The largest concentrations of expats in Shenzhen are in Shekou, OCT and Coco Park (Futian CBD) although there are pockets in other places in Futian such as Honey Lake and in Luo Hu. Why are Shekou, OCT and Coco Park the best places for expatriates (expats) to find apartments?
Skekou has about 10,000 expatriates out of 350,000 people. It has many Western restaurants with English menus, bars, clubs, grocery stores, bakeries, butcher shops and many of the Chinese people who live in this area speak some English. It has International Schools, coffee houses (with one two block area housing a Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Emily’s and Origos), and just about every kind of good and service a Westerner could want. There is very little crime in Shekou. Most of the high end living complexes are gated communities with 24×7 security making them good places for families with small children. Shekou is home to the Shenzhen Women’s International Club (SWIC) which boasts some 450 members all of whom are either expats or are married to expats, which puts on many events (like trips, dinners and other festivities). Shekou is also home to The Snake Pit, the oldest expat club in Shenzhen dating back to 1987 and relocated to Coastal Rose Garden II. In short it is very easy for an expat to live in Shekou without speaking Mandarin or being literate in Chinese.
The largest apartment complex in Mangrove Bay is Mangrove West Coast which has three large buildings. It has great amenities (pool, gym, etc.), but unfortunately for residents of building 3 there is a new Metro stop being built on the road next to the building on which work proceeds from 6:30am until 11pm every day. This project is not scheduled to be completed until December 2016. This only effects building 3, but it a real issue for people living in this building. The second largest complex is Mangrove Citic and after that Kingkey Plaza. Mangrove Bay is near OCT Bay with its restaurants, cinemas, concert hall, bars and night clubs. It is just a few steps away from the Hongshuwan Metro station on the Shekou which is only one stop from Window of the World and the Luobao line. Mangrove Bay is also close to the new University of Hong Kong Hospital and to the bicycle trails along the bay down to the Shenzhen Bay border crossing.
OCT (Overseas China Town)
OCT is on the main east/west Metro line (Luo Bao) about half way between the Shenzhen Airport in the east and the main train station (Luo Hu) in the west. It is near the Holiday Yitian Plaza shopping center just across Shenzhen’s central east/west boulevard (Shennan Road) from Windows of the World. There are many shops in and around OCT that have Western goods, many restaurants of all varieties, and many bars and nightclubs. The largest and most upscale community in OCT is Portofino on the north-western side of OCT. This complex has it’s own shopping center with a cinema that shows Western movies ans some excellent restaurants. The second biggest apartment complex in OCT is Splendid Garden which is on the eastern side (OCT Loft). This area is quieter than OCT proper and very convenient to the Metro as it is right by the Qiaocheng East stop which is the next stop east of the OCT stop. OCT Loft is a gentrified artist community full of high end galleries and coffee shops. On a warm day it is the perfect place to chill out with friends. The third largest apartment complex in OCT is Bi Hai Yun Tian, which is on the south side of Shennan Road just across from Splendid Garden. There are some high end hotels which house upscale nightclubs (Venetian – V Bar and Intercontinental – Galleon) in OCT. For urban professionals who have work near a Luobao line stop, OCT is a popular place to live.
Coco Park is an upscale urban neighborhood with massive Coco Park shopping plaza at its heart right on top of the Shopping Park Metro stop on the Luobao line. The largest apartment complex is Galaxy International which is connected to the shopping plaza. This area is very popular with the younger set and has a lot of nightlife options. There are many restaurants, bars and shops in and around Coco Park. In addition to the shops in Coco Park, it is a short walk to Central Walk which is another large shopping complex. The Coco Park area is home to many office buildings and so many urban professionals who want to live near their work live there.
Luohu is home to the main railway station in Shenzhen and is a major border crossing to Hong Kong. Just next to the railway station is a large shopping center that houses a number of tailors and lots of fabric and is a good place to get custom tailored clothes made. The largest apartment complex for expatriates in Luohu is Park Lane Manor followed closely by KK Mall. Luohu is home to many office buildings and so people who want to live near their work in Luohu sometimes forego the ease of living in a place like Shekou to live near their place of employment. There are many interesting shops in Luohu as well as some excellent restaurants. It has a very active nightlife scene. However, the percentage of expatriates is much lower than some other areas of the city and there are not so many local in that district who speak English.
Where is the best district to live in Shenzhen?
Families tend to live more in Shekou with the larger selection of International Schools within walking distance for kids this is usually convenient. Single professionals tend to pick the Futian CBD these days where they have access to bars and restaurant options. Once they have partied out and found their significant other they might move to the quieter area of OCT Loft where they can take advantage of the Cafe Culture. As rents rise quickly inside the city more and more professionals may opt for living outside the main area in Bao’an or Longgang.