Expat Relocating from Singapore to China with an infant

Where do I even begin? 
Relocating is complicated. Relocating with an infant is complicated. Relocating with an infant not born in either of their parent's home countries is complicated. And relocating as an expat with a child not born in their home countries to China is the most complicated thing I've done in life. 

Probably more complicated than rocket science. 

Lvl 1. Relocating 

This is already complicated, but it is manageable. You essentially have 2 options, you can get rid of the majority of your stuff and go in suitcases or you can ship everything. 

For shipping, you can just hire a moving company. Fill out some forms, set a date, and they come and pick up your stuff and that is all you need to do. They will pack for you, so you don't even need to do that! You can ship by air or by boat, air usually arrives within 2 weeks, boat can take longer depending where you are. 

I've used these 2 companies for moving: Asia Tigers and XSBaggage 

Never had any issues, everything arrived, and all in one piece. Customs fees need to be paid depending on country.  

Lvl 2. Relocating with an infant

There are things you need to consider for this one. First you won't want to arrive in the destination country in an empty house with no crib, no stirilizer... etc Which means you need to have a rental contract ready and someone needs to set the place up early, which means time apart for husband and wife. Which also means, at least a month of paying rent on both sides. 

And there's another question of what to do with the helper and/or nanny. Do you relocate them with? Or do you look for new ones (which also takes time).

In our case we decided to bite the bullet and pay for 2 rental places at once, and we had a nanny lined up to start the day I arrived with our son. So when I arrived, the house was set up by my husband already, crib, sterilizer, diapers, formula, hot water kettle ready.. etc 

Lvl 3. Singapore born expat baby 

This adds a whole other level of complexity. Between my husband and I, we have 3 citizenships, but not Singaporean. In Singapore, at least one parent needs to be PR to get citizenship. So essentially our son was born with no citizenship status. He got a birth certificate from Singapore, which got him the Special Pass for Singapore (valid for 60 days). Before you get the kid onto a dependant pass attached to your Employment pass, first you need to get the baby a passport. 

We initially only applied for 1 passport, it was supposed to arrive pretty quickly, but took almost 3 months. In that process, I applied for a temporary Taiwanese passport to bring my kid back to Taiwan, and to start the process of getting him his citizenship, which was really damn complicated and each country is different. But for every country, you have to prove that the baby is your dependent and is allowed to carry your citizenship (birth certificate, and your citizenship paperwork). 

For Taiwan it looked like this: Apply for temporary passport at embassy and visa to enter Taiwan (express, got it in 5 working days) > fly to Taiwan > claim his PR application (2 weeks) > register his birth and add him to our household (1 day) > get passport (1 - 4 days depend on how urgent) > apply for China pass since we were relocating to China. 

If I knew what I knew now, I would've applied for all 3 passports at once, but then fly to Taiwan immediately and wait there. Thankfully all 3 countries we belong to allow multiple citizenships. Unlike Singapore, you need to give up and can only maintain 1 citizenship. The more the better, because as an expat, more passport means more freedom to move between places. 

Lvl 100. Relocating to China 

Where do I even begin. There are so many restrictions with this, but in some cases no restrictions took us by surprise. 

Housing rental - no work contract required
Shipping furniture for relocation - work contract required, and heavily taxed 
Phone number - ID required 
Bank - work contract and China phone number required 

We ended up renting a place early and skipped shipping furniture as it was not cost effective (though my husband had to lug many bags over on multiple trips to bring our shoes/clothes etc). 

In China, your phone is king. No one brings a wallet, no one looks up something online. There's an app for everything. All of these things you do on an app:
  • Make payment or receive money: WeChat or Wexin Pay, and Alipay 
  • Call a cab: Didi 
  • Online shop: Taobao 
  • Online grocery delivery: Hema 
  • Online directory and booking system for food delivery, restaurants, movies, hotels, tourist sites, beauty/massage/nails/brows/facials etc: Meituan 
The catch is, everything is in Chinese. I, luckily, am fluent in Chinese. For my husband though, it is a bit more challenging. 

Plus the speed and customer service of delivery in China is insane. This is what  the experience of ordering an item looks like

- Item ordered 
- In app customer service "please confirm your address!" (if not they will send the item anyway within a few hours)
- Item gets send, you can track this little truck icon in the app slowly moving across China towards your city 
- Usually the next morning, you get a call from the delivery guy "I'm delivering item x, will you be home?" 

I've had packages arrive less than 12hours, and I've had groceries arrive within 30 minutes. But again, the hurdle is everything is in Chinese. 

This whole relocation process has taken us 3.5 months. We started planning before I even gave birth and it still took a very long time. There were a lot of uncertainty and complicated steps, and often times our family was apart for 2 weeks or more at a time. And it is especially difficult with an infant. 

Now, we are together again in Shanghai. The house filled with products bought online and was stocked full within days of me being here. The city is so big with so much entertainment options, and I'm just excited to start exploring. 

Here's to many more good memories to come! 

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