Moving to Shanghai with kids and pollution

Home Forums Moving to Shanghai with kids and pollution

  • This topic is empty.
Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 21 total)
  • Author
  • #4927

    We are European family discussing the move to Shanghai as expats in 2021 with two children (8 and 11 years old). I am a bit scared after reading about recent bad air quality in the news. I am interested in what expats living in Shanghai think about the pollution and how bad it actually is. Do your kids have any health issues due to bad air? Do you have to limit their outdoor activities? My kids are used to spend a lot of time outdoors, skiing, biking etc. What about other kinds of pollution like water and food, how bad are they? And finally, do you plan to shorten your stay in Shanghai due to increasing pollution?

    Thank you very much – it would be great to have an opinion of expats living in Shanghai rather than rely on media stories.


    We are European family discussing the move to Shanghai as expats in 2021 with two children (8 and 11 years old). I am a bit scared after reading about recent bad air quality in the news. I am interested in what expats living in Shanghai think about the pollution and how bad it actually is. Do your kids have any health issues due to bad air? Do you have to limit their outdoor activities? My kids are used to spend a lot of time outdoors, skiing, biking etc. What about other kinds of pollution like water and food, how bad are they? And finally, do you plan to shorten your stay in Shanghai due to increasing pollution?

    Thank you very much – it would be great to have an opinion of expats living in Shanghai rather than rely on media stories.


    Yes this last year has been bad, in the winter months especially. It is not possible to have an outside lifestyle during bad days/ weeks. Even school’s don’t let the children outside.

    Why don’t you check out the PM2.5 history to get some perspective.

    The water you have to filter, the fruit and veggies you have to wash. Where we live even the trees/bushes need to be regularly hosed down due to the dirt in the air. Have your car washed one day and the next day it looks like you have been parked next to a concrete construction site.

    It seems that the effects from exposure to the pollution in Shanghai are not heavily researched or known, so we don’t know what the long term effects are, but I can tell you that when I go outside on bad days I get stinging eyes, bad cough, blocked sinuses.

    A lot of people are installing their own air purifiers at home (you can see what is coming out of the air in the filers and it is not nice)and some schools have air purifiers in the classrooms. I do think it is something you need to take seriously.

    But it is best to come over now and do your own investigation before you bring your family over to see if this is something you are willing accommodate into your lifestyle.



    we also moved here from Brussels, so if you need more info/comparison just let me know.

    Pollution definitely is an issue and the last couple of weeks have been bad. I had to smile when I saw in Brussels last week that they had the ‘smog 90’ signs on the highway, when the air felt terribly clean compared to what we are used to in Shanghai….

    Inside you can manage with air filters etc. but outside sports has to be adjusted to the pollution. A bit like checking the weather forecast before planning outside activity….


    Air pollution has been an issue in Shanghai. I recommend learning more about PM 2.5. Many families have purchased air filters for their homes. Students at international schools are kept inside on days when the pollution is very high. Some families wear masks on days when the pollution is high. I currently do not have any plans to shorten my stay. That being said, I have come to appreciate clean air. Good luck with your move!


    This city is not a good choice with kids. Situation has worsened remarkably. I have chronic cough when I spend longer time here. It sucks. Several families have left due to air pollution. It is just too bad kids can’t even play out normally. They should add new element to expat packages: extra for losing your health…


    If you are somewhat under pressure to make the move for financial and professional reasons then I think you can make the best of a bad situation. I have large air purifiers, at work and at home, filtered water and now purchasing food from an online grocer with different grades of Organic and imported as well as China produce.

    I get sick in China much more than I did in other locations, Malaysia and the US, that I’ve been an expat.

    I’d make the move if it is extremely good expat package and you have less other options but if it just seemed like it might be an adventure, the kids can learn to speak Chinese, that kind of thing, stay at home or go to another expat preferred country.


    I am leaving this year and environment is the main factor – air, water, crowds, noise. Recently we couldn’t take my 1 yr old daughter outside for 5 days straight because the pollution was so horrific. But you should also be aware of the water quality issues and general safety issues for children. And get ready for incessant and irritating construction noise, everywhere, all the time. You may hear locals telling you about how Shanghai has some great parks. This is of course based on never having been to a park outside of China. I think Century Park is the only one that is even half decent. The others are generally small, crowded and full of nongs walking around blowing smoke in your face.

