Job in Shenzhen; where to live with 3 school kids?

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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    3

    Job in Shenzhen; where to live with 3 school kids?

    Hello from North Carolina, USA. We are considering a move to HK--probably this summer after school ends here. My husband's job will be in Shenzhen. I have 3 school-aged kids, 11, 8, & 5 years old, the youngest just starting formal education (previously in pre-schools). I would love for them to be at the same school for the couple of years that we will be there, rather than having the oldest move on to a different school as he ages out. Most American-based curriculums seem to encompass large age ranges, which would be great for us. This seems different than the ESF schools.

    Anyway, just wondering where we should look at settling (in HK?) where my husband's commute wouldn't be too horrible, we could live near other American expats, and good schools would be near by.

    Do you think the commute is do-able?

    The American International School and the International Christian School both seem appealing to me. Opinions?

    Is it difficult to find openings at schools?

    Thanks so much for your advise!!

    EAH


  2. #2

    Join Date
    Nov 2006
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    20

    We have a similar situation as my wife teaches at a University in HK and I work in mainland China.. We have a house in HK and a flat in Shenzhen and one daughter in school, in Hong Kong. The commute to SZ for work is not too convenient. It will take several hours each way if travel by train or bus as you have to go through Immigration which can take time. Doing this once a week is enough, every day would be frustrating but people do it.. even little children going to school in Hong Kong, kids that look too small to be on their own.
    Our daughter goes to Shatin College.. an International School with British curriculum. I'm sure you know there are many International Schools and the students in all them will be a combination of expat kids and local kids. Convenient location to where you will live will be an important consideration but travelling around in Hong Kong is very efficient by trains and taxis everywhere.
    Living in Shenzhen would be an option as it has many beautiful places and is much, much cheaper but the expat population is also much smaller and it is frustrating to try to maintain a life that you've been used to in the US. It is changing and improving but it is definitely not as convenient to live in as Hong Kong for westerners.

    I expect that you will get much more advice.. check the Shenzhen forum to get a feel for what expats experience there. My wife is Chinese so I am fortunate to have someone help with all of the language and culture idiosyncracies. Never a dull moment. Good Luck


  3. #3

    Join Date
    May 2005
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    Sai Kung
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    First problem you will find is visa's. If your husbands employment is in SZ then he will not have an HK employment visa and will only be able to enter HK as a tourist. So you would need to find a full time job and get sponsered for a working visa yourself if you don't want to be leaving every 3 months on a visa run. You'll find renting places and even opening bank accounts difficult without visa / HK ID card.

    The commute between HK and SZ daily is a pain - there are 2 sets of border control, although with an HK ID card the HK side is pretty much a doddle. Queues on the China side though can sometimes take up to 45 mins to get through when really busy - and you have to go through both ways. Be prepered to replace your passport every few months as well as it will get full of stamps in no time.

    The American International School is in Kowloon Tong which is a low rise, low density area with many expats, although you don't see many walking around in the streets. There's a big shopping mall there, Festival Walk, which also houses a cinema and ice skating rink. Both the MTR and KCR train lines run through and the published time for the KCR trip to the border at Lowu is 33 minutes. Transport to elsewhere in HK from there is good.

    I will say that a daily run to SZ would be a nightmare. I do it once a week, sometimes twice and absolutely hate it! If I had to do it every day I would actually just get a place there.


  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Posts
    67

    Shenzhen /hk

    Hi,

    As above message says, check the Shenzhen forum on this site. I live there.

    1. You can't commute over the border. I do the border about four/five times a week as our daughter lives and works in HK so I know from long experience that you could not commute in terms of keeping regular office hours. The most you can do is a weekend commute, Friday night time to say 9.30am Monday morning.

    2. Shenzhen is cheap,cheap,cheap to live in. This is a very big advantage - you can eat out all the time etc etc. Rents are nothing compared with HK.

