Resources for Chinese-Speaking Family Members
Archived Q&A and Reviews
We're a family with 2 kids and two parents-in-law and we are all moving to the bay area in the next month or so. My parents-in-law recently arrived from China, don't speak English, and don't know how to drive a car.
I'd appreciate any advice as to which areas we can live in so that my in-laws can have a reasonable life while here in the US! I'm thinking about an area that has good schools for the kids (1yo, 3yo) but easy access (single bus ride?) to an area with a higher density of Chinese stores, Chinese community centers, etc.
P.S. My in-laws speak Mandarin, not Cantonese.
Have you considered the Sunset or the Richmond in San Francisco ? These are the two neighborhoods lining Golden Gate Park and sloping down all the way to the ocean. These neighborhoods get a bad rap, especially from East Bay dwellers, because they are foggy. However, if I were in your situation, I would definitely consider those neighborhoods; there are many Chinese families in these neighborhoods (you hear both Cantonese and Mandarin). We lived in the Sunset for 5 years, including the time when my son was 0-3 and my daughter was an infant; I loved the neighborhood, despite the fog. I know less about the Richmond because we never lived there, but it has a similar feel -- lots of Chinese families, though maybe a bit more diverse. We lived in the Outer Sunset (on 25th, very near the park) -- great walkable neighborhood, for in-laws who don't drive. Right on the corner of 25th and Irving is an amazing Chinese supermarket. I loved shopping there...Great Chinese restaurants (and other Asian restaurants as well) -- I miss the Chinese bakery and take-out dim sum! The inner Sunset (away from the ocean) is somewhat dominated by UCSF and also is more expensive. The middle and outer Sunset is more 'Chinese/Asian' (for lack of a better description), more affordable (bigger houses, lots of single-family homes), and quieter. Golden Gate Park is an amazing resource to have with young children -- great playgrounds, great walking paths, a beautiful lake, the Academy of Sciences, etc. We moved to the East Bay (my husband wanted to get out of the fog) before our kids started school, although I did spend a lot of time learning about the schools while we lived there and have friends in the schools now. The SF public schools are a mixed bag. But the Sunset and the Richmond have some of the better neighborhood schools in the city. Our local school would have been Jefferson, and I have friends who are very happy with the school. There are also several Mandarin immersion schools in the city; if your children are bilingual (Mandarin/English), I believe this would increase their chances of getting into one of the Mandarin immersion programs. That said, the Mandarin immersion schools are highly ranked and highly sought after, so there's no guarantee you'd get in. And there's no guarantee on your neighborhood school, either. SF has a complicated algorithm that determines school assignment. I'd read up on it, certainly, before I bought a house there. There is also the Chinese American International School, if money is no object -- that school is supposed to be amazing. All in all, I have lovely memories of living 'in the Avenues' (as we call the two neighborhoods) and probably would have stayed if it had been up to me. I don't mean to downplay the fog, however; it can really drive some people crazy during a bad summer. And the uncertainty re: school assignments would be anxiety provoking. But I have to say, every single one of my friends in the City has landed at a school they are happy with. Some of them had to white-knuckle it through a couple of rounds of wait-listing, but those who stuck it out have been very happy so far (these are all elementary school aged families). Sunset Booster
You didn't get any East Bay recommendations in the first round, so I thought I would mention that Oakland's Chinatown is an easy walk from BART. So easy access to BART = easy access to Oakland's Chinatown. East Bay girl
I felt I should chime in, since you got so few responses covering the East Bay. Someone mentioned Oakland Chinatown, which of course is nice for shopping and restaurants, though a bit desolate/dangerous at night, so maybe not ideal for a living situation (though there is the senior center and nearby senior apartments and retirement communities, if they are looking for that type of thing). But there is also a large Chinese-speaking population in Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, and Richmond, which is in part why the Pacific East Mall was located and is thriving in that area, though there are also a lot of small businesses and community resources along the San Pablo Avenue corridor that serve Chinese-speaking clientele and other Asian communities. And you would find a similar situation if you look to southern Alameda County/north Santa Clara County, Hayward, Fremont, and Milpitas in particular--this area is very diverse, and I think it would be fairly easy to find a nieghborhood where your parents will be comfortable and have resources and a community nearby.
I saw several replies to your post and had to seek out your original post because San Leandro has a very large Chinese population that you might find to be a good fit for your family and grandparents. We think it's a lovely city and I think it would be very possible for your grandparents to find friends who also speak Mandarin fluently. love our neighbors