Mike Cairnduff from Hello Teacher!

Updated January 13, 2019
By Mike Cairnduff

Things you should bring to China

Not sure what to bring to China and what to leave behind?

The country is modernizing so quickly that most of the creature comforts you rely on are easy to pick up at the nearest shopping mall. 

And, of course, online shopping is always available for those non-perishable things you’re willing to wait for in the mail.

That said, there are still a few things the organized English teacher should pack in their suitcase before heading to China.

Here are our top six things you should bring to China.

1. Laptop or notebook

You simply can’t live without your laptop or notebook while teaching English in China. Think of it as the ultimate survival tool.

You’ll need it to prepare and write lesson plans for your classes, as well as keeping in touch with family and friends.

Sure, the latest computers are widely available in China, but the last thing you’ll want to do is look for one when you arrive. This is particularly the case if you’re starting work not long after you touch down in your new city.

If you were to buy a computer, you’d have to consider negotiating (depending on the store), setting it up correctly, installing the right programs, arranging the warranty and so on.

Unless you can speak and read Mandarin, or you have a Chinese friend who can help, it’s best you bring your own.

If you’re thinking about bringing a tablet (like an iPad) instead of a laptop, think again. As an organized and effective teacher, you’ll be doing lots of lesson planning and writing (i.e. typing).

It’s much easier to do this on a laptop or notebook than on a tablet.

2. Teaching materials

Some schools will have a structured syllabus and prescribed text book, while others will be more flexible and give you free rein in the classroom.

Either way, it’s best to come prepared with at least a week’s worth of lesson plans.

Avoid bringing any heavy text books – you probably won’t use them. Instead, your curious students will be much more interested in authentic things like:

  • Photos of your loved ones
  • Foreign currency
  • Restaurant menus from your hometown
  • Videos and electronic music files (or even a small musical instrument!).

It’s a pain to get a family member to post some of these things once you get to China, so make sure you pack them before you go.

3. Travel adapter

China’s electricity supply runs at 220 V and uses angled two- or three-pin plugs.

Unless you’re from Australia or New Zealand (which have a similar setup), a travel adapter/converter is necessary.

A travel adapter is one of the top things you should bring to China.

Remember to bring a travel adapter to China!

Although you can buy them in China, it’s easier to bring one with you than go shopping the minute you arrive.

Consider bringing a couple of adapters if you intend on using multiple devices at the same time.

4. Special toiletries and medications

Toiletries (like shampoo) and over-the-counter medications (like pain relief drugs) are available everywhere in China.

However, if you’re a bit fussy and only like using certain brands, you’d best bring your own.

If you’re teaching in China for just a year, bring enough of your favorite toiletries and medications to see you through to the end of your contract. It makes sense to pack as much in your suitcase as your airline allows.

If you currently take any prescription medication, it goes without saying that you should bring what you need.

Note that many Chinese people don’t use Western-style deodorant, like anti-perspirant spray and roll on, so it can be hard to find. 

Don’t panic, though – Walmart stocks it (you can find your nearest Walmart store in China here).

Special toiletries and medication are some of the top things you should bring to China.

Deodorant can be hard to find in China.

5. Small gifts

It’s inevitable that you’ll make some lifelong friends in China.

When you eventually part ways, it’s a nice gesture to give them a small keepsake from your country.

The gift doesn’t have to be elaborate or break the bank. After all, it’s the thought that counts!

If you have absolutely no room in your suitcase for small gifts, you can always slip in some nice cards or postcards.

6. Flexibility and the right attitude

This ‘thing’ is a little cheeky as it technically doesn’t fit in your suitcase.

It is, however, arguably the most important tip as it could make or break your time overseas.

In China, things don’t always go to go to plan, timetables change at the last minute, and sometimes your school might expect you to drop what you’re doing for some unusual reason.

That’s why being flexible, going with the flow, living like a Chinese person – call it what you will – is key to living a happy life as a teacher in China.

And, of course, this is only possible if you’ve got the right attitude.

Have I missed anything? What do you recommend someone brings to China?


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