Meet the Burnell family

The Burnell's live, work and school in Shunyi

It’s not easy moving to a country with a culture vastly different to your own. In our series on Beijing's personalties and families, Time Out Family checks in on families who have just moved to Beijing, to see how they’re coming along.

Parents Adam and Melissa Burnell, and their children Elijah (5) and Ayla (3)

Where do your family live?
We live, work and go to school at Beijing International Bilingual Academy (BIBA) in Shunyi. Living where you work is not for everyone, but we really enjoy it. There’s a sense of security and the kids have unlimited access to the school’s playgrounds and fields – plus you can’t beat the commute!

What are the family-friendly perks in the area?
There are several shopping and restaurant areas close by that provide a variety of family-friendly activities. We love that Shine City (Shine Hills shopping centre) is super close and offers a movie theatre, restaurants, a playground, indoor play options, clothes stores and more! You can also sign up for athletics, art, dance and other
enrichment classes in the area.

Is there anything you don’t like about your neighbourhood?
Shunyi is on the outskirts of the city, so it’s a chore to do anything downtown. We don’t own a car and taxis are a bit expensive, so we generally stick to buses and the subway for long trips. Our kids are fairly young, so planning a trip that takes at least an hour on the subway can be challenging. Sometimes this keeps us from exploring everything we’d like to see.

What’s the best thing you’ve discovered about bringing up a family in Beijing?
It’s been easy to make friends! We’ve met most of our friends through the BIBA community. Also, there’s always something to do; we just need to decide what kind of adventure we’re up for and what our budget is for the day. One day, we might just let the kids play in the school playground, while on another day we might head into the city to walk the hutongs and try new food.

How do you find BIBA?
Both of the kids go there, and Melissa is a fi fth grade teacher. Our children get a strong foundation in literacy with the Readers’ and Writers’ Workshops and get to try many new experiences. It’s also important to us that they’re getting a bilingual education, and it’s amazing how much they’ve grown already!

What issues did you face as a family moving to Beijing?
The paperwork involved in the move was a nightmare, and it took a while deciding how to bring our belongings
through customs. We also nearly missed getting our visas in time! Language has also been a hurdle. We wanted to move somewhere that was more challenging than Dubai, where we didn’t need to learn Arabic to navigate our lives. But once we arrived in China we realised just how hard it can be to communicate! We also wish we’d put more thought into bringing things that are hard to fi nd in Beijing. Friends had warned us that things such as undergarments and favourite skincare products would be diffi cult to source, but we were too busy before our
move to go shopping.

And how did you resolve them?
Now that we’re taking Chinese lessons we feel more confi dent when out and about. As for fi nding certain products, we’ve been successful on Taobao or other sites, although you might need help if the site is in Chinese or you’re paying with a Chinese credit card. We’ve also asked colleagues to pick up deliveries from their home countries and bring them back!

What are your tips for families who have just moved here?
If you can, ask for help in getting to know your neighbourhood. Also, download apps to help you with language and transportation.

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