    If environment is important to you, you shouldn’t move to SH. If there’s no (significant) financial advantage, then you certainly shouldn’t be looking to move to SH. After 2.5 years here, every day I hate this place a little more. I don’t think there’s anything worth being here for except money.


    Without question, the pollution factor is THE single biggest drawback for me as a parent in being here. There are for sure other annoyances, but overall our family really does love living here. But the pollution issue cannot be denied.

    I will say, we have lived here for going on 5 years and my daughter (7yrs old, so most of her life has been lived here) is healthy as an ox. Almost never gets sick, I can count the number of colds she has had in her life on one hand, has never had an ear infection, chest infection, etc etc (knock on wood.) Now, this certainly does not mean there is no problem with the conditions here, and of course it is always in my mind what the overall longer term effect may be. And I’d be lying if I said we weren’t totally open to other transfer options that might take us out of here, to someplace a bit greener and cleaner.

    But, we do like it here. It’s been a brilliant adventure. There are moments that are just so wonderfully absurd and hilarious, I fell like I never want to leave. Oh but then there are the other moments when it’s like, dear god get me the hell out of here. What can I tell you, it is a thrilling, terrible, wonderful, mad place.


    Let me offer you a slightly less pessimistic view point because it is easy to be a rich laowai (foreigner) drinking wine in your apartment and sheltering yourself from the rest of the world while bitching it out from the comforts of hermetically sealed apartment.


    The nongmin in the park are just people playing board games and some are shabbily dressed and some decently dressed, but they’re no different than the people playing board games in the parks of any other major city. There is something very charming about going to the parks and hanging out reading while people run their kids around, play board games, and practice taichi or musical instruments.

    Air Pollution:

    There are good pollution days and there are bad pollution days, just like there are rainy and non-rainy days, and the pollution can even change mid day. For example, today is a good pollution day and even though it is a little cold, my windows are open and my cat is having a great time running around and watching out the window while I suck in some beautiful air. I ride my bike as my main means of transportation and bought this athletic mask to wear when I ride (it has changeable filters that are cheap) Also, just buy papers masks that fold flat and always keep one in the pocket of your jacket or purse for when the air is bad. Lastly, get this app for air quality index on your smart phone, you can even have it update with a number on the icon so you can just glance at it whenever you turn your phone on.

    Buying Stuff Online:

    Getting comfortable with Taobao is pretty important, it is kind of like a Chinese eBay and it has a lot of crap on it, but when you find the correct stuff on it, it’s usually cheaper than or buying it in a normal store, plus it’s delivered for free (sometimes even same day). Have a Chinese colleague walk you through Taobao at some point.

    Water Pollution:

    The tap water isn’t terrible in a tier one city like Shanghai, theoretically they remove hard metals from it, but my girlfriend (who is native) and I still boil our water. There is a lot of old pipe between you and the water treatment plants so no one is going to fault you for getting a water treatment system if you can afford it.

    Home Air Filters:

    Definitely get an air purifier for your home. You can get really high end Blueair purifiers Taobao or go with low tech options like this.

    This last one is literally a HEPA filter strapped to a fan; I have the most basic one of these and it is very compact, I can move it from room to room, and it makes a big difference, but takes more time to clear the air than a nicer model. The who guy who makes these is based in Beijing where the pollution is much worse and he has a lot of interesting videos he put together testing his filters against high models.

    Kids Exercise:

    There isn’t a lot of skiing in Shanghai and bike riding is something for the little braver, but though I do see young kids on bikes on the sidewalk. With you kids I would suggest getting them enrolled in a martial arts or gymnastics class after school a few times a week where they exert their energy and you should make it a normal part of their routine. For instance: Monday, Wednesday, & Saturday go do their exercise and if they’re taking a formal class with a teacher, you can just bring work or book and chillout. Make it a fun thing and don’t be afraid to take the metro, lots of interesting people watching! I study capoeira here (a traditional Brazilian martial art), I have been a martial arts and sports person all my life and finally settled on doing capoeira a little while ago and am very happy with that decision at it provides a large sense of community, gives you instant friends who are interested in your well being, and keeps you healthy. You can literally show up to a class and just ask for help at the end and people would go out of their way for you there in a heartbeat. Also, kids who do capoeira are always really amazing; it teaches them team work, independence, leadership, and all that good stuff.

