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Living in China and things to bring

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I have been in Asia off and on since August 2001. During the

nearly two years I have been here, I have seen and learned

many things about this place. I have have lived in China, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines. I have also visited most of the

countries in East and Southeast Asia including Japan, Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia,

and Singapore. I am not an expert on Asia, but I do think I am qualified

to comment on what has shocked me here and share some tips on Asia, mainly in regards to China. Southen

Asia has been my favorite place because the cost of living is very low, jobs are plentiful, and the weather is warm. Living is pretty easy for Westerners here because of the novelty factor and the common perception (true or not) that foreigners in Asia are worldly and rich. Foreigners often feel like movie stars here even if

they were losers back in their home countries.

China especially is a culture shock, though. People in China tend to stare, cut in front of others in line, not say "excuse me", "sorry", or "thank you", spit, urinate outside, vomit everywhere, hold hands with same-sex friends, and wear two-piece suits to do construction work or pajamas to go shopping. Owning a car, speaking English, or seeing foreigners are rare here. Windows are often opened here in the winter and hot water and heaters are hard to find. Clothes are of poor quality and very small. Living in a third world like China may be harder than its sounds. Electricity, water, and Internet services may often have outages. Don't overestimate how much you may miss seeing books and magazines in English, western food, ice, churches, safe tap water, and western medicine.

China seems advanced in some ways and behind in others.

For example, China still uses oxen to plow, yet has DVD players, telephone cards, and the big city skylines look futuristic. China has bullet trains, but the stewardesses and nurses wear uniforms from the 1960's. John Denver and The Carpenters are still popular here.

Visitors should also be aware that China has many pickpockets. Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and many other cities have gangs that wait on busy corners and target unaware people with bags. Be careful!

If you come to China, be sure that you consider bringing supplies of the following difficult to find items:


Dental floss


Large clothes


Your Shampoo




Shaving cream

Salad dressing


Pancake mix



Big shoes

BBQ sauce


Taco sauce



Lettuce, butter, cereal, raisins, fresh milk, and cheese are very difficult to find here. Many of the above items

may be available in Asia, but the brand may be not be very good or the price will be very high.

I hope this is helpful to someone. You have been warned.

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Thou its a culture shock....still think ones gotta respect each other's culture....and guess its pretty obvious that one won't find items from one's homeplace at the same price in China....isn't that a economic factor....no demand...low supply and high prices....

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Does anyone have a good, idiomatic translation for "croutons" (and all other soup/salad ingredients, please).

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Here are some more products that are difficult to find in China:



Fruit cocktail

Canned tuna

Whip cream




Cranberry juice/sauce

French bread

Frozen strawberries

Index cards


Litter boxes


Parsley/oregeno/paprika/dry mustard/cumin/basil/thyme/dill weed/celery salt/rosemary/peppercorns/cinnamon/garlic salt/tarragon/

onion powder/cilantro seasonings

Worcestershire sauce

Frozen pizza

Hamburger/hot dog buns



Fish batter

Tartar sauce


English books

Large bras/condoms/sweatshirts



Power converter







Diet Coke


Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Breath mints


Chex Mix




Graham crackers


Shrimp cocktail sauce

English muffins

Fortune cookies



Cotton balls

Calamine lotion

Construction paper


Duct tape

Powdered sugar

Baking powder


Chocolate syrup


Large towels

Cake mixes

Easter egg dye


Kool Aid


Bacon bits

Pot pies


Potato salad

Ice cream cones

Ranch dressing

Food coloring

Canned pineapple/prune juice



Hot dog buns

Cake decorations



Clam chowder

Cotton candy

Baking pans


Melba toast

Romaine lettuce

Garlic bread

Rye bread

Pie shells






Au gratin potatoes



Bumper stickers

Smoke detectors



Birth control pills

Cinnamon rolls


Maybe some of these items are seasonal or can be bought in large cities like HK, but it's still amazing how such common and simple products are so difficult (impossible?) to find here. Many Chinese just don't realize how

deprived they are. People looking for brothels, dried fish, cooking oil, noodles, rice, or 50 kinds of tea, will find China to be heaven. Other people may find Zhongguo to be a bit boring after a while. Eating rice, noodles, and dumplings everyday gets old quick. Overseas Chinese are lucky that they can go to the local Chinatown if they get a little homesick when they are abroad. Too bad foreigners can't have the best of China and the best of our home countries, too. At least saving money is easy since most things are cheap and there's not many good things to buy.

