Preparing for a move to China may invoke the desire to pack every Western comfort you can possibly imagine needing for the coming year. While you are moving to the other side of the world, you might be surprised at how easy it is to find what you need in China. Here are our top five tips for making a successful move to China:

Suitcases are the best packing supplies

Most airlines allow two, 50 pound suitcases per person, and you can also pay an additional fee for extra baggage or weight. Some airlines even offer discounts if you pay for the extra baggage or weight online before arriving at the airport. It is best to bring everything you need with you, rather than shipping items to China.

If you do decide to ship items to China, be prepared to pay shipping costs (which can include a shipping agent’s fee), and import tax that can be more than your items are worth (or what it would cost to replace them in China). There will also be a wait for your items to clear customs; it can take anywhere from a week to several months (we’ve known teachers who have waited up to six months). So, in the end, it’s probably best to keep the move limited to your suitcases.

Pack Your Shoes, NyQuil, and Makeup–Leave Your Electrical Appliances

It might seem impossible to pare down your life to a few suitcases, but if you focus on a few essential things, you’ll actually find it easier than it might first appear.

  • Shoes. Average to large Western shoes are not easy to find in China, and if you do, there may not be many options from which to choose.
  • Common over-the-counter medication for headaches, tummy aches, fever, allergies, cold, flu, cuts, etc. These items usually top the list when a visitor asks “What can I bring you from America?”
  • Women, you will often have trouble finding bras, makeup, and tampons/pads in China. Bra sizes, cuts, and padding are different in China, and your preference may be difficult to find. Most Asian makeup is meant to lighten/whiten skin tones, which you may or may not desire. Outside of Western grocery stores (where you will pay a premium price), you probably won’t find tampons, and pads usually only come in one large size.
  • Bring your favorite deodorant. If you find deodorant outside of Western stores, there may not be a large selection.
  • Pack your wardrobe essentials. Clothing sizes in China are smaller, but between online shopping, tailors, and the mall and wholesale retailers, you can usually find clothing in your size. But be ready to check your Western ego because a size small in the U.S. might be an XL in China!
  • A universal voltage converter will be useful in China and during holiday travels but…

Leave your small household electrical items–hair dryers, straighteners, curling irons, small kitchen appliances–at home. You’ll be able to replace them at a low cost in China, and they’ll be the correct electrical voltage.

Get ready for Delivery better than any pizza place in America

Your life is about to become a lot more convenient. Want dinner, groceries, household items, bubble tea, birthday cake, flowers? With the mobile app Meituan, you can probably have it delivered to your door in about 30 minutes. Or maybe you want something more along the lines of an Amazon shopping experience–visit or Check these sites before you start packing and your mind will be at ease about what is available in China.

WeChat will be your best friend

WeChat icon

Communicating with family and friends at home can be free and easy. You are likely already familiar with Skype or FaceTime, and they are commonly used in China. But the WeChat app is a combination of both, along with instant messaging, ApplePay, and Instagram. While in China, you will probably find WeChat essential, and your friends and family elsewhere in the world may find it’s the most convenient, free way to stay in touch with you.

Your Smart Phone is About to Feel a Lot Smarter

You are about to have a co-dependent relationship with your smart phone. In addition to everything you currently use your smart phone for (email, social media, camera, etc.), it will now also be the way you purchase everything, get a ride around town, communicate in Chinese, and order food. Honestly, it will be difficult to survive in China without a smart phone.

If you want to use your U.S. phone in China, get it unlocked before traveling and visit to see which Chinese carriers will accept your phone. Many Chinese phones are substantially cheaper and still comparable to U.S. phones, and it will probably be one of your first purchases.