Updated: Oct 13, 2020
A popular question I hear a lot when planning the big move abroad to China is — what should I pack!? Packing up your whole life and bringing it across the world is not easy. One old saying applies here: less is more. Let’s be real. Beijing is one of the most modern cities in China. You can find anything your heart desires in Beijing. However, some things are a bit harder to get your hands on. So, I present to you the top 10 things you need to pack before moving to Beijing.
All cosmetic products (including skincare) imported into China require animal testing. It is best for anyone against animal testing to pack six months- one year’s worth of products! You will be able to find the big cosmetic stores like Sephora in Beijing stocked with familiar products, but they aren’t cruelty-free. However, fantastic news alert! China will phase out its pre-market animal testing regulation in 2021 on all imported ordinary cosmetics. This is a giant pink bunny leap for China and worth a celebration!
I’ve found it incredibly tricky getting my hands on the delicious protein bars here in Beijing. I’ve come across some, but they are usually the less nutritious and less “natural” kinds. I had noticed this during my first trip to Beijing, so when I moved here, I made sure to pack months’ worth. Protein bars are great travel companions when out and in need of a hefty snack. Sometimes, I day-dream about the protein bar packed aisles down a Whole Foods or Trader Joes from back home in the US. If you look hard enough, you will be able to find them in Beijing, but just be prepared for those first few months without them.
I don’t know what it is, but it’s tough to find great sunglasses in Beijing! All the sunglasses I’ve come across tend to be way too big, cheaply made, or just oddly shaped. I still wear the same sunglasses from back home, even after buying multiple pairs out here. So, be prepared and make sure to pack your own, maybe even an extra pair or two!
ENGLISH LANGUAGE BOOKS
There are not many English language book shops in Beijing. My favorite bookshop in Beijing, called “Bookworm” (RIP), unfortunately, closed at the end of 2019! They had an excellent used book and new book collection. There are still some great new bookstores, like “Page One” bookshop, but the English language book shop scene is scarce. It’s also pretty impossible finding used English language books. So, if you’re an avid book reader and love holding physical books, be sure to hit up some used bookshops before jetting off.
MEDICINE AND VITAMINS
Pack your medicine! I feel like a camp counselor at the moment, but it’s true! It might not be easy getting your hands on the right medicine you need while abroad. Some medication you won’t be able to find, period. So, save yourself the hassle and pack some extra until you get situated in Beijing. There are loads of pharmacies spread all across the city, but it’s always good to be on the safe side. This goes for your vitamins, too, especially if you are vegan. So, just again for the people in the back — make sure to pack all your health necessities and some extra.
I rarely get homesick in Beijing. Honestly, I haven’t looked back since I arrived last year. However, there is one thing that floats around in my mind every so often, and it’s Trader Joes. I miss Trader Joes and all the exciting and mouth-drooling products. I miss everything but the bagel sesame seasoning blend, pumpkin everything, organic dried mango, and chocolate chip cookies. You can’t find a sign of Trader Joes, and if you think you see it, it’s just a mirage, my darling. So, if you’re a Trader Joes fan like myself, pack some of your favorite products that are great for travel. It will make you happy and perhaps less homesick those first few months here.
You will need a translator as soon as you land in Beijing pretty much. Some people speak English, but most people don’t. Make sure to have a translator ready to go once you land. It will come in handy when you need to ask for directions or order food at your first official Chinese restaurant. Yum! I use google translate, but there are, of course, many other options. Google translate is terrific because it has the camera option, which you can use to translate written Chinese text. You can also use google translate to have a full-on conversation in real-time speaking English and Chinese. I love technology.
FLAMIN HOT CHEETOS
If you’re a hot Cheetos fan, be prepared to pack an adequate supply! It’s difficult finding some good ‘ole hot Cheetos in Beijing. On that note, pack all your favorite western candy. There are shops around Beijing stocked with western-style snacks, but we like to be prepared, don’t we? Just bring all the snacks.
In most cases, electronics tend to be more expensive in China. It’s surprising, right!? So, if you’re thinking about buying a new laptop or phone, perhaps purchase before coming to Beijing. One other thing to note, especially for Windows products— the operating system might be in Chinese, along with warranties only valid in China. To avoid all this, buy before coming. If you don’t mind spending the few extra RMB, you can find all the Apple/Windows products you desire.
All in all, it’s important to remember that you really can find anything you need in Beijing if you look well enough. Online apps like Taobao and JD also make it infinitely more possible to find all the products you don’t see in your day to day neighborhood shops. I like to be prepared, so that’s why I wrote this little list for you. In the end, you will be able to get everything you need, and perhaps more than you need, and at a very low cost. See you in Beijing!