You’ve accepted a job offer, picked up your visa and booked your flight to China – now it’s time to decide what to bring. Narrowing down your list will be essential – after all, how many pairs of chunky heels (women) and popped collars (gents) does one really need to survive day-to-day life in China?
Most airlines allow for one to two bags, (23kg/50lb each) plus a carry-on and a personal item, so your packing strategy is critical. If you’ve got a friend taking you to the airport, forget about the luggage restrictions and pay the fee for an extra bag (or two depending on how many you can check for free). A little extra money upfront might save you some heartbreak in the long-run. Plus, most schools will send a driver and someone from the school to fetch you at the airport so you won’t have to worry about lugging three or four suitcases around your new city.
These items are important not because you can’t find them, but because it’s hard to find the brands you like OR the price is two or three times higher than in your home country. It’s good to stock up on at least six months worth of each – you can ask your family to send more about three months later (they can send a care package by slow mail and it likely won’t get opened or held up by customs).
- Hair gel/paste
- Hair clippers (a great way to save money on haircuts, guys!)
- Dental floss
- Face lotion
- Multi-vitamins (very expensive in China)
- Protein powder: This is a must if you’re really into fitness – I buy six (6) two-pound containers every time I go home and pack it in a standard unmarked brown cardboard box, completely wrapped in packing tape. They never check the box at the airport.
- Prescription medicine (can be packed safely in your checked bag)
- Coffee grounds (you’ll thank me later)
- A good, sturdy bike lock or chain
- Power adapter
- A money belt (an absolute MUST when traveling in Asia)
- Sleeping mask & earplugs
- A good DSLR camera for taking memorable photos!
- A laptop (electronics are surprisingly much cheaper in western countries)
Some schools have a uniform, but most just require ‘smart casual‘ attire. That said, it’s still useful to pack some formal attire – it’s not unusual to be invited to attend events such as weddings, banquets etc. And since it’s likely you’ll be adventuring a bit while you’re in Asia, it’s also a good idea to pack hiking clothes and some basic gear.
The items below are in addition to normal, everyday clothes you’ll automatically bring with you – for example, underwear isn’t listed, but you ought to bring some anyway! You’ll also note I’ve suggested a lot of shoes. Why? Because it can be very hard for westerners to find shoes here. Anything above a size 11 (men) and size 9 (women) can be difficult to find!
- Smart casual basics for work (and shoes)
- One suit (men) or formal dress (women) – with the appropriate shoes/accessories
- Comfortable sneakers (wear on the plane)
- Sandals (if you normally like to wear them in the summer)
- Hiking shoes/boots
- A good day pack (carry on the plane)
- Seasonal outdoor clothing (if you like hiking)
Note: If you come during spring, summer or fall and don’t want to bring a heavy coat with you, don’t! You can pick up a good one for about $50 after you arrive!
- Cancel your mobile service
- Make copies of your passport (every page) social security card, birth certificate (give a set to a loved one in your home country and keep a set for yourself)
- Rent a mailbox or set up mail forwarding to your parent’s or sibling’s home
- Call your bank and credit card companies and tell them you’re moving overseas – they can ‘unlock’ your account so it’s not frozen for suspicious looking activity.
Packing can be a nightmare if you don’t know what to bring – with the above items in tow, you can feel confident you’ve got the basics (and then some) for your first year teaching abroad!
I’d love to hear if you have any other suggestions!