    Long Story Short:

    Everything is going to kill you, but if you don’t go out and enjoy life a little bit, you will end up sitting at home and becoming paranoid of the world outside by listening to people who complain the loudest on the internet (while drinking wine from the comfort of the hermetically sealed apartments). This is one of the most interesting cities in the world and your children have an amazing opportunity to spend part of their lives in, go live a little.


    Let me rephrase that a little. It’s easy to see the good side and ignore the huge environmental problems in China if you don’t have access to the facts and figures.

    Unfortunately I do, as I have worked in the environmental business in China for 13 years until I left last year as I was concerned about the effect of pollution (of various sorts) on my young child. Not an opinion formed by looking out of the window but formed on the basis of hard evidence of years of hard data.

    And you’re basing your opinion of tap water quality based on…..?

    Both the treatment systems and the distribution networks in Shanghai are inadequate and the tap water contains heavy metals on a regular basis together with a number of other things you would not want to consume. Boiling does nothing except kill bacteria of which there are few in the tap water as it is chlorinated to death. Boiling just gives a false sense of security.

    Long Short Story.

    Do your research and if after doing so you still think its a good idea to expose kids to the environment then you haven’t done your research properly.


    I just returned to my hermetically sealed apartment where I’m thinking about drinking some of the overpriced wine but am actually sipping green tea made with filtered water.

    This is year four for me in China and year 13 as an expat. Each year brings a new level of WTF moments. Year one was way too interesting and so much to learn to just get by on day to day basis. I’d been living in the tropics and was put, by the company into an apartment that never got above 18 deg C but I’m sure it was much colder with the wind chill factor from the single glaze, not properly sealed windows. Now, my second place, is way better and I returned to a nice toasty 21 and on the way to 24 deg.

    OP do not think China is an inexpensive place to live, some things are cheap but if you can stomach living more like a local and less like an expat in a bubble then it might be a low cost city.

    On a positive note, for me:

    The orchestra is very inexpensive, if you buy the lowest price tickets as soon as they are on sale. Not just Shanghai Symphony but orchestra’s from around the world, Berliner Philharmonic and London Symphony as well as world class visiting artists. Of course one has to adapt to the behaviour of the audience, 5 percent will be playing on their phones, filming or taking photos or playing games in ipads during the performances. Less often the talking, but still happens, a person decides to have a chat to their companion not a whisper but an audible talk.

    Chamber orchestra’s are fairly regular, at least once a month and the one at M on The Bund attracts a well behaved audience.

    Literary festival:

    Also at M on The Bund has been going for the past 12 years.

    For three weekends and two weeks at the beginning of March there is a fabulous cultural event, in a pleasant location on the river with an educated crowd of multi national. The speakers are also multinationals and they have quite the selection non fiction and fiction as well as other related arts fields like architecture and film.

    It is the singular event that makes my year memorable.

    Art galleries:

    There is lame derivative stuff in “galleries” around the tourist traps but there are also art gallery areas and public exhibition spaces that are of international class and a program of contemporary exhibitions moving through the spaces on a regular basis.


    Some of the best meals I’ve ever had have been at a handful of 5 star restaurants with 7 star prices. I’ve paid way too much for mediocre here as well as the staler moments, brilliant meal with great company.


    You will meet the most amusing people who have a bit of an edge, highly intelligent, to say the least.

    I think China attracts slightly bent individuals or it makes them that way.

    Family life:

    If you have a good family life and solid marriage you can make something positive of this from a family perspective. Families are not in the minority, certainly not where I live, the place is thick with families. If your marriage is on shaky grounds you probably wont want to come to China. There are forces here that will be the tipping point if your marriage is not solid.