Although foreigners in China probably won't miss these items if they are just coming here for a little two week holiday, those who plan to stay longer should consider having someone send them care packages or packing an extra large suitcase.

Perhaps there could be a market for foreign products in China. If a smart business person considers the 1.3 billion Chinese and the 230,000 foreigners living in China, he or she could make a fortune importing foreign products here. The few imported goods already in China are just a drop in a bucket. Pepsi, Coke, and McDonald's are fine, but it would be nice to have Thai, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern, German, Greek, and Indian food, Italian Garden, Burger King and Taco Time, too. China has been cut off from the rest of the world for years and they don't know what they've been missing.



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Try find your closest Park n Shop or Wellcome (they have quite a few branches in China now), they have lots of western convenience food.

Alternatively give up trying to get US stuff and adapt to the local way

Turkey- eat chicken instead

Stuffing- does anyone even have an oven in China? :shock:

Fruit cocktail- make fresh fruit cocktail

Canned tuna- try the local tinned fish instead, fried dace (acquired taste) :mrgreen:

Whip cream- do what the locals do, use condensed milk

Gelatin- boil some pigs trotters

Aspirin -you can get aspirin

Cranberry juice/sauce

French bread- just get used to mantou

Strawberries -

Index cards- buy a big bit of card and some scissors

Cherries -

Litter boxes- by this do you mean a cat's toilet?

Poptarts- if there are no toasters in China, what use are pop tarts?

Parsley/oregeno/paprika seasoning - paprika is just dried chilli isn't it?

Frozen pizza -again no ovens, you can't cook a pizza in a wok

Hamburger/hot dog buns -find your closest Japanese style bakery


Toasters - bring your own

Fish batter -make your own, mix egg, flour, milk and stir

Tartar sauce -put pickles in mayo and just pretend

Corndogs -don't think I've seen cornmeal in China, so that's a problem

English books -Amazon deliver worldwide

Cereal - park n shop and Wellcome stock them

Pasta -you can get macaroni

Gyros -you mean the sandwich?

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I live in a relatively small city in Guangxi - not one of the the richest provinces. There are few foreigners here.

Almost everything on your list is available here.

Deodorant - yes

Dental floss -yes

Underwear -yes

Large clothes -get them made

T-shirts - yes

Your Shampoo - yes

Socks - yes, but I do have these sent from England

Razors - yes

Shaving cream -yes

Salad dressing -yes

Mustard -yes

Pancake mix - make it! it's only flour, egg and milk!

Croutons - fry bread

Pickles - half the market stinks ofpickles

Big shoes - depends how big!

BBQ sauce - make it!

Coffee - yes

Turkey - yes! Thre is a turkey farm outside of town!

Stuffing - make it!

Fruit cocktail - you mean little bits of fruit cut up and mixed together!

Canned tuna - yes

Gelatin -yes

Aspirin - Come on! Try a pharmacy.

French bread - yes

Strawberries ?????? I love the strawberries in China.

Index cards - yes

Cherries -yes (in season)

Parsley/oregeno/paprika seasoning -yes

Hamburger/hot dog buns - yes

Toasters - yes, I have two, both bought locally.

Fish batter - make it!

Tartar sauce -yes

Cereal - just tucking into my Kellog's cornflakes right now!

Pasta - yes, various shapes

Lettuce - yes

Butter - yes

Fresh Milk - delivered to the door every morning just in time to pour onto the cornflakes

I would be amazed if these can't be found in Shenzhen.

Maybe you need to get out more and look!

