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Moving to China? Here’s What You Need to Pack

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Moving to China? Here’s What You Need to Pack

Moving to China necessitates a fair amount of planning. Aside from the bureaucratic hurdles, flight booking, and looking for international schools in China, there’s also the dreaded task of figuring out what to bring when moving to China. For rather obscure reasons, packing for the big move seems to send many people into a stressful tail-spin. More so even than the bundles of dreaded paperwork!

What do you need to bring when moving to China? Surprisingly, not too much!

China is neither the desolate Siberian tundra, nor is it North Korea. It is a wonderful, well-equipped country full of shops!

Yet there’s no denying that, as a Western foreigner, your worries will likely be about finding things you like and recognize in China, and that is a whole other matter altogether. To this end, here’s a list of items that you would be wise to pack when moving to China. Some things are simply not sold in the country, and others are imported so are prohibitively expensive.

What do expats in China do, you ask? Easy! They either find local alternatives that are ‘good enough’, learn to live without, or cough up a fair amount to buy them anyway. Say…like good stinky, creamy, French cheese.

Let’s get back to our list. Here’s what you may want to pack when moving to China:

Your favorite toiletries – If you’re 100% sure you don’t need your armpits (or face, or body) a lighter shade of white, then pack a hefty supply of your favorite deodorant, face cream, and body cream. As is the case with the rest of Asia, Chinese cosmetics include whiteners because that’s what locals want to buy. Pale skin is a much-coveted beauty standard here. And yes, even known international brands like L’Oréal and Nivea are specifically made for the local market, so they may also contain whiteners.

Your preferred make-up colors – Unless you have porcelain white skin and dark hair, local Chinese cosmetics might not suit you. They are also obviously made to suit the local market, so the palettes come in colors that are very specific to the pale skin/dark hair combination. This also applies to hair color, if you usually do your own: unless your base color is black, pack a few boxes.

Your fave coffee – The ubiquitous Chinese Nescafe 3-in-1 sachet may not do the job for you in the morning, and although you will find ground coffee in Western supermarkets and Starbucks, you will pay a pretty penny for it. Pack your percolator and enough of the powdered stuff to last you a loooong time – at least, long enough until you get used to drinking tea instead.

Have big feet? Then pack shoes and insoles – Actually, make that large or tall anything in the clothing and accessories department. The wonderful thing about China is that shopping for clothes is fun and inexpensive. The unfortunate thing is that if you are anything above an ‘average local Chinese’ size, you will have serious problems buying stuff that actually fits. From bras and underwear to shoes, jeans and everything apart from rain jackets perhaps. Bring a wardrobe to last until you go home for a visit… just in case.

Power plug converters – Depending on where you’re coming from! Chinese outlets will usually work on European plugs, but the country uses 220V electricity, which does not suit US appliances. Check out this handy website for more info.

DO NOT pack bed linen – Mattress sizes in China may be different from what you have at home, so either use this Size Chart or simply wait until you’re all settled in, and then you can enjoy a lovely IKEA China shopping spree.

FYI – IKEA China has just started selling plant-based Swedish meatballs!

Also, don’t forget…

Pen and paper – So you can start making a ‘rescue-pack list’ from the day you arrive. It’ll then be very easy to simply pass the list on to anyone who’s coming to visit you in China 😊

Moving to China may seem like a colossally big deal, and it is. Yet you can quell the culture-shock (and even packing stress) if you move to a Tier 1 city like Shanghai. With a sizeable expat community and wealth of Western comforts on offer, you may just find it a little easier to settle into your new life.



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  • Razor

    Once the WAR starts, why would anyone want to be on the losing side in CHINA?…….What a strange article? You talk about CHINA like it’s a nice place or something. It’s a DICTATORSHIP full of THIEVES who steal other people designs and products and attempt to call them their own. CHINA HAS MADE NOTHING!…..so why move to a country full of THIEVES?…….I guess if your a THIEF and like DICTATORSHIPS go ahead. Just remember, you MUST have TEMPER TANTRUMS when you DON’T GET YOUR WAY, like we see the CHINESE doing. YOU MUST BE FOLLOWED AND WATCHED 24/7…… Your RIGHTS as a human being?…….DO NOT EXIST….YOU HAVE NONE!……YOU ARE NOTHING……the CHINESE are LIARS and THIEVES. I wonder when they will learn to make STEEL?……nawwwww….too busy chasing CASH…….TOO GREEDY!…TOO IGNORANT!…..TOO CONTROLLED!
    NO FREEDOMS IN CHINA….NONE!……..What a STRANGE article?…..asking people to RUIN their LIFE and move to COMMUNIST CHINA?…….YOUR INSANE!….

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