How well-equipped is this city for those raising infants/toddlers? Specifically, are there public places to change diapers, maintained playgrounds, etc?
There are not many public places specifically set aside for changing diapers. Playgrounds are rare outside of schools and housing compounds.
Where can I get a list of reliable childcare providers/nannies?
The most reliable method of obtaining a nanny with experience and limited English is through a referral from another expatriate. This may be done through word-of-mouth or via the notice board at an expatriate supermarket. Crown Suzhou can also provide assistance.
Discuss any safety issues for children in this city.
Local Chinese are often very caring toward children and are particularly fond of foreign kids. The major danger is that the roads are crowded and drivers often drive with little regard for pedestrians or the road rules. Most compounds are gated, so this is not an issue. Otherwise, Suzhou is no more dangerous than any other large city in the world.
What are the most popular kid-friendly attractions in the area?
Suzhou Amusement Land is an amusement park in the SND that has something to offer children of all ages. Suzhou is also famous for its many parks. Some apartment compounds have playgrounds within.
What are the most popular activities for kids after school or on weekends?
The international schools organize many after-school activities. Entertaining kids at home is also commonplace. DVDs and toys are cheap and in abundance in Suzhou, however, foreign books may be hard to find. It is also possible to enroll in private institutions offering Mandarin classes, ballet lessons, etc.
What's it like to be a teenager in this city? Are there any particular challenges I should be aware of as a parent?
Teenagers generally enjoy their time in Suzhou as the city provides many opportunities that wouldn’t be found at home. There are many expat families in both Industry parks; local teenagers are also eager to make foreign friends. China does not strictly observe any legal drinking age so parents may want to monitor their children's activities more closely. It is also very easy for children to purchase cigarettes.
Are there any organizations/social groups in the area that cater exclusively to young people ages 12-17?
Such groups exist only within the international schools.
I want my child to get the most out of our stay in this country. Are there any specific opportunities to teach young people about the local culture?
In general, children tend to easily pick up the local language and culture (especially the language, often becoming the "mouthpiece" for the family).
Those children who go to international schools receive lessons in Chinese tradition in addition to learning the language.
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