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I agree; if you're living in Shenzhen and can't find the aforementioned items -and a whole lot more- then you need to get out more. The simple solution: go to a Metro; you'll think you've died and gone to (insert your favorite supermarket chain). A trip to a Carrefour should round out the rest. The one caveat: you pay. Outside of the big stores, there is a thriving grey market, in which everything being brought into China is going to come from Hong Kong through Shenzhen...at least that's what a small shop owner where I live told me as I was looking through the shelves/refrigerated case of salad dressings, taco fixings, junk cereals, Pop Tarts, pancake mixes, cake & brownie mixes, sour cream, etc. etc. etc.

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Im just preparing to come to China, and am staying in Beijing. Are there any essential items that aren't available. I saw website mentioned razors and deodorant, though Im not too worried about tacos and poptarts.

I hate packing :cry:

What should I bring, that most cant live without and wouldnt think of bringing in the first instance? Im there for three months.

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Deodorant and razors won't be a problem in Beijing.

If you're a reader, there's not much in English other than classics (plus expensive, mainstream paperbacks). Heavy to carry, though. :(

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The only thing I ever really missed was a good selection of books and magazines in English.

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bring deodorant. you can find some in BJ, but it's usually not very great, or expensive. Plus you can bring along the kind of deodorant you like. deodorant is small so you'd only need a couple (unless you are a deodorant using maniac). if you use chapstick and are addicted to a certain brand, it wouldn't hurt to bring that either. the prices are the same in chn and the US.

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I can't wait to be there among those of you who are already there!

My question is practical in nature as well. I could care less about food that will be unavailable because our American diet is not always the most healthy now is it?

But, my question is this. I'm 6'3" and when I lived in Taipei, it was kinda hard to find clothing that was adaptable to a person of my stature. Now, I'm not fat by any stretch of a western opinion, but I do work out, and so I have a larger chest than most of the Asian men I have encountered in my travels, although nothing uncommon here in the States. Will clothing be hard to locate or will I have to resort to custom made suits and tailored shirts? That would be okay I guess, but there's nothing so comfortable as a nice pair of Lucky jeans...

I'll be in Beijing, so I can't imagine that they would not have anything to accomodate westerners, but if it's like Taiwan, they just never seem to have large enough sizes. (Even the westerners that I met there were seldom as tall as me.) I just want to avoid the whole geek, Michael Jackson style, showing your socks, short pants thing.

Oh, and just a curiosity.. In Taibei, none of the McDonalds had BBQ sauce available for the nuggets, much to the dismay of my exgirlfriend. Mainland same of different? And it might just be me, but the fries at the McDonalds in Taiwan and Japan were far superior to those in the States... always so fresh!

Well zaijian!


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Fresher than the fries in the States? How can that be possible....sometimes the competition just isn`t much to live up too.

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If you are over 6' tall and are coming to China, be sure you bring all the clothes you will need during your stay. The quality sucks here and the sizes will be too small. You

get what you pay for.

The good news is that I went shopping around Shenzhen at Park 'N Shop,

Jusco, and Carrefour recently and I found some foreign products for sale. Wal-mart in China is a big letdown and

other grocery stores here like Rainbow, A. Best, and Newlife suck

unless you never get tired of eating Chinese food.

Shaving cream 14 RMB

Pancake mix (1 Japanese Brand)

BBQ sauce 24 RMB!!!


Canned tuna 8 RMB

Aspirin Small bottle for 3 RMB

French bread 3 RMB!

Frozen pizza (1 Japanese Brand)

Hamburger buns


Cereal (Grape-nuts!)

Syrup (1 Japanese Brand)

Imported goods in China are very expensive and hard to find, so better bring as much as you can. The main foreign products that foreigners can count on seeing in China are Colgate, Crest, Safeguard, Tide,

Snickers, Hormel, Miracle Whip, Coke, Duracell, Kodak, and Pepsi. Watch out for fakes, though!

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Website, are you really suggesting people bring over croutons, barbeque sauce, and pickles?

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Don't know about Beijing, but in my family's home town there are lots of tailors who will make custom clothing...

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Am a 1.78 m tall girl (I don't know how much that is in the American system, but anyway I'm really tall for Chinese standards), and had no trouble at all to find clothing in Beijing.

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