    3. There are not many foreigners except in Shekou but Shekou is too far if your place of work is anywhere else.

    4. The Chinese middle classes live very, very comfortably and you would be able to have a good lifestyle if you live in a good apartment block. (Swimming pool, gym, 24 hour guards, metro station close by, cheap hairdressers, tailors etc etc) Our complex has lots of Koreans, Taiwanese and the odd European. Our Chinese neighbours mostly also have places in Canada or the US!

    5. A new international school has opened in Futian but I don't have the details. Could find out more if you like.

    6. Shenzhen is changing all the time and I think in two years there will be foreigners everywhere. You need to learn to speak some Mandarin to get around but on the other hand you can get a maid and/or driver for very, very little pay.

    7. Your kids will find it "weird", strange and odd. However after six months they'll adjust, believe it or not. It just takes more time than it does with other cities.

    8. My suggestion is you take the plunge and move to SZ! You can go to HK as often as you like.

    9. The main thing to be concerned about is health. The SOS clinic located in Shekou provides excellent coverage for this (at a price, which I would expect the employor to contribute to.)

    10. If you decide not to live in SZ I would live just over the border, in Sheung Shui or somewhere very close to the border. Shatin is about half way to Central and this is as far from the border as I would go. Shatin has a mjor shopping mall and good transport to other areas although it is in the sticks.


  5. #5
    inprov

    My husband splits his time between Shenzhen and Shatin, so he is officially working in HK for visa purposes. We could have been sponsored out of either place. He would much rather live in HK, but I would almost rather be in China, as HK is so darn expensive and my kids are around the super wealthy private club types now. My husband hates Shenzhen, to be perfectly blunt, but let me tell you that his factory is far from the center, in a depressing, disgusting poverty stricken place. We LOVE China. I had traveled in China long before I ever came to HK.

    It will be an AMAZING experience for your kids, whatever you choose. Does the company have any base in HK? Maybe they can hire him out of that office and he can just cross over if you live near the border. The commute to Shenzhen from Wanchai/Mid-levels area where we live is a nightmare for him. We picked it because of the kids school. I wisg I could break my lease and move to Sai Kung tomorrow!


  6. #6

    Join Date
    May 2005
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    Sai Kung
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    4,151
    Quote Originally Posted by SZTAITAI:
    Shatin has a mjor shopping mall and good transport to other areas although it is in the sticks.
    That one nearly made me spit my coffee!!!!!

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Posts
    3

    Thank you everyone for your posts!! It's a lot to digest!!

    I think visas are not a problem for us. It's a multi-national Chinese corporation, and there are people currently in the company doing what I am proposing, so I'm sure it's not a problem with visas. (But, we can't currently discuss our situation with them since they are not aware of some of the company's future plans.) I've only heard horror stories about their commute, which you seem to be confirming!

    Healthcare in Shenzhen is a concern? Just the lack of facilities? Besides reading the forums, it's not as easy to get info on the area. Real estate websites, which also offer maps and tidbits of info are hard to find. I'll keep watching the forums, though, thanks. Any other good places to look for Shenzhen info? My major concern would be good schools & sufficient expat support systems/activities. HK seems so much easier for me if I have to be the single parent (more or less) of 3 during the week.

    Spitting coffee because...? ... Shatin isn't the sticks? (Remember, I'm still trying to sort EVERYthing out!!) I am having a hard time figuring out where the International Christian School is going to be located in Shatin, if there are expat places to live close by, and if that's also by the KCR. I want it all, don't I?? I just feel that our highest priorities are school and reducing commute time, both hopefully without the use of a car. ICS hasn't responded to my email for more info yet. Any place to find a detailed map of Kowloon or NT? I need a Chinese mapquest (in English)!

    What about Hong Lok Yuen? There's a school out there (although I think primary) it's closer to the border, but I don't know about expat community. From the maps of the real estate places I've seen, it seems like I would need a car out there. Anyone willing to break this down for me? Where would I need a car, and where would I never miss one? Just seems like once you get a car, you're lifestyle would become more isolated. It looks like there are some beautiful places to live out there, however.

