Packing for China

If you’re moving to China and you’re headed for any of the major cities i.e. Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shen Zhen and Tianjin, you don’t really need to pack much since you can buy almost anything that you need there.

Just be prepared to pay quite a lot (almost double) for imported items i.e. anything not made in China.

If you have young children like we do and if your company doesn’t have a good medical policy/insurance like we don’t, I’d strongly suggest that you pack the following items:

1. Medicines

I have been warned that there are MANY counterfeit medicines on sale in China. True enough, I have seen look-alikes of common brands of over-the-counter medicines and supplements e.g. Blackmores, Robitussin but since the instructions and ingredients labels are in Chinese, I have no way of verifying if these are genuine products.


What scares you more are peddlars who try to sell you the exact products just outside the drugstore or supermarket!

I also pack my own brand of skincare and make-up. Unless you’re willing to pay top dollar for big brands like Chanel, Dior, Estee Lauder or even drugstore brands, Maybelline. I’ve tried some lipsticks from Maybelline – they are fine in summer but they dry up in winter.

In the end, I’m better off with my own long last soft shine Clinique or moisture rich Estee Lauder lippies.

2. Children’s food

I try to back as many jars of baby food, cereals and biscuits as our baggage space allows and grabbing the complementary baby food from Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, Singapore Airlines or any other airline that we take e.g. 1-2 jars of Heinz baby food and a bottle of juice.

Eventually, we probably need to turn to the supermarket aisles to buy some jar food but I am very, very reluctant to buy any baby food from the supermarket after the melamine in milk scandal and news of the old milk powder stocks in 2008 re-appearing in 2010…

Can you believe that I even packed over some of my boy’s favourite snacks? I don’t really want to risk his eating anything I don’t know about and I’m glad to see that even the school only gives out snacks and sweets carrying brands we are familiar with.

Sorry, China, but it’s going to take a long, long, long time before anyone will feel 100% safe eating or drinking your packaged foods again.

While there are other odds and ends that can only be found from home or I would NOT pay through the nose here, food and medicines are always high on our packing list.

3. English books

You’re moving to China where 99% of the population read, write, listen and speak Chinese.

Plus, it’s a communist country where publications are highly censored.

If you’re lucky, you can find a library founded by the Americans, a book club organized by expats who come and go (fat chance) or at best, a strange selection of paperbacks in a cafe that range from bodice rippers to political espionage left behind by the English-speaking traveler who needs to ease the load on his / her backpack 😉

Uh-uh, after suffering from 6 months without a new book for my kids or myself, I always set aside some space in our luggage for English books. You’ll be able to find some cheap, counterfeit books off Taobao, but hey, can you bear reading rip-off books?

Better yet, get a Kindle from Amazon!

That way, you can set up your wi-fi safely in Australia, UK or US where books and magazines are not banned or censored, download all the free and fabulous books you want to read and then spend happy days reading in Chinese-speaking China.

4. Lingerie

You’ll see so many types of bras, panties, thongs, G-strings, baby dolls, bustiers, bodysuits, stockings and every other type of lingerie on sale here, with lace, ruffles and ribbons, I wonder how the Chinese government will ever see the success of their one-child policy LOL

However, bear in mind that their clothes are mostly produced for the mass Chinese market. And I’ve found that the XS size would fit an 11 year old girl, S size would fit a 15 year old girl, M size, an 18 year old girl, L size a 23 year old girl and XL size perhaps a young  lady who has had kids.

My Jennifer Lopez butt can only fit into XXL!  And they’re almost ALWAYS sold out…

The next jump is queen size. No, I’m not joking 😀

Thus, if I were you, I’d pack bras and panties from your home country, especially 100% cotton ones because I find way too many panties containing 5% Spandex, before you move to China.

What do you not need to pack?

1. Children’s clothes and shoes

Yup, looking at the hundreds and hundreds of types and colours of children’s clothes. If you don’t mind English words like “Happy Cow” or “Funny Puppy” or strange codes like “FYPPP” or “SCHLEZ” on your child’s clothing, then you’ll find tonnes of children’s clothes and shoes.

Lately, I have trouble finding cheap, export quality clothes for children though. Not sure why and the retailers and the wholesalers will simply say that prices have gone up.

It’s much easier to find clothes for babies than it is for toddlers or preschoolers because a) kids vary in heights and weights and also b) preschoolers become choosier with the colours and patterns on their clothes!

A few years ago, I found a great pair of leather shoes for my son, which only cost RMB150 but now? No such luck. I have to pay that amount for a Made in China pair, which I wouldn’t mind but some of the shoes are so poorly designed, they’re either bad for the feet  or they promote Ultraman -_-

No, no, no – PEACE, not war, please.

2. Stationery

While the stationery shop is not as fun as Staples, you’d still get a good selection of pens, papers and notebooks.

Sometimes, I have problem with glue sticks, which result in pieces of paper floating off pages even IF you’ve given them a good swipe of “glue”.

Now, I stick to two Shanghai brands: Deli and M&G. Both are yellow in the fashion of good, old UHU glue 😀

Ready for China?