WARNING: This is a girls-only article. That means NO BOYS ALLOWED. Sorry for yelling. If there was a way for me to filter out male eyes from peeping through this, I’d take that route. Does anyone know how to do that? No, seriously. Tell me.
I’ve been watching a lot of Girls lately and have been starting to think about the things I can’t get access to in China. There’s only a handful of items that I can’t go out and physically find at markets. Mostly everything is bought on taobao.com, the Amazon meets Ebay of China. Taobao has every single thing you could ever want in life. I’m pretty sure people auction off their souls on it. The problem is, Taobao is only in Chinese characters, so I typically have to bribe one of my friends with dinner to order me stuff.
Sigh. Why can’t buying souls be easier for a foreigner in China?
So, I’m going to save you the embarrassment of asking your teaching assistant to buy you tampons on Taobao by starting with a bang – just bring 10 Costco-sized boxes to China! See, boys? I told you, you don’t wanna read this stuff.
Chinese girls don’t sweat. I don’t get it. Why am I the only girl in this country that requires deodorant on a daily basis? I’ve looked everywhere for deodorant. I’ve even gone Pinterest-crazy and started looking up recipes to make my own…didn’t happen. Just bring it. Bring a lot. Tell your boyfriends to bring some too, because there is none for men, either. My boyfriend’s mom literally mailed us a year supply. Hot damn, I love her.
There’s a store called Watson’s here that comes from Taiwan or Hong Kong. It’s like the equivalent to CVS or Walgreens. They carry tampons, but only OB. They run about the same cost as they do back home, but since I’ve been here for so long, I pretty much cringe at things that cost more than 20RMB. If you need tampons with an applicator, stock up, ladies, stock up.
P.S. Bring Midol too.
3. Sports Bras
Again, I’ve been looking everywhere. And since Chinese girls are notorious for going to the gym and not even working out, just looking hot with their naturally skinny bodies, the sports bra market isn’t a big one in China. Why is life so hard? Bring one. No. Bring two. And give me one.
4. Clothes for Every Occasion
Speaking of these naturally skinny demons, bring a lot of clothes from back home that can cater to any kind of event. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Monica, China has a billion people living there. They have to have clothes for me, right?”
Here’s the thing: I had no idea what kind of bodies these girl had. It’s just like a straight line of skinny. While I am definitely not in the “skinny” category, I don’t fit in to morbidly obese either, which is certainly how I feel when I attempt to try on clothes that don’t come from western stores like H&M or Zara. I had an English friend here who was around 5’8 and 130 pounds. Pretty much a model figure, and she could not fit into any clothes we saw at street markets, which sucks because they’re so cheap and often really unique. Then there’s me, five inches shorter and the same weight with the same problem. These girls don’t have hips like a lot of women from the west have. They’re demons I tell you, demons.
So yes, you can buy clothes at stores like Forever 21 or American Apparel, but there’s an import tax that makes them just a little more expensive than they are back home. Also, keep in mind China has a very specific market for what is considered appealing to the eye and what isn’t (don’t get me started), so you may have to consider adopting some new styles while you’re here.
One more side note: My boyfriend gave me the terrible, terrible advice that we are travelers and that “this is not a fashion show” before I arrived. Be prepared to get invited to very nice restaurants or clubs, have your photo taken constantly by strangers, or be asked to do an impromptu speech at your school’s parent’s day event. Tell me you don’t want to look good for that. TELL ME.
5. Feminine Hygiene Products
Boys, if your eyes made it here, this is 1-800-YO-FAULT for reading and being disgusted when I told you not to.
Girls, I’ll keep