    Fake but toxic spirits and crap wines poured into great bottles, I’ve had my fill to the point where I not longer drink out unless it is a regular place and I know it will most likely be what I ordered. The prices are ridiculous. Keep your booze at home, once you find a good wine merchant. Bring it back with you from trips home.

    Medical cover:

    I have good cover that I do not use but the entire expat medical cover and medical facilities are hugely overpriced and prescription drug pushing operations. I go to the docs for checkups and the like when I am home. The three times I’ve been in four years here have been for things that could not wait. The families I work with make more trips and seem happy with the services and their cover.


    Ayi, most families have help in the form of one or two ayi. They clean, mind children, pay bills and cook for the family. I found the experience annoying so prefer to do these things myself but anyone with children find the cost worth the breakages and ruined clothing.


    Some people have drivers, some have scooters. The roads are insane. I have been clipped, gashed by a scooter, I am lucky there have been far worse accidents to those at work or connected to work.

    The driving test, multiple choice, is a hoot.


    Hi. New to forum and Shanghai, and China. I am here for work on a large project and leaving next week and I seem to have made a big mistake and need advice on how to deal with it.

    Basically I wound up with a large amount of RMB from a credit card transaction / scam gone wrong.

    Here’s the short story:

    I was walking around by myself and decided to get dinner at some small Japanese restaurant near Nanjing East. The bill was 160RMB but my company card was denied. Their english wasn’t very good so in a panic I gave them my bank card not realise it.

    A few min after I left I got a call from my bank asking to confirm I made a charge there. I said yes, and they told me it was for about $2500!!! I looked at my receipt and yes it did say 16000 RMB.

    The printing was light and I must have mistaken them for decimal places. But there was my signature. I was terrified at the thought of the long process of fighting this as it was on a BANK CARD (dumbest thing I’ve ever done).

    I went back to the restaurant and asked them to fix the issue but all of a sudden their english was non-existent. I my panic and found it hard to speak slowly. Finally they found a manager who explained that they could not reverse the charge. I demanded to know why and they said it was just not possible, their machines did not work that way. I knew I was being taken advantage of and I was getting more and more angry.

    I told them I must bring the police (I had no idea how to get ahold of them). Instead they gave me cash. A giant stack of cash. The ordeal was terrifying so I just counted the cash with my hands shaking and then left with it and jumped into the first cab I could find rather than walk around with that much cash.

    So I wasn’t even thinking at the time, but now I’ve got about 15,000 RMB that I don’t know what to do with. I’m leaving Friday. I’m coming back in December but I don’t think I could ever spend that much here especially given my rules for reimbursement.

    I have no receipt for this cash and so cannot bring it all to the airport at once apparently. I thought about going back to find this place and trying to get them to credit my card instead but they were nasty and it was a horrifying experience.

    I want to see if there’s other options first. Even if it’ll cost me a little. I’ve been looking into any way I can get rid of it. Does anyone have any advice as far as how to get this into USD (ideally not with massive fees or horrible rates? I’m willing to handle some for this mistake but I don’t want to lose a ton).

    Any advice is would be extremely welcome.


    GO to any bank with your PP each day and exchange a little at a time. I think you can do 3,000 a day, maybe 5,000. Is you start today, you will have it all exchanged by Friday. You can exchange any remaining you have at the airport when you get there. Pretty simple actually

    If that does not work, you can go to any 5 Star hotel and they have automated machines you can exchange RMB for USA, again, I think it’s 3,000 or 5,000 a day. The machines are in most of the major Branded hotels.

    Depending on your location, some are easier to find than others.

    If you are near Nanjing Road, I know for sure they have one at the JC Mandarin

    (across from plaza 66)


    /profile/150-montclair/?do=hovercard” data-mentionid=”150″ href=”<___base_url___>/profile/150-montclair/” rel=””>@Montclair are you for real? You made it sound like you had sacks of 100 RMB bills worth 10+ million………

    You wrote a tear jerking essay about dealing with 16,000 RMB?

    16k is no one’s idea “large amounts of cash” especially in SH unless you are a cleaning lady.

    Go to the bank and exchange it…….. Then go home. Please.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 21 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.