars), no Social Security tax, no Obama CARE tax, no welfare tax, no Medicaid tax, no state, or local taxes. This dearth of taxes translates into something very important... Chinese can and do save their money.

Being able to save one's money is important. It enables a person to use it to start their own business . And that is just what many Chinese do. They, with a group of friends set up businesses and pull their resources and become successful. There is a reason why American industry is in a decline. The Chinese have money to invest. Americans do not.

The reader must understand that a Chinese worker can save; even if the amount of money that they are paid is less than their American counterpart.  The companies must, by law, provide them with three full meals a day; an apartment, laundry service, shuttle busses to and from the factory into the nearest town, and other special privileges in addition to their paycheck.  It is the law.  Further, they are typically paid directly in cash, or direct deposit to the bank.  Some of which seem rather quaint or peculiar to us Americans.  (Like a monthly case of milk, for instance.)  Thus, without needing to pay for an apartment, a car, and food, they (of course) can save.  The reader could also save substantial amounts of money if their taxes were tiny, and all the necessities of living were provided for.

Shenzhen is semi-tropical. It is nice, but hot, really hot in the summer.  I do not like the 95°F weather with a 95% RH for most of the year.  But it is located in a nice part of the globe and flights to interesting places like Japan, Bali, Thailand, and Australia are relatively cheap. Food is abundant, and cheap. There are tons of restaurants throughout SZ. SZ is a melting pot for China, and certainly, now, for the world.

It's not perfect by a long stretch. There is construction all the time. Therefore it is constantly noisy, dusty and crowded. Everywhere there is construction. New buildings go up all the time. People are constantly redesigning and renovating their apartments and houses. The city is constantly making new parks, subways and public facilities. Even the small stores are constantly renovating. It is amazing to me to see small mom & pop stores and restaurants getting a full-on redecoration every 4 or 5 months! You just do not see that in the states.

Every time that I go visit a section of the city that I hadn’t seen for six months, I get lost.  The city is constantly changing, evolving and growing.  It’s sort of like the movie “Dark City” . It is changing so fast that it is hard to keep up.  There is always some kind of new public works project or construction being built.  These constructions vary from decorative walkways, to water-side walk paths, and parks.  It is no secret that China wants SZ to rival Tokyo in size, modernity and impressibility.

The building continues even though the western media portrays China as in an economic downturn .  If all you did was to read western newspapers and articles, you would be absolutely flabbergasted when you came to China.  The locals don’t read western papers and websites.  They don’t subscribe to “Twitter”  or “Facebook”, so they just go about their lives building buildings, setting up new restaurants, working, and living life.  I guess without the constant onslaught of negative Western press, the Chinese just continue living without a care in the world.  It’s nice…actually.

Factories are everywhere.  Dongguan today is what the Blackstone valley  was 100 years ago.  It is what Western Pennysylvania was in the 1960’s.  Factories are everywhere.  They are busy, and very dirty.  People are working.  Dust and smoke is everywhere that the factories are.  Luckily the factories are isolated away from most residential areas, and thus the noise and pollution is controlled somewhat.  China has industry.  Industry is, by design, messy and stinky.

The nightmarish picture as presented by the western media is oblivious to them.  All those abandoned buildings that are so written about in the western press are difficult to find.  In fact, most of the things that are written about are absent from reality.  I have yet to see child labor , workers passing out from exhaustion , and prostitutes so cheap that you could rent a girl for $30 for a week .  These are all nonsense.  They are a fictional reality that was somehow contrived in the United States and somehow (though conscious direction, perhaps) made it to the presses to be presented to the gullible American populace.

The Chinese have cultivated the practice and preparation of food to a high degree.  In China you can eat the most amazing food, and get exposed to fruits and vegetables that are simply not available in the United States.  When I used to travel back and forth to China, my colleagues and myself would prefer to eat at western restaurants.  But we were sorely ignoring such a wide variety of culinary art.  If you want to eat well, you go to china.

There are some curious differences.  One such curiosity is that bottled soda and beverages are filled to the brim.  It is pretty amazing!  Truly, when one takes off the cap one must be careful not to spill any of the precious beverage.  That is completely different from a soda in the United States.  Often times, if not in every bottle, the American equivalent are filled to exactly the proper volume or slightly below it.  Or, perhaps more accurately just under the specified volume that is stated on the side.  Thus leaving a wide gap of carbonated air that exits the bottle when one twists off the cap.

