I’m thinking why not just make it a blog post:
So quite a few friends have been curious why am I still in China. And what is the plan. Last weekend the family took a trip to Huizhou city to look for options, but I think we need to step back and share the full story:
July/ Aug 2018: We left China in summer 2018 to enroll our kids in Thailand school. To work online, and relax a bit, reduce costs and a better environment. Kids first day in Thai school here, and Thailand visa “fun” vlogs here.
December 2019: Finished up the kid’s school semester / Christmas party, and then returned to China. Reason? A few, mainly Wendy wanted to spend 6 months in her hometown take care of her parents as her mom was dealing with cancer treatment. Also we wanted to change schools / visas in Thailand. And Wendy wanted the kids to have more Chinese language immersion. Put most of our belongings in various friend’s storage rooms, Wendy rented her car out (yes, we bought a car in Thailand), and we would be back in 6 months (one more semester) Video of us leaving here.
Jan 2020: As planned, I went to Philippines for business. The idea was “I can be a digital nomad” for 6 months or just hangout in Shenyang, China. Idea was to travel back to Shenyang every couple months, and then go to another place for work / projects. As we all know, COVID came in mid/late Jan. Vlog on leaving Shenyang here. But even before that, a volcano erupted days upon arrival in Manila! Vlog on volcano here.
March 2020: BARELY made it back to China. Wanted to do my best to be re-united with my wife and kids, and made it happen. Quarantine, and then living in Shenyang city in the northeast of China. Can watch the summary vlog here.
March 2020 – Aug 2021: Local China life. Saw a handful of non-Chinese people. Full online work, but school options limited for Miles and Maggie (Miles was too old for the nearby kindergarten). Delayed birthday with my family once I got out of quarantine here.
Aug 2021 to now: Moved BACK to Shenzhen, enroll our kids back in the SAME SCHOOL we were in before leaving China in summer 2018. Almost feel like a flashback, as I am doing Amazon FBA / business development consulting and training projects like the old times. Also a partner in NowShenzhen.com the most established and oldest English language media site in Shenzhen, so feels relevant to be here. Video blog here.
1 Year Back In Shenzhen
So as 1 year is quickly approaching, Wendy and I need to decide where to next. That was always the plan – 1 year paid for the Shenzhen school (about 70k rmb for 2 kids) and 1 year lease on our apartment here in Futian district.
After this 1 year, we would surely be more clear on where to go next.
Well, it is not as clear, and here is the situation.
Return to Thailand? Need a Long Term Visa on Arrival (at least for Wendy)
Sure, the obvious one that Wendy and I both like is simply to return to Thailand. Boxes and boxes of our family’s possessions are there. A car is paid for and sitting idle at a friend’s garage (no new car rental arrangements have been made – you want to rent our car?) – so it is all ready to go.
Here’s the issue on returning to Thailand: Wendy’s PRC passport. It was a struggle when we went in 2018, as she had to return to China for 60 days to wait for the Thai embassy to process her guardian visa (we wrote up a full Thailand guide here where you can learn about visa options). Why 60 days in China? I think it is reciprocated as China may do the same for Thai (not confirmed) but the policy is you can do it while in China and wait – but if you go to Thailand and do it – you need to be in China to process it (there is less funds needed this way, if you do starting from China then you need funds in a Chinese bank first, then a Thailand bank second).
Either way – we don’t want to get a visa for Wendy that separates us for 60 days (we did that in 2018 and it was so painful to be separated from the kids that long). Also we don’t want a visa that requires us to leave Thailand and come back (unstable travel right now as I believe you can all imagine).
Sure there is student visa too. But we just dont want to get her on a situation where she gets in a jam and needs to go back to China to file things and wait for 60 days / etc. We need a “one way” visa that allows her (and all of us) to remain in Thailand long term without needing to travel back and forth.
So the ultimate is to setup a company and hire ourselves. This is what I have done in China. And we have plans for educational programs (GFA training, and GFA kids education programs), but we don’t want to setup a company remotely, etc etc. We want to go there, and then establish things once we are more confident (plus can work with local agents, and do much better in a face to face relationship). Plus there are potential partners (Jon) and maybe even can make this a bigger business (GFA Village, village.globalfromasia.com) but our style is start small, grassroots, bootstrap – then grow.
