moving to China
Dapeng District, Shenzhen, China

Moving to China?

Congratulations! Get ready for a wacky, confusing, fun, life-changing experience.

Life in China is vastly different than life in the Western Hemisphere. Some of these dissimilarities can be attributed to the fact that China has jumped from being a third world to a first world country in only two generations. Some aspects of life need a little more time to catch up. Other differences are simply due to Chinese culture and government.

Regardless, it takes time to get used to life over here.

Your transition can be easier if you come prepared.

Know that you may not find everything you want or need in China. Here are 5 things you should buy before you make the big move!

After this list, I’ll mention a few things you may think you should bring … but probably shouldn’t.

1. VPN

Let’s be honest, using the Internet in China can be a pain in the patooty.

Mainland China blocks a lot of my favorite websites, such as Google, Facebook, Instagram, and–gasp!–Netflix.

However, you shouldn’t let this inconvenience deter you from moving to China. You can simply buy a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, to access these sites. When you use a VPN, you disguise your IP address so that it looks as though your computer is in New York, Los Angeles, or Tokyo. As a result, you can roam the Internet freely.

Since Season 2 of Master of None was just released on Netflix, I’m super grateful for my VPN.

You can buy a VPN online. Since your Internet back home is probably much better than your Internet will be in China, I seriously recommend purchasing a VPN before you fly over to China. You can buy one while you are in China, but taking care of this beforehand is much more convenient.

This will cost you a little money. There are free VPNs, but I don’t recommend them. The Husband and I got a free one called Pure VPN before moving over here, and it was very poor quality. All the expats we met when we first arrived in China had Express VPN and raved about it. We invested in Express VPN and haven’t looked back.

Express VPN isn’t flawless, but the company has great customer service, so any problems are easily fixed. They’re also available 24/7. When you’re 12 hours ahead of most major companies, the words “24/7 customer service” are music to your ears. They also offer a 30-day money back guarantee, so if for some reason you’re just hating it, you have 30 days to back out!

Express VPN has several package options. In the long run, the cheapest option is to buy one year upfront, which will cost you $8.32 per month. In case you didn’t see the previous links, here’s that link to Express VPN again.


2. Clothes and Shoes

I’m a 5’8″ woman living in a city of 5’2″ ladies and 5’6″ men. When it rains, it isn’t unusual for me to hit my head on an awning. Finding pants that cover my entire legs or sleeves that are the right length can be difficult.

While fairly thin, I have hips that are meant to birth a baby. Tracking down pants and skirts that can accommodate my hip size is difficult, because most Chinese women are skinnier than I am.

The Husband is 6′ tall. While he isn’t fat, he’s definitely built bigger than the average Chinese man. He also has unusually broad shoulders and large feet. Finding clothes, especially shoes, that fit him is no easy task. He’s even tried searching on Taobao, China’s version of Amazon, and he has only found one pair of shoes he likes that comes in his size.

If you’re tall, large-footed, or not stick-thin, you may have to pack more clothes than other people.


3. Coffee

Buying bags of coffee is much more expensive here than in America. My American friend bought some affordable coffee on Taobao, but when it arrived on his doorstep, he realized the beans weren’t ground. He then wandered around to coffee shops, asking if anyone would let him grind coffee beans he didn’t buy from them.

No luck.

If you’re a coffee fanatic, I recommend packing some ground coffee, as well as a French press or coffee maker. If you’re a hardcore fanatic, you may also want to pack a coffee grinder!

Or you can just become a tea convert once you’re over here. That’s what I’ve done, since I didn’t have enough foresight to pack my beloved Mr. Coffee products.

Western Seasonings

4. Western Seasonings

If you like to cook, I recommend bringing some of your favorite Western seasonings with you. In Chinese cities, you can buy certain things at Walmart. However, we knew they wouldn’t carry our favorite taco seasoning or steak seasoning.

Salt is easy to find, but if you like black pepper, you may want to bring some with you. My American friend here who loves to cook also told me she hasn’t been able to find any cinnamon in China.

5. Tampons

Sorry, boys. You can just scroll down if you want. Also, you may notice I didn’t provide an image for this point. You’re welcome.

Most Chinese women wear pads rather than tampons. To each her own, but I’m really not a fan of pads. You can find tampons, but only the tiny ones without the applicators. 

I went to Sam’s Club and bought boxes and boxes of Tampax Pearl tampons before I flew to China. I’ve been here six and a half months, and I still haven’t run out. Best. Decision. Ever.


Okay, I promise, all that tampon talk is over.

Here are a couple things The Husband and I thought we had to pack. In reality, all this stuff just took up space in our suitcases.

1. Most Hygienic Products

Before moving to Shenzhen, The Husband and I did a little research on things we should buy beforehand.

Several websites recommended we buy pretty much all our toiletries in America, because we wouldn’t be able to find them here.

Maybe that was true back in the day. But there is a supermarket right next to our apartment, and you know what they have there? Shampoo. Conditioner. Toothpaste. Deodorant. I could have saved so much room in my suitcase if I didn’t pack four giant tubes of toothpaste and five sticks of deodorant. I wouldn’t have had to leave behind my heels!

If you’re moving to a city, don’t worry, you’ll be able to find what you need.

2. Electronics

Here’s where things get tricky. Electronics in China probably use different voltage than electronics from your country. That means it can be dangerous to plug in your Western devices over here.

Don’t worry, you can plug in your phone and laptop in China, and nothing will explode. The bricks we use to plug those devices into the wall act as voltage controllers.

If you plug in something like a rice cooker or hair dryer in China, though, it might break. R.I.P., rice cooker we got as a wedding present.

Of course, you can buy an adaptor-converter to convert the voltage from your gadget to China’s 220 V/50 HZ. But items like rice cookers and hair dryers are pretty cheap and easy to find in Chinese cities. They take up so much room in your suitcase that you may want to wait until you’re here to buy a new one.

Warning: Gaming consoles can’t connect to VPNs, so they are much more limited in what they can do in China. For example, you can’t watch Netflix on them. The Husband packed his PlayStation 4, and he hasn’t used it once. If you know him, that’s saying something. He loves his games.

Have you lived in China? What do you recommend packing or not packing?

*Note: This post contains affiliate links. Don’t worry, though, I’m only promoting things I genuinely love.

This post is in honor of my mom. Happy Day After Mother’s Day, Mom!