Surviving in China – Be Resourceful
China is a amazing country, ancient, yet breaking at the seams with all that is new and exciting, filled with tall buildings, fast pace of life, great foods, sights, smells, interesting people, and more. However, like any country, China’s approach to many of the same things we deal with, like going to a bathroom and having toilet paper, are approached differently.
I spent most of my days in China visiting factories, whether in southern or northern China, and whenever I met someone going into China for the first time and they asked me the top suggestion for surviving in China? Bring your own toilet paper!
Now, most places that people visit have most modern amenities that people need, certainly most restaurants, hotels and shopping centers in major cities, like Shanghai, but for those more adventurous or even those looking to take a day trip to visit some ancient Buddhist Temple, these tips to surviving in China can be invaluable:
Apart from the regular checklist of things that you need to keep with yourself whenever you are out in a strange country, there are several other things that you need to carry with yourself in China because they are simply not provided to you in the country as they are in the West (I always carry my own shaving kit and shampoos and bottle of water.) Apart from the passport, the VISA, your Identity verification cards, etc. there may be other things that you need.
Some things that you may be looking for might not even be available in many department stores. This is because China has a completely different culture than the American culture and there may be many things that you are used to that the Chinese people do without. Here is a list of things that you need to bring with you:
- Deodorants – You might find it hard to believe but reality is that you will not find deodorants in Chinese department stores (unless you can find a Walmart). If you want a deodorant, you have to bring it with you.
- Umbrellas (the best kinds are those that fold and collapse so they fit into your bag) – Although they are available in stalls, the cheap ones will rust after a week and the expensive ones might be a little too expensive for you. Bring an umbrella because you will need it in sunny days and when it rains. You cannot survive the sun in China without one (be sure to check out more of my travel tips for weather).
- Toilet Paper (or boxes of tissues) – Yes, that is right! Carry toilet paper because most (at least 90%) restrooms in China do not carry them. You might end up in a washroom and discover that it has no toilet paper and then you can end up finding yourself in a very tough situation. Always carry a roll of toilet paper or sanitary wipes with you just in case. Also, bring enough for the trip because toilet paper may not even be available in the stores (or at least most of them).
- Shampoos, Conditioners and Hair Products – If you are a picky user then you better bring your own shampoos and conditioners from back home. This is because China has only a few well known brands and even in those brands the chemical composition of the shampoo or the conditioner is different than what you and your hair are used to. If you use any particular hair products then it is best that you carry them with you as well because the products you use frequently might not be available in China.
- Sunscreen – Many Chinese stores do not carry a lot of sunscreens and even if they do, they do not have them in a wide variety of SPF. This is why you have to carry your own if you want to protect your skin. Chinese people have different melanin consistency in their skin, which is why their skin care products are specifically designed keeping their skin needs in mind.
- Medicines – If you are on some kind of medication, it would be best for you to bring them with you because sometimes you might not find the right kind of medicine for you in China. There might be similar medications but apart from that, you might have difficulty locating the right one for you. In addition, I’ll have in another post the experiences of walking into a pharmacy in China.
- Insect repellant – Take it from me, no local brand has an effect on the creepy crawlies.
- Tampons – If you do not use pads and use tampons instead, you will have a hard time in China during that time of the month. Pads are widely available but tampons are not.
- Shoes for Large Feet – If you have large feet then take care to bring your own pairs of shoes because finding shoes of your size might be a very difficult task for you.
- Pepto Bismol – You might have some trouble adjusting to the kind of water that is available in China so it is wise to carry some pepto. This is not widely available in China so bring yours from home.
- Hand Sanitizer – You might need this because of the unavailability of soap in many Chinese washrooms.
- A small flashlight – Short electrical blackouts are common in the country so it is wise to carry a flashlight in case you are stuck in a dark room or end up getting lost in a dark unlit street. Yes! Even for surviving in China, a small flashlight can be in handy. I could tell some stories about walking down a street in Shanghai that was fully lit then turning onto a street that was dark. Having that flashlight was great!
- Cash – If you are in China, you will find out that many restaurants and shops do not have a liking for credit cards so they do not accept them. Carry some cash around with you so you are not faced with any difficult situations.
I would say those are your best bets to bring with you. But, don’t worry too much, most of these things are small and cheap, can easily fit into day bags, and you may not think you may need it, but if you do, you’ll be happy you took it! One great example of a travel kit that has never personally failed me getting through airport security or fitting into my travel bags is the Travel Smart by Conair Transparent Sundry Kit
There is so much more for surviving in China to write about on this topic alone so be sure to check my other posts.
Did you know there is a difference between Chinese Yuan and RMB?