SDE International - Shenzhen

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It’s a tad daunting to pack everything you’ll need for an entire year into a suitcase.

How do you know what to take? How can you maximize the space?

Also, what things do you need that you don’t take in a suitcase? For example, what apps should you download?

Have no fear! I’m here to tell you what’s essential and what isn’t.

What to Pack

1. Clothes that fit you

Let me describe the stereotypical Chinese body type: Small. Yep, generally they’re fairly short in thin, with small feet and narrow shoulders.

So if any of your feature don’t fit that description, you should probably bring plenty of clothes that fit you.

My husband is tall and stocky, and he couldn’t buy a single article of clothing while we were in China. I am thin but have wide shoulders. I bought a gorgeous Chinese dress that almost fits … but the shoulders are really tight. I decided to keep it anyway, but it’s a little uncomfortable.

2. Medication

In China, some medicines are easy to find in drugstores. But Chinese people’s attitude toward medicine is different from most Westerners’, so I recommend packing what you expect you’ll need.

My husband packed as much of his ADHD medicine as he could legally bring. We also stocked up on cold medicine, because Chinese people use Eastern medicine for colds, which we aren’t big fans of.

You should probably bring medicine for your stomach, because your system might take a while to adjust to the new food.



3. Books or eBooks

Depending on where you live, you could have trouble finding a library or store that has English books.

If you’re a reader, pack a few books to sustain you. An even better option is to take a Kindle or Nook. Download a bunch of eBooks before you leave for China, and you’ll be set for a long time.




4. Coffee and a coffee maker

China is full of places to buy amazing tea. But the coffee culture, or lack thereof, is a bit of a bummer. Especially if you’re a coffee addict, like me.

You can buy lattes and cappuccinos, but they can be a little pricey. Especially if you buy one every day. In America, I had two or three cups of drip coffee every morning before work. I didn’t expect China to be any different. Boy, was I wrong!

We couldn’t find a coffee maker in any store. Thankfully, we had brought a French press.

But then we couldn’t find ground coffee at any supermarkets. No big deal, we just bought bags of coffee beans.

Then we couldn’t find a coffee shop that would grind the coffee beans we bought for us! It was a tough, coffee-less year.

What Not to Pack

1. Gaming consoles

You might already know you need a VPN to access a lot of websites in China, such as Facebook and Google. My husband packed our PlayStation 4, thinking we could hook it up to play games or watch Netflix.

Well, guess what? It turns out gaming consoles can’t connect to VPNs. A tragic waste of luggage space.

2. Kitchen utensils

Don’t take up a bunch of room in your suitcase with pots and pans. You probably won’t end up cooking at home as much as you think you will. If you need a kitchen utensil, you can easily find a place to buy it. My husband dedicated a good chunk of room in his suitcase to our rice cooker. The first time he used it, he forgot to use an adaptor when he plugged it in, and it immediately blew out! We didn’t even get one meal out of that rice cooker.

Apps to Download

1. WeChat

WeChat is everything in China. Everything.You use this app to text. To order food. To pay friends, stores and restaurants. Even to pay rent. It’s a life changer, and I wish we had something comparable in America. Download WeChat before you get to China so you can jump right in.

2. Google Translate

Google Translate is a huge help, especially when you first arrive in China and are overwhelmed by hearing Mandarin all the time. Type in the English word you need to translate and find the corresponding Chinese word.You can even press the camera button and hover over Chinese characters to have them translated. It isn’t always a perfect translation, but it’s better than nothing. This feature has helped me understand restaurant menus many times.

3. Language learning app

Get at least one language app to study Mandarin in your free time. Check out Duolingo, Memrise, or FluentU.


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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