Monthly Archives: April 2012

Shanghai – a brief history

Shanghai began as a fishing village in the 11th century, but by the mid-18th century it was an important area for growing cotton and by 1800 it was becoming the largest city in China.  Foreigners came to Shanghai due to foreign trade after the Opium Wars.  The British, along with the Americans and French, were allowed to live in certain territorial zones without being under the Chinese laws.  As a result of all the foreigners, Shanghai became greatly influenced by Western culture, but things changed dramatically after Communism took over.  During the 1900s, opium sales along with the gambling that went with it brought in very big profits. After the end of Shanghai’s subjugation by the Japanese, the Nationalist Chinese government was given control of the city.  The foreigners no longer had control and by 1949, Shanghai was transformed by the Communist Chinese government.  As the foreigners left, the businesses that were left behind were one by one taken over by the government.  After losing ground during the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, Deng Xiaopeng’s open door policy allowed advancement back to being an international force in business and finance.

Shanghai is situated at 31’14’ north latitude and 121’29’ east longitude (similar to Seville, Spain and Savannah, GA).  Bordering on Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces on the west, Shanghai is washed by the East China Sea in the east and Hangzhou Bay in the south.  North of the city, the Yangtze River pours into the East China Sea.  It also assumes the central location along China’s coastal line.  Thanks to its advantageous geographic location, Shanghai has today become an excellent sea and river port, boasting easy access to a vast hinterland.



The Medical

A warning for anyone who is thinking of entering China to work and live.  DO NOT do your medical before you arrive!

Owen and I spent a great deal of time, effort and money running around in the UK to get blood work, chest x-rays and ECG completed.  Multiple visits to multiple places.  After all that, it was not sufficient for China so we had to do it all again anyway.  But, how efficient it was: in the facility at 8.30am out by 10.00am – completely finished.  It is like a conveyor belt of doctors – you start in one room for height and weight and general questions, move into the next room for chest x-ray, next room for blood work, next room for eye test, next room for ECG, next room for abdomen ultrasound scan. Done!  I was so impressed and then so mad at myself for wasting time in England when this process was so easy and straightforward.

The medical report is a critical step in obtaining a residence permit and every foreigner over the age of 18 must have a certified medical report to move on to the next step in the process.

The Things You See on Bicycles

I am surprised and amazed every day by the things that I see being transported on the back and front of bicycles.  Everything from McDonald’s delivery to glass windows and their frames.  Check back here often and I will update with photos!!!

Kids First Day at School – Monday April 9th 2012

First Day of School

First day of school for my little angels!  They were nervous, scared, excited and apprehensive about starting at the British International School Shanghai (BISS).  Just like me on my first day in the office here!!!  We had been to visit for an orientation and to get school uniform when we first arrived, and they had both met their teachers and seen the school.  It is a HUGE change from their little environments in Chalfont St Giles, Bucks, UK.

Owen and I rode the school bus with them this morning – 50 minutes from our apartment complex and makes the day soooooo long for them.  We had a meet and greet with the headmaster and the PFA (Parents and Friends Association) right after drop off.  It was lovely to meet some people who had been here a while and could answer our questions about where to go shopping, find the best fakes, best hairdresser and good restaurant recommendations, etc.

To my relief, they both got off the bus at 3.50pm with big smiles and positive chatter about their day.  They both “found friends” and are looking forward to going back tomorrow – I will take that as a good sign!

Internet Access

Every time I use my laptop or iPad, I am going through a VPN to my companies network.  However, vanilla internet access is most definitely not going to work for our home, or Owen’s sanity.  What I mean by Vanilla Internet Access is that you have broadband, but it is limited to what the Government here would like you to access.  It is closely monitored and sites are frequently shut down or banned completely.  Facebook and Google are currently banned completely on vanilla internet.

So after much research and reviews from lots of ex-pats living here, we have signed up to ASTRILL.  It is a fabulous service that has servers all over the world so we can access and watch TV shows in the UK and USA.  Plus we can now update Facebook and use Google!

Lifesaving ASTRILL.  Huge plug for Astrill here

Temporary Accommodation

An uneventful drive to our huge Apartment complex – Shama Century Park.  We are living on the 16th floor in Block 12 for the next month.  Great views and pretty western in terms of furniture and appliances.  But….. we have only 3 saucepans, 2 knives, set of 4 cutlery and crockery, no oven pans, no dishwasher – HELP!  Owen is beside himself because he does not know how he will manage to cook without even the bare essentials.  🙂

We will obviously have to do some shopping to tide us over for the next 2-3 months while we wait for the rest of our belongings to arrive.  (Which have not even left the UK yet because we do not have our residence permit.)

Despite all that we do not have, we are super impressed with the electrical outlets here.  Check out this photo which shows that you can plug in any device from any Country in the world without an adapter!!  Next time we build a house, we are putting these in. 🙂

And, at least the windows have black out curtains so it is easy to get the kids off to sleep.

We had to give our passports to the Complex managers who have to register us with the local police.  Every time we move (ie. a new address) we have to re-submit our passports to re-register with the Police.  It is at events/times like this, that I remember where we are and how completely different life is going to be.  Our apartment has internet connection, but we cannot access Google or Facebook without going through a VPN (Virtual Private Network) – again, another reminder about the difference from the West to China.

The views from our Apartment:

View from our Apartment.  Century Park is just across the road.

View from our Apartment. Century Park is just across the road.

Another view - the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum can be seen here.

Another view – the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum can be seen here.

Looking down to the playground and green space

Looking down to the playground and green space

The Start of the Adventure

One week ago the adventures of OSIO in Shanghai began.  OSIO is our family: Owen, Sara, Isabelle and Oliver, not forgetting Tetley our dog.

We had packed up our household contents, had 8 suitcases full of clothes and toys, spent a wonderful week with my parents and then got on a plane from London Heathrow bound for a 2 year assignment in Shanghai, China.  I work for a large, global software company and am so fortunate to have this opportunity of not only a fabulous career move, but also a fabulous experience.

The Journey – 12 hours on a plane with 2 small children (they are 6 and 4) was not something I was looking forward to.  But, to my surprise, there was not a single complaint from either of them.  They watched a few movies, slept for a bit, played for a bit, and were perfect angels.  I can say this, because the row in front had the child from h”*% – constantly leaning over, running up and down the aisles, being loud when all the lights were off for sleep time and being a general pain to all those around him.  It made me appreciate my 2 wonderfully behaved, well mannered, perfect little angels!!  There were also 3-4 devils of the older variety – getting very drunk and progressively louder with the alcohol consumption.  In fact, the British Airways staff were so irritated with them that they asked Owen to complete a complaint form!  Other than that, an uneventful flight.  Tetley was also travelling with us – in the hold beneath us!  However, we could not pick her up at baggage claim as she had to go off for 7 days of quarantine.

Arrival – was so smooth, I was starting to wonder if I was still asleep and dreaming.  Smooth sailing through customs and immigration.  We were met immediately outside by the Pet people to collect the paperwork on Tetley and right behind them were 2 drivers to whisk the 4 of us, 8 suitcases and 7 pieces of hand luggage off to our temporary accommodation!