The nature of most look-see trips can be best described as frantic. Most expats say they simply didn’t have enough time to see all that they wanted to see and do what they felt needed to be done. This is where preparation and research become critically important. The decisions made during this relatively short visit will dramatically affect your life in Shanghai and overall satisfaction with the experience as a whole. Regardless of the truth of this statement, most trips are kept short as employment requirements don’t allow for long absences.
During this trip, you will be looking at options for accommodation and, if you have a family, education (among a host of other things). What is most important is to orient yourself in the city relative to your place of employment. Then start researching different areas of the city by reading our Shanghai Soft Landing page. These pages will help you compare and contrast what each neighborhood has to offer in terms of services – both essential and recreational – and prepare you for the task of choosing where you want to live.
In addition, it is useful to speak to friends or colleagues that have either lived in Shanghai or are currently there at the moment, but be aware that taste is very subjective and the needs and priorities that you have may be very different to those of your friends or colleagues. That said, gaining advice from people from the same cultural, social and economic background is an excellent way to put into perspective the advice we offer.
Before embarking on your look-see trip to Shanghai, take the time to think about what aspect of your new life in Shanghai is going to be the most important to you. It is likely that these priorities may differ somewhat in nature to the priorities you have currently, depending on whether you have relocated in the past and the nature of that relocation. If you have never relocated overseas and you have a family, then it is likely that your concerns will focus on family matters such as education and the safety of your family.
If education is your main concern, then you should prioritise the schedule of your look-see trip to look at schools first. By the time you arrive in Shanghai, you will have thoroughly researched schools in Shanghai through school websites and expat Internet forums, as well as our Shanghai Education pages, so you should be able to confidently refine your list of school visits and save valuable time during your trip.
If safety is your primary concern, then you should look at property first. Inform your relocation agent of your concerns before your trip and ask them to shortlist compounds and apartments for you that meet your criteria. Research them on the Internet before you go. Post your questions on Internet forums as they may (stress may) help you form some preliminary opinions about possible residences. This will also save time.
Property will also be your main concern if proximity to your work is an issue. Long hours at the office can be exacerbated by long commutes and reduce time with your family and time for a social life, which are both important for mental health. Informing your relocation agent about these concerns and requesting a short list of compounds and apartments that are a short taxi ride from the office (or better a walk, which will allow you to decompress after work) will help you find the best property in the least time.
Some relocating expats (even those with families) want something different. They are excited about experiencing a new culture, feel confident about the safety of their family in Shanghai and understand that quality education is never far away. There are many options for living in Shanghai off the beaten expat path. Your relocation agent needs to be aware of your desires before your look-see trip so that they can provide you with options that will satisfy you. If you want to live somewhere more unusual and immersive for your time in Shanghai it is imperative that you do some research before you go and create a shortlist of potential properties by visiting Shanghai real estate websites for your agent. This path can be very rewarding.
On your look-see trip you will need to make many decisions that will significantly affect your time in Shanghai. It is important that you define your priorities and attempt to establish a balance in your life that works for you. Balance is critical and everyone is different. We have provided you a basic framework to help guide you in your decision making, but it is important to know that our advice only goes so far. Your needs and wants are the key to your happiness. Your relocation agent will be more than happy to help you achieve this balance; however, they can’t help you if you don’t have a well defined idea of what you want. So keep them well informed of your priorities and they’ll make sure your needs are met.