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English Help for Shanghai Expats
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Foreigners living in China may find it hard to sort out many everyday tasks, such as finding a babysitter or the best place to sample local cuisine.


Now Shanghai Online, one of China's largest portals, is planning to launch an English-language version aimed at making the lives of expatriates in Shanghai much easier.


Yang Jie, general manager of Shanghai Online or online.sh.cn, told China Daily yesterday that the new website shanghaitown.online.sh.cn is expected to open on September 1.


Its many features will include maps and housing and babysitter options.


"We understand expats have trouble in such a big city of varied cultures. We are hoping our website should help them with lots of reliable services," Yang said.


Shanghai already has more than 51,000 expats working and living in Shanghai, according to the Shanghai Employment Service & Administration. In 2005, the city added 18,325 new expat jobs, compared with 4,047 in 2000.


"For expats, Shanghai is a great place to live. Yet most of them find it difficult to find a qualified babysitter or a local restaurant serving authentic local cuisine," said Yang.


The company is planning to launch Japanese and French websites in the future, if the English language version goes well.


"We are trying to make life in Shanghai simple and easy for expats," added an editor for the English-language version of the website.


Wang Huimin, an analyst with the Shanghai-based Hi-Line Consulting Co Ltd, said the growing number of foreigners in Shanghai are seen as potential customers with strong buying power and an appetite for new lifestyles.


Shanghai Yellow Pages, which launched an English-language telephone book in 2003, is also planning to launch a similar website to Shanghai Online's Shanghaitown.


"The Shanghai Yellow Pages English edition has proved to be an indispensable tool for reaching our target market. It not only helps us increase our level of brand recognition, it actually generates real business for us," said Liu Sunan from the firm.


Shanghai Telecom has also begun a bilingual telephone service in Shanghai to help frustrated expats who might previously have spent 10 minutes trying to get a hotline operator to understand the name of a certain street.


Wang Wei, general manager with Shanghai Telecom, said recently that the hotline had features such as information about restaurants and housing, and business help for expats seeking business opportunities.


Before the entry of portals and telephone services, free magazines had the market to themselves.


Now Shanghai has over 20 foreign language magazines, most of which are free and available in hotels, pubs and restaurants, according to the Shanghai local publishing administration.


(China Daily August 23, 2006)


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