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Family Life and Childcare for Expats in China

Author: Jason Zhou
Submitted: August 2013

Family life in China

Family life in China  has changed in the past three decades.  There used to be big families with three or four generations living in small apartments or small cottages. However, everything has become more westernised.

There are more and more buildings arising in the last twenty years. Many Chinese live in flats or apartments in high rise units, especially in towns or cities. Most will live in their own properties which are often more than 100 square metres, except those in the larger cities. If you are living in a very large city, such as Shanghai and Beijing, you may find that a small apartment of around 60 square meters would be popular on the market.  

The family size has become smaller in the last few decades; a typical family in China will only have one child. It is also common to see grandparents temporarily living with the family  to help take care of the child while the parents are at work. Parents will travel home to have their lunch before returning to work. Dinner, usually between 6pm and 8pm, is the biggest meal of the day.  

Night life in China is very important. People may go out to have dinner with families and friends or go shopping as most businesses will open until midnight.   

Childcare in China

In China the child is the centre of the family, grandparents would often take the responsibility of looking after them. However, now many young parents tend to look after their child on their own or send them to nurseries. Money is flushed into different childcare services, such as nannies, nurseries, training classes and kindergartens. 

The costs  of these services differ between towns or cities. If you are moving to China, the best way to find a good nanny is to ask your colleagues or neighbours. You can also  contact a local home service agency. 

The reputation of a childcare provider plays a large role on the price. A very good provider  may charge several hundred thousand RMB, while some may charge no more than ten thousand for a year.  

There are generally no free nursery or kindergarten services provided at the state level. Normally you need to pay for the services.  When you are in China, you can contact the local government to find a nursery and kindergarten which is close to where you live. Most of the nurseries and kindergartens are open to foreign children.  You should contact the education department of the local government to register your children. You will also need to provide; you and your children’s resident permits, your children’s birth certificate and a physical examination certificate from a qualified hospital. Bear in mind, as a foreigner, you may be asked to pay an extra fee which is called Jiedu Fee.    

Some nurseries or kindergartens are established by various large companies, institutions or government departments. These are called collective nurseries or kindergartens. The facilities and staff in these nurseries and kindergartens are of a high level but the costs are comparably low. Technically they only accept children of their employees, sometimes, there are exceptions. Therefore, it is worth talking with the school master. Most of the time, you will need to find a private nursery. Some are even better than the collective ones. However, these providers normally charge at a very high price. Some nurseries or kindergartens can provide bilingual teaching service, although these will be more expensive.  

There are also many training classes proving different lessons for children from nearly all age groups. The lessons vary from musical instruments to martial arts. You can find such information from the local newspapers.

 

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