Life in China is different from life in the U.S. which makes it difficult for newcomers to know what to bring with them. I have been living in China for 1.5 years so here is a list of some things that you may not immediately think of when packing to go on your China adventure.
Rain Coat: The rainy season in Guilin is in the spring. Normally, you will see heavy rains from February to April or May. During the rainy season, it rains almost every day alternating between light rains and heavy downpours. It is common during this time of year to experience ten days of rain then two days of sunshine followed by ten days of rain again. While you can buy raincoats here, it is nice to have one that you know is good quality and will protect you from the downpour.
Hiking Gear: There are some great hikes in Guilin and southern China, so if you like hiking bring your gear. A backpack is a good idea especially if you want to try some longer hikes like the Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan province. Also, I suggest bringing some shoes with a good tread on the bottom. Many hikes in China include stone stairways leading up the mountain and when it rains the stairs get very slick.
Summer Clothing: Weather in Guilin is very warm during the summer and many places in Guilin do not have air conditioning so you will want clothes that are cool and comfortable. If you are going to teach in Guilin, it is a good idea to bring some nicer short-sleeved shirts to wear to work. Skits and loose pants also help.
For women, bringing fitted t-shirts is a good idea to help stay cool. You can also bring tank tops however, it is important to know that showing your shoulders and chest area is considered risqué in China and if you wear tank tops you may be stared at. Furthermore, tank tops are not good for work as your boss may consider it to be inappropriate. So make sure you bring a few things with sleeves.
Winter Clothing: Despite being in the tropics, Guilin does get cold in the winter. Temperatures normally do not go below freezing but can get down into the 30s. These temperatures may not seem very cold, however, the problem is that the buildings are not insulated properly and many do not have heat. If it is 40 degrees outside it is also 40 degrees in your apartment. Therefore, it is important to bring some warm clothes with you like sweaters, coats, hats, and gloves. In addition, floors in China are tiled and not carpeted so bring some warm socks!
Sunscreen: If you have pale, Irish skin like me you are definitely going to need sunscreen! Guilin is situated closer to the equator than my home of northern Illinois. Being closer to the equator has a huge effect on how quickly your skin will burn.
Sunblock is sold in China, however, most Chinese sunblock includes a bleaching agent. In China, women typically prefer having pale skin. Often times this leads to the use of bleaching agents which are included in most lotions as well as sunblocks. These bleaching chemicals can be bad for your skin so it is best to just bring your own.
Makeup: Whether you like to wear makeup every day or just once in a while, it is better to bring your own makeup with you to China. China does have a very large makeup industry, however, if you are accustomed to using specific makeup brands it is unlikely that you will find those same brands here. Furthermore, the makeup in China is made for people with Asian features. It is possible that you will not be able to find a foundation that matches your skin tone and that you won’t find that perfect eyeshadow pallet to go with your green eyes.
Tampons: Tampons aren’t sold in China and the women here only use sanitary napkins. Therefore if you prefer tampons, you will want to bring however many tampons you are going to need for the entire time that you will be in China with you. Depending on how long you will be in China, that can take up a lot of room in your luggage. Some women have turned to the Diva Cup as a space saving alternative.
Medications: If you are prescribed any medications, you should try to get them filled for as long as you will be in China. If this isn’t possible, you can have a family member or friend mail medication to you, but it is important to know that the Chinese mail system is large and complicated. It can take anywhere from two weeks to a month and a half to receive a package from the U.S.
Digestives: The Chinese diet is very different from the Western diet. As such, most westerners have digestive issues when they arrive in China. So it is a good plan to bring some digestive medicines like Tums and Imodium.
Unlocked Cellphone: When you come to China, you will not be able to use your phone because foreign cell services do not work in China. You will need to sign up with a Chinese service provider. Luckily phone service in China is pretty cheap at about 20 yuan a month. If you want to use your current phone in China, you will need to have it unlocked by your current service provider so that a new SIM card can be put into your phone. If you do not want to unlock your phone, it is also possible to buy a new phone in China and then use that. Cheap smartphones in China start at about 500 yuan. iPhones are more expensive in China than they are in the states by about $100.
If you are going to be teaching in China, it is likely that you will be sharing files with USB drives and also plug those USBs into shared campus computers. In my experience, those computers tend to have a lot of viruses that can get onto your flash drive and onto your personal computer. Therefore, it is a good idea to get an antivirus program if you don’t already have one. The good news is that these viruses are pretty old and are easily taken care of by cheap or free antivirus software.