Shanghai at a Glance
Expat Districts and Housing in ShanghaiiStockphoto
Shanghai is the most populous city in the entire country.
Shanghai is not only a city, but rather an urban sprawl in a region of its own, with a surface area of 6,340.5 km². There is a distinct core city in centrally located Pǔxī, home to nearly 50% of Shanghai’s millions of residents. It is the main urban area of historical Shanghai and includes the districts of Yangpu, Hongkou, Zhabei, Putuo, Changning, Xuhui, Jing'an, and Huangpu.
Opposite Puxi, on the east side of the Huangpu River, there is Pǔdōng Xīn Qū or the Pudong New Area, Shanghai’s booming industrial and financial district. Puxi and Pudong are surrounded by the northern suburbs (Baoshan, Jiading, Qingpu, Northern Songjiang, Western Minhang) and southern suburbs (Jinshan, Fengxian, Southern Songjiang, Eastern Minhang). Baoshan, Jiading, and Minhang are still relatively close to the city center.
Popular Residential Areas
Expats like to settle close to work, an airport, or an international school, often in some of the following areas: Gubei Town, a residential area in Changning District, attracts mainly Asian expatriates living in Shanghai. You will find the overseas Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, and Korean communities here, although quite a few Europeans and Americans live in Gubei as well.
Hong Qiao is also a part of Changning, a suburb very much characterized by expatriate living and family life. Its vicinity to Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport makes it attractive for foreigners.
Jing'an District in central Shanghai, one of the city’s most densely populated areas, is famous for its high-class housing, business opportunities, and some exiting nightlife. Xujiahui, a sub-district of Xuhui, Shanghai’s shopping mecca, is popular among expats who like the bustling kind of city life. Outside Puxi, expatriates often look for housing in Pudong, in relative closeness to the other international airport (Shanghai Pudong International), or in suburban Minhang.
Types of Accommodation
Although foreign residents are no longer banned from purchasing property in Shanghai, most expatriates still prefer renting to buying. Families in particular appreciate renting a so-called villa. This term refers to a free-standing townhouse ideal for parents with children. These villas are mainly situated in compounds or residential expat communities in areas like Changning, Pudong, and Minhang.
These communities often cater to the specific needs of foreigners in China. Their management staff frequently speaks English. The compound includes its own little grocery shop, gym, and playground. It might even provide a shuttle service to the city center or an international school nearby. The real estate agents offering such compound housing on the market are also used to dealing with expats. They are usually fluent in English and will issue you with a bilingual rental agreement.
Expat comfort has its price. In comparison to the average standard of living among Shanghai’s lower middle classes, the typical expatriate life style is fairly luxurious. The monthly rent for higher-end expat housing starts at a minimum of 3,000 USD. But it’s not unheard of that top executives might rent a luxury penthouse in downtown Shanghai for 15,000 USD per month or more.
Single expats or expat couples may, however, get a decent apartment for 2,000-3,000 USD a month. Self-made expats living on a budget can find small apartments for 1,000-2,000 USD. If you choose a non-prime area, housing will obviously be cheaper. You should also take into consideration that your real estate agent expects a commission of one or two monthly rents.
One last reminder: After moving to your new place, don’t forget to re-register with the Shanghai police. If you previously stayed in a hotel, the staff will have taken care of this for you. The residents of an expat compound can also ask the building management staff to look into the matter on their behalf.
As a normal tenant, though, you have to go to the nearest police station within 24 hours of your change of address. Bring along the following:
- your valid passport and visa
- your rental agreement
- your landlord’s proof of ownership