One of the things that I truly miss in China is the home-made summer tomato sandwich ....

Chinese food is good; really, really good.  But they eat it quite differently than westerners do.  They eat everything.  In the west we debone the fish, we throw away chicken heads and feet, we discard the fatty part of meat.  But in China they relish the differences.  They do not simplify their foods so that a child can eat it.  The foods will contain bones, and grizzle and the consumer is expected to know the difference what is editable and what is not.  Chinese food is cut up in small pieces and there is little need for the consumer to cut their food up.  Thus in the States, you would fillet a fish; remove the bones, tail and head.  Not so in China.  There, they simply take the entire fish.  Rip the guts out, and cut up what’s left into tiny chucks.  Bones, fins, scales and all.

This has manifested into various mysteries that puzzle me.  For instance, why will the Chinese eat insects and larva, but not eat turkey?  (It is not popular at all.)  Or why will they absolutely love chicken feet, chicken gizzards, chicken head and chicken wings, but throw away chicken breast?  (It is considered to be too much meat.)  In fact one of the things that I liked about China most was the fact that chicken breast was so cheap there .  Speaking of turkey, it is one of the things I’ve missed the most in China (that, heirloom tomatoes and cheap cheese.).

Celebrating Thanksgiving in China is like celebrating The Dragon Boat Festival in Omaha, Nebraska. It's a barren wasteland for the traditional fare because, well, for one, most Chinese aren't all that partial to the Turkey Day centerpiece. One Chinese restaurateur even asked me how a bird so morbidly obese can have so little fat.   Same goes for ham.  The Chinese eat pork, but eat ham in the form of spam that is grilled on a BBQ.  Ham is pretty unknown here, but not pork.  Pork can be found everywhere. Bacon is also a rarity, but that is changing.

Oh, and most shared apartments lack ovens, or at least ones large enough to hold a six-kilo turkey. Unless you want to grill your gobbler prison-style on the radiator, you're out of luck. And many of those Thanksgiving packages offered by restaurants amount to glorified TV dinners. It's sacrilege for a true gravy-blooded American to buy a set dinner anyway.  Ugh!  Not everything is all “peaches and cream”  in China.

Getting a “decent” breakfast can be difficult. Make no mistake, I do love the rice soup, the dumplings, and youtiao (deep fried tofu bread). The Shanghai ShaoLongBao is truly awesome! However, I would like to have some “over easy” eggs with bacon and toast. 
Not so likely, I am afraid.  You can get it at “Hong Kong” style restaurants.  However they tend to steam the bacon (or fry it so little that it looks like it is steamed), and microwave rather than toast the bread (What?  Nobody ever heard of a toaster?).  Though, surprise surprise!, some actually do serve pork and beans with the eggs! (Really! Who would figure?  It just seems that coincidentally that the HK restaurants in this section of China serve pork and beans with eggs.  Wow!)

No one knows what “over easy” eggs are.  The restaurant tends to “break the yoke” as a matter of process, and thus you have to specifically ask for Tai Yang Dan style if you want “sunny side up” eggs.

Pizza is “hit or miss”.  You can pretty much buy pizza all over the place, but “real” pizza comes from a Western restaurant that tends to cater to the expat community.  You can go to a Pizza Hut restaurant.  They are just as popular as KFC is in China.  However, they serve packaged dinner meal sets.  Pretty good, with real pizza crust, sauce and cheese, but the toppings are all Chinese.  For instance you can get a durian and potato pizza, or a squid, snail and lobster pizza.  The deluxe pizza would have such toppings as corn, cut up hotdog, and spam slices.  Only Pappa Johns maintains a “real” pizza experience.

That being said, I do go to the local Pizza Hut and enjoy their thin-crust seafood pizza. I ask for extra cheese and they are very willing to put it on in globs.  (Most Chinese are not big fans of cheese.)  For the longest time I wanted to go to Pizza Hut and order a large pepperoni pizza with a pitcher of coke.  However, it was not to materialize.  Instead, I had to settle for a packaged meal with iced tea, cream cheese cake, and sides of snails and octopus. 

