Packing for your Trip to China
After you have signed your first contract to teach ESL in China, you have to start thinking about what you are going to bring with you to China. Packing for your trip to China may seem overwhelming especially when you know that you will be living in China for at least a year. So what should you bring with you to China? Is there anything that you cannot find in China? Should you ‘stock up’ on anything? To assist you with this process, here are some tips that you may find helpful as you prepare for your big trip to China.
What you should bring with you to China
- Medicine — While Chinese pharmacies do offer many Western medicines these days, it is probably a good idea to stock up on any medicine that you are taking on a regular basis. Foreign teacher friends of mine, for example, have told me that they have had a difficult time finding medicine for their asthma inhalers. You can also do a search on Google to find out which medicines are available in China. However, remember that depending on where you are living, it could be difficult to find what you are looking for. It is always a good idea to also check with your school about what medicines are available locally.
- Personal Hygiene Products — I have never had trouble finding shampoo, bar soap, toothbrushes, or toothpaste even in the smallest cities. You should not have to worry too much about ‘stockpiling’ these items. If you need a particular brand however, you should bring it from your home country as you will most likely not even recognize most of the brands available here. In some smaller cities in China, you may not be able to find deoderant (and especially your favorite brand) or dental floss. Also, I have heard about difficulties that women have had finding feminine products in some parts of China. Pads seem to be readily available but in some areas you may have a hard time finding tampons.
- English Books — If you are an avid reader then you may want to take some English books with you to China. While you can find English books on the shelves of bookstores in big cities, fidning them in some of the smaller cities in China is nearly impossible. Chinese Bibles are readily available in China but finding an Bible in English will probably be a chore. As an ESL teacher in China, you are allowed to carry a Bible into China for personal use.
What you do not necessarily need to bring with you to China
- Clothing — The demand for Western style clothes in China has greatly increased in the last 10 years as more and more Chinese people follow international fashion trends. While there is nothing wrong with bringing most of your clothes with you, do not forget that you can always buy more in China and you may be pleasantly surprised by the prices. However, if your clothing size unusually large, you may have a hard time finding clothes that fit you. In this case, you may want to consider bringing more clothes from home.
- Bedsheets — Unless you are attached for some odd reason to your bedsheets and pillow at home, it is probably better to just leave them at home. You should easy be able to find sheets and blankets in China for reasonable prices. Your school may even provide them for you. Not having to carry these items with you will definitely lighten your load.
- Bicycle — Some foreigners are intent on dragging their bicycles with them to China. It is not worth the trouble! You can buy a decent mountain bike in China for under 100 USD that should last you at least the year that you are there.
What you most definitely may NOT bring with you to China
- Arms, ammunition, and explosives of all kinds
- Radio transmitters-receivers and principal parts (bringing in your transistor radio is fine)
- Renminbi (Chinese currency) in cash
- Manuscripts, printed matter, films, photographs, gramophone records, cinematographic films, loaded recording tapes and videotapes, etc. which are detrimental to China’s politics, economy, culture, and ethics (carrying pornographic videos or magazines is definitely a bad idea)
- Poisonous drugs, habit-forming drugs, opium, morphine, heroin, etc. (Do not fool around with this one! Being caught using or selling drugs in China is a serious matter! Your home country will NOT be able to help you)
- Animals, plants and products thereof infected with or carrying germs and insect pesticides
- Unsanitary foodstuffs and germ-carrying food-stuffs from infected areas
Here is a SAMPLE packing list that I have used in the past when going to teach in warm climates in China.
1. Passport and other relevant documents
2. Rain jacket and galoshes
3. English Books
4. Bathing suit and towel
5. Chinese dictionary
6. Hygienic itmes
8. Camera and film
9. Sunscreen (available but expensive in China)
11. Notebook and pencils
12. Waist Pouch
13. Hiking boots
14. Tennis shoes
15. Radio (it’s fun to listen to the local Spanish radio stations)
16. Extra spending money
18. Alarm clock
19. Calculator (handy for currency conversion)
20. Credit or debit card (recommended in case of emergencies.)
As far as clothing is concerned, you just have to use common sense. Most schools require their teachers to ‘dress up’ a little for classes. Jeans and T-shirts are not usually allowed. It is also important to do a little research on the climate in the place where you will be living. This will help you to know what kind of clothes to bring. However, it is always good to bring some clothes that are appropriate for different climates in case you have a chance to travel in China.
If you have anything to add to this information, please leave us a comment below