I love reading about what international teachers pack for different countries they live in. Teachers tend to bring drastically different items with them than your common backpacker. That isn’t to say there aren’t teachers who leave everything behind them and pack just one carryon bag (hey, Megan!), but most teachers I know come to a country with at least two checked bags, a laptop bag, and a giant carryon. It makes sense that if you are going to sign a contract for one or two years, leave your family and friends behind, and move to the opposite side of the world that you might want to bring things to make you more comfortable.
I’m a planner, so I made myself an excel spreadsheet of items to pack for my life in China. These are some things I brought with me:
Summer Wear: Chinese summers are hot and incredibly humid; think Louisiana or Florida during summer. If you will be here during the warm weather (my school had us arrive at the end of July), pack a good variety of shorts, skirts, tank tops, and loose fitting t-shirts. People in Beijing seemed more comfortable showing tons of legs (I frequently caught local staff wearing micro-mini skirts AT SCHOOL) rather than any cleavage, so dress a little more conservatively up top and make good choices about professional wear.
Winter Wear: I come from Portland, Oregon where it just rains for basically nine months (love how green it makes everything). So I was unprepared for the bone chilling cold I felt in Beijing. Thankfully I was nice and toasty with my silk long johns, which I wore under a pair of thermal pants and slacks. I would bring a few pairs because I would just constantly rotate them out for what felt like six months. Lets also remember the down coat that covered me head to toe! You can get plenty of gloves, scarves and hats at the local markets.
Cardigans: Good for the winter when you can never have enough layers and good for the summer when you want to wear a sundress with skinny straps or the AC is too cold.
Personal hygiene items: When I was searching for packing lists people always seemed to list deodorant and tampons, but I found both things easily while living in Beijing. Perhaps if you were in a smaller city you would have problems finding them so ask other teachers who are currently working at your school about this. Deodorant and other lotions and makeup do sometimes contain whitening agents so watch out for that!
Good shoes: if you have a larger shoe size you really need to bring all the shoes you might need. I wear a woman’s size 8.5 and it was very difficult for me to find any shoes that fit. Even if you are a smaller size it is hard to find good quality shoes that don’t have a high imported price tag.
Makeup: you can find tons of knock off products here and some imported products too (with the higher price tag), so if you are attached to certain brands bring stuff with you.
Bras: I never found any I liked in China. They all seemed to be made of cheaper materials and were usually small sizes.
Meds: I always travel with multivitamins, a few boxes of Emergen-C, extra strength Tylenol, and plenty of Pepto Bismol. I’m sure you can find these things (though I never saw Emergen-C) somewhere in China, but I like to have them on hand when I need them the most.
Jeans: this seems to be the land of leggings, and you can have stuff made to fit easily enough, but I was very happy that I brought two pairs of jeans with me.
Work Clothing: I fell in love with shopping at the local markets and I could always find great casual clothes there, but I was never happy with the business clothing I was looking for.
Casual Clothing: While you can find it around, I would still bring a couple shirts and lounge pants to wear on the weekends or outside of school.
Classroom Stuff: it is easy to get copies of books made here. There is plenty of paper and office supplies around, but if you want cute already made things for your classroom you either have to sweet talk an intern into making it for you or bring it from the US (think cute pre-made posters or bulletin boarders). I usually travel with my favorite classroom books as well, you just never know what will be available.
House Stuff: I always pack some pictures to hang on my walls, a few candles, my French press (you don’t want to talk with me until I’ve had my coffee!), a sharp chef’s knife, my favorite spices, and a couple jars of peanut butter & coconut oil.