SDE International - Shenzhen

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When I moved to China, I was overwhelmed by all I had to do to prepare and adjust. The last thing on my mind was what I should have stashed in my purse.

However, life in China is vastly different than life in the West. You might need things you would not expect.
Here are some crucial items to keep on you every day.

1. Hand Sanitizer

I used countless public restrooms in China, and guess what? There was probably soap in fewer than 1% of them.

I know. Doesn’t that freak you out? It freaked me out!

Unless you want to shove your hands in your pockets all day to avoid touching anything, it’s a good idea to keep hand sanitizer in your purse. (Or your backpack or pockets, gentlemen.) You’ll be able to relax more about using the restroom or touching handles in the metro.

2. Tissues

Not only do public restrooms not provide soap, but they also don’t provide paper towels. Actually, that makes sense. If no one is washing their hands, I guess no one needs to dry their hands, either.

Restrooms also rarely contain toilet paper! It’s really embarrassing when you find yourself squatting over a toilet without toilet paper for the first time.

You can avoid this humiliating moment if you carry a packet of tissues with you at all times. I used to question why so many Chinese people had Kleenex packets on-hand, but I quickly caught on. They’re insanely handy. You can use them as toilet paper, paper towels, or even just plain old tissues to blow your nose into.

3. Cash

In America, we pay with debit or credit cards for practically everything. So buying food at restaurants in my small Chinese neighborhood came as quite a shock.

Sure, you can use your bank card at department stores and big restaurants. But many family-owned eateries and shops don’t accept cards. Always carry cash with you, or you might find yourself in the embarrassing situation of being unable to pay.

As an added bonus, when you pay with cash, you can practice a little Mandarin! You can ask how much the bill is and count out the cash instead of mindlessly handing over your debit card.

4. A Charged Cell Phone

Not to sound like too much of a millennial, but your cell phone should always be charged and on your person!

You should have a translation app, such as Google Translate, downloaded onto your phone. That way, if you find yourself in a jam and needing to communicate with someone, you can use your phone to get out of a sticky situation.

Phones also help you pay if you don’t have cash. That’s right, many establishments don’t accept bank cards, but they do accept something called WeChat. This app is used in China for texting, social media, and yes, even paying for things.

When you receive your Chinese phone number and set up your bank account, you can set up WeChat wallet so that it’s linked to your bank account. In this way, using WeChat is kind of like using a debit card.

Have a charged phone on you, and WeChat is a life saver.

5. Passport

Chinese people always have their identification cards on them. As foreigners, we don’t have identification cards, so we should have our passports on us at all times.

There were many days that I didn’t need to show anyone my passport. However, there were also times when it really saved my butt. Occasionally, policemen would conduct ID card checks in metro stations. On these days, they still required I show some sort of identification. Good thing I had my passport with me!


SDE International - Shenzhen

New teaching jobs in China interviewing now, apply today!

About the Author:

Laura Grace Tarpley
Laura Grace Tarpley is a freelance writer and English teacher in Shenzhen, China. She enjoys tinkering with crossword puzzles, reading Bill Bryson books, and taking naps on her huge couch. Follow her travels on her Instagram and Twitter. Or you can check out her blog, Let’s Go, Tarpley!
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