    You all (y'all) are so helpful!!! What seemed like it would be such an exciting opportunity seems more difficult/worrisome every day!! Thanks again for all your wisdom!

    EAH


  8. #8

    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Posts
    20

    All of Hong Kong is well developed and travel is convenient by bus and trains. Cars are not necessary regardless of where you choose to live. We live in Fairview Park, by Yuen Long and Sheung Shui, and it takes about 40 to 50 minutes by bus to Sheung Shui and then train to Shatin. That is typical to go anywhere. Driving saves a little time but traffic is unpredictable and parking, if convenient, is costly. Your children will be able to navigate the trains and busses in a week so you won't have to haul them around as you would in the US.
    In Shenzhen, we live in NanShan area, which is on the west edge but not as far out as She Kuo. She Kuo seems to have the largest number of foreigners but it is not convenient to the rest of Shenzhen. It takes us two hours to go from Fairview to our flat in Nan Shan. Our homes cost approximately the same but in HK, we have 85 sq meters (approx 850 sq ft) and the flat in Shenzhen is 265 sq meters and far more elegant. Housing in HK is small and expensive.
    I believe the comment of Shatin "being in the sticks" is because it away from the main expat or city center of Hong Kong Island and Central.. it is not remote by any stretch of the imagination. It is a very popular shopping area for expats and locals, more reasonable than Festival Walk, and you will be overwhelmed by the number of people. Anyplace in Hong Kong and Shenzhen will be crowded. Royal Ascot is one housing option that I know is popular with the expat University professors that is in/ very near Shatin. Nice but small spaces.. Three kids may need more.


  9. #9

    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    35

    Eah,
    It completely depends on where your husband is based in SZ to determine where to live. If you do choose SZ, the only place that you would feel comfortable is Shekou. There are hundreds of expat families there with kids (look up the women's club website, something like SWIC). I see foreign and chinese kids learning to rollerblade together in the main square everytime I go. It's a VERY expat friendly place (just don't go by Chicken Street ;-). BUT, if your husband is not working convenient to there then it's not worth it. I assume he'll have a car and driver so convenience is purely based on time he's willing to commute. But for sure if the office is in Huanggang or Luohu areas it's not worth it.

    I also live in Fairview Park (HK) and commute to Luohu (SZ) most days. I also keep an apt in Luohu for use some workdays. Fairview has a direct bus from your door to Sheung Shui KCR (20-25min), then you hop the KCR to Luohu (Lo Wu for HKers), go through the border and you're then in SZ. It takes me 50min in the morning door to door, and 60min evening. Additionally, Fairview has direct buses to other areas of HK. I only recommend living there if the transportation links are perfect for your needs as it's not a foreigner/American filled place nor is it convenient to the Island with the exception of morning and evening direct buses during work time.

    Hong Lok Yuen I heard is much fancier than Fairview although the same architect or something. I think it's 10-20min from the Tai Po KCR station. Tai Po to Luohu would be a similar 1hr commute. This also puts you closer to international schools and easy access to the KCR East Rail for travel to TST and the Island. If your husband is really commuting to SZ everyday I would not recommend living any further away than Tai Po as the commute will just get longer and longer.

    Healthcare shouldn't be a big problem. Int'l health plans generally let you see who you want so you can get treated by western or western-educated doctors in HK. If you live in SZ you still can go to HK for any major issues and use SOS clinics for minor stuff.

    Lastly, if you live in HK you can get a live-in domestic helper which will probably spoil you to the point you won't want to go back to the States. You can obviously get one (called an "ayi") in China for much cheaper but since they're locals they won't speak English or cook western dishes unless you teach them. In HK domestics generally come from the Philipinnes or Indonesia so speak English and have a better understanding of westerner lifestyles.


  10. #10

    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    35

    and try http://www.johomaps.com/ for great maps of HK and SZ.


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