The reader should realize that Pizza Hut has adapted well to the Chinese market, and it tends to be standing room only, with lines for seating on the weekends. When I watch what the other Chinese people are buying they are all buying the packaged meals, with a heavy mix of spaghetti as a side, seafood pizza types and a large number of side dishes. It’s a fun outing for them, and a little bit exotic.  Good for them!

It goes without saying, but the reader will be unaware of this, that you can drink alcohol in the restaurant.  China does not have beer and wine licensing requirements like the USA does.  You can either buy the wine or beer in the restaurant, or bring your own.  The restaurant doesn’t care. It’s one of the things that I love about China; the freedom to drink what you want, where you want.

Aside from Pizza Hut, most local Chinese restaurants serving pizza would not use pizza dough.  Instead, they would make the crust out of regular bread dough.  They would skimp on the cheese, and maybe substitute cheese sauce (squirted over the top in a zig-zag manner), with hotdog, corn, and pineapple toppings. It’s a big disappointment, let me tell you.

Well... You are either totally excited to come here, or are petrified.  I hope that my little words inspired...

Yes, there are beggars, and street vendors. They are an irritant.  There are no regulations . You can smoke in restaurants (Except for western restaurants.  They charge western prices and utilize western rules.  This includes Hong Kong restaurants, and American clones like Starbucks, Pizza Hut and their ilk.). You can drink without being carded  for your age. You can live an entire year without ever having to show your identification! Try doing that in the USA.  (I ask the reader this, open up your wallet.  Is there a picture driver’s license?  IS there another form of picture ID?  Do you have a social security number?  These are the chains that control your movement and regulate your actions in what is an all-knowing police state.)

The beggars in China are a “pain-in-the-ass” .  That is the truth.  They are also organized.  They have partitioned the city and areas into defined regions where each has to pay a fee to the local beggar-boss.  This individual then provides them with simple accommodations and food to subsist upon.  In addition there are random “free-lance” beggars who try to earn some yuan here or there.  Some do so by telling fortunes; sometimes it is a schoolgirl holding the ashes of their dead, while at other times it might be a beggar singing or playing a musical instrument.

In fact there are entire troops of musical beggars  who put on free evening shows with lights and amplified music with singing and dancing.  They are typically maimed or crippled to various degrees .  They work together.  They will perform in wheelchairs and crutches and will always have a large audience watching them.

There are group dances in the open spaces and parks at sunset and sunrise.  There are vendors selling everything from baked sweet potatoes, animal furs, trinkets, dim sum , mantou’s  and baozi’s , and sugar cane juice.  Many of these vendors do so for free (no need for government permits).  They do not have to procure a sales license or a permit to operate in the city.  At least, not in the same way that you have to do in the United States.  And the FDA will most certainly leave them alone.  In China, the police leave you alone. They do. You might not be able to say something bad about the government, but they most certainly will leave you alone .  This is quite unlike that in the USA.

In the United States, not only can you NOT say anything bad about the government , but they won’t leave you alone either.

It was a pleasure to read you article! Thank you! I truly enjoyed it and will share with my husband. So much good information. So true about the west. Too many rules. I sure hope we save more in China. It seems impossible in the west. We are most excited about Shenzhen. I researched living costs and it was truly amazing! We will be visiting HK often too since my brother in law lives there. His wife is from there but since he self employed it it made sense too. He loves it there and would agree with you. Thank you!

shenzhen is really a nice city, most innovative especially for us who is  with electronics. 

if give me another chance i'll select shenzhen instead of shanghai at the moment i left my school.


Here are some outstanding you-tube links bout China.  I would suggest you visit them.    China is awesome!

Why I like Shenzhen so so so much!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ya93mqT … xJ9TBMoAL4

Living in Shenzhen China

Why China is better than the USA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6U5y0A … freload=10

I'm loving China!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxYYiXKAF94&list=RDsxJ9TBMoAL4&index=3" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxYYiXK … mp;index=3

China is amazing!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuiAsTw … mp;index=6

China does it better.

China Underground (Subways in Shenzhen)

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