Other Idea – Thailand Elite Visa
From a friend:
$42k for 5 years for your whole family, or $22,500 for you and Wendy and then the kids can prob get the school visa.
That seems reasonable, private school for 2 kids is like $500k+ and then they need to go to Uni somewhere right ?
The US a good school can be free… visas maybe $600-$2000 depending
Other Crazy Twist – Potential to be Denied to Exit China?
This sounds like gossip, but Wendy has talked to friends / other moms in Wechat groups who have been denied permission to leave China. Flights booked, schools paid for overseas (Thailand, etc) – but the Chinese customs, at the border , with their luggage and flight tickets in hand – does not allow them to leave the country.
I don’t want to get political, conspiracy, whatever. So I will link to some news articles for you to read. https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/passports-05102022140033.html
Article in Chinese sent by Wendy
(Which has been denied by Chinese media, btw)
Stay in China?
So the easier one is to stay in China. Wendy is Chinese, I have tons of work and business here. It is hard for people to enter – so I have gotten various business opportunities just due to that. Factories and ecommerce sellers are asking more and more of my help as the economic times is more challenging and they need marketing and consulting and training. There is Now Shenzhen which is re-establishing well. And we have built up a new brand – Excalibur Brothers (factory visit here https://mikesblog.com/leather-factory/ )
Plus, never got around to closing the Shadstone China company when leaving for Thailand in 2018 and the address is here, maintained, ready to go.
So maybe double down, stick it out here and grow?
Stay in Shenzhen? Which School?
So sure, the easy option is stay exactly where we are, same apartment and same school. All those renewals are coming and they will gladly take our money and extend everything.
To be frank, the apartment we picked – it is too small. A 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom for a family of 4 is not a good idea. I went along with it as it was near Wendy’s tea shop (she partnered with some friends to open a tea / community center), and was in Futian district. Would prefer to be walking distance to the school (we have a school bus plan now).
The costs in China keep increasing, from food, to school, to anything. And Shenzhen was always growing in costs since I moved here in 2007 (miss those days!) and was a reason we left in 2018.
Just a lot of pressure to work hard and make deals just to cover the costs. That is the logic for leaving in the first place.
Find Another City in China?
So this is why last weekend we went to Huizhou. Maybe can find a bigger place, more affordable, and a nearby school. From our weekend trip, there isn’t much cost savings and it just basically puts us a couple hours away from where we can do any business deals (thus reducing income potential).
(I even want to do home schooling / online schooling system, but Wendy wants it more prepared in advance, fair point).
The USA Return Keeps Coming Up
Of course I need to put in the return to America here. It is what everyone seems to be doing and has been doing for the past 5 years. I resisted it for many personal reasons – of course I love my family and friends back stateside. But I feel my “brand” and my “business” is so attached to China and Asia.
Our top blog is “Global From Asia”. We do so many business deals, Cross Border Summit, projects. This is just the expertise, network, and value I have built even before moving here in 2007.
Friends have spent hour+ calls trying to convince me to just do it. Come back home. Can be a China / Asia business consultant in America. People need that help, and would be willing to pay for it. Can still be relevant, hey maybe even be more relevant.
Just feel I would go back into the matrix. Go back into the system.
Am I being too selfish? Should I just bite the bullet and do it for my kids? But really, its not like it is free to go back to USA. Schools, yes, there are free public school – but need to be a resident in that district. I myself went to public school only for K-8. Went to catholic high school and private university. And I could definitely notice the difference of public vs private school (I’ll just leave it at that). So is returning really “free school”?
Wendy and I are Tired of Moving + Want to Give Our Kids Stability
The main point, we are exhausted. And friends in similar situations are similar. We are tired of constantly thinking about where to live and immigration and education programs.
The idea is we try to do at least 5 to 10 years where ever we decide to go next. Actually that was the plan in Thailand in 2018, which as you can see has been interrupted.
Felt good to write this out, and hope some of my friends can appreciate it and give insights.