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Relocating to Shanghai – Our Story

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We started this adventure in Seattle. Margaret was looking for a position doing web work. Even though she had several local interviews, there was none she was excited about. I was working for a local health care organization in the IS department. We had our home, our car, our cats and were basically very contented. Very quickly, things changed. We received interest from a publishing company who had an office in Shanghai. They needed someone to manage all the Chinese web work in their Shanghai office. To cut a long story short — with her skill with Chinese, web work, and familiarity with Shanghai (she is Chinese, originally from Shanghai), she got the job, complete with reasonable relocation package.

Even knowing what Margaret knew about living in Shanghai – there are some things we would do differently if we had to do it again. We had a limit on what we were allowed to move at company expense. We had to choose the things that would make the most difference for an extended stay in Shanghai and sell, give away, or store the rest. It is amazing how much stuff you can accumulate in the process of just living. Margaret was correct in assuming that we would not need to move much furniture. We stored, sold, or gave away most of what we had. She was also correct about clothes, household items, tools, and most of the things that are made in China. It did actually turn out cheaper to sell them and replace them in Shanghai than to move them. Out of our 1600 lbs, we had some clothes, English language books that we really wanted to keep with us, our stereo, CDs, computers, some kitchen stuff, some spices and specialty foods (including a couple lbs of good coffee.) Mostly personal stuff. If we had to do it over again, I think we would leave most 110 volt appliances (like the toaster oven, alarm clock, fax machine, most lamps, vacuum cleaner, maybe the stereo).

We would leave more clothes, kitchen stuff, and limit the books to what we really were going to use as reference or reading in China. By the time the movers took the last thing, we had moved 20%, stored 30%, and sold or given away the other 50%. When we arrived in Shanghai and moved into our apartment, maybe 20% of what we moved ended up not being as useful as we had thought, or was soon replaced by something better purchased very cheaply locally. It depends a lot on your relocation, limits on budget, what kind of things you have and what you think you cannot live without. If your budget is a big concern, you should probably focus on the personal stuff that makes an apartment a home. Tools, books (Amazon delivers here too,) bedroom linen and towels, clothes (unless you are big, larger than L, or tall,) many household and kitchen items, plants, a lot of furniture, most small appliances, and even a lot of very good art are all procurable locally in Shanghai at a fraction of the cost of the US. Computers are about the same price or a little more here, but all the normal things you would need for a good system are here. Keep in mind you might pay a significant duty on your computer system, stereo or fax when your shipment arrives. We paid duty for computers, the stereo, CDs and one piece of good wood furniture, amounting to about 700 USD.

All in all, we are very comfortable here. Margaret was able to find a great apartment the first week in a decent building for 830 USD a month including management fees. This was a fraction of what the previous tenant had paid, due to the current glut in unrented apartments and office space. The building, Huashan Garden on Jiangsu Road, is exceptionally well-maintained and very responsive. We used Allied to move and they did very well in the US and Shanghai. They had a decent staff pack and unpack, assist with customs, and follow up with all of our questions. Every glass, vase, and CD made it through without a scratch.

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