Michael Kruppe and Ai Li
Children: Gina (age 12) and Alina (age 5)
Background: The Kruppes have called Beijing home for two years, but spent the 10 years prior in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Shanghai. Michael is director of North Asia for HKI International, a stainless steel kitchen equipment supplier for restaurant chains like McDonald’s and KFC.
Where do you live? We live in Guoyuan in Tongzhou. It is a new and rapidly-developing area that is not so crowded; living costs are much lower than in downtown Beijing.
Have you lived elsewhere in Beijing? We lived in Liangma Qiao before. We love Tongzhou; people are friendlier and less-stressed than they are in Chaoyang.
How often do you go into the city? Michael goes every day to drop off and pick up Alina from the German Embassy Kindergarten in Liangma Qiao. Every two weeks, the whole family goes for brunch at the Kempinski Hotel. They have a very well-organized kids’ corner there.
We also regularly visit Solana, The Place, the Silk Market, and Le Cool ice rink in Guomao. The Grand Hyatt’s 63rd floor has the best view in Beijing on a clear day, so we go there for coffee. We also go to Chaoyang Park, where Michael plays soccer and tennis with Sexy FC, a local soccer team that plays in the first Beijing division.
How do you get around? We have a private driver who takes the family everywhere. We basically use the car 100 percent of the time.
Where do your kids go to school? Gina goes to Shuren Ribet and Alina attends the German Embassy Kindergarten. Shuren was recommended [to us as]the leading bilingual school in Tongzhou, and we are satisfied with her progress so far. For Alina, we decided to try the German School. The only problem is the terrible traffic. Sometimes, it takes 90 minutes to get to school one way. We leave at 6.30am to avoid traffic, but that sometimes means arriving at school too early. The driver takes Alina in the car, while Gina takes the school bus.
What fun things are there to do in your neighborhood? There are lots of really great restaurants and the girls enjoy playing in our compound’s park. Gina plays tennis with Michael sometimes. There is also the fantastic Moon River Resort Park just a 10-minute drive away, which has a beautiful park and boat rides.
Do your kids like your neighborhood? Yes, they like it a lot. They play with our neighbors, which was not the case in the other cities we’ve lived in. The girls love Wu Mart for its playground and the Weiduomei across from our compound, as it has the best mango and chocolate ice in Tongzhou.
Do many other expat families live nearby? No, we haven’t seen any other expat families here over the past two years. But it’s been easy for the children to make friends with kids in the neighborhood, as Tongzhou [residents]seem to be a bit more open and social than people in downtown Beijing.
Do you ever wish you lived downtown or in Shunyi?
The villa-style houses in Shunyi sound nice, but [the neighborhood]is so far away from any activities. We are happy in Tongzhou.
Ultimately, how has living in your neighborhood affected your China experience? Tongzhou has given us a true China feeling, which the family has enjoyed a lot (particularly Michael).
Do you see yourself living here for a while? Yes, we see ourselves staying here for at least the next 10 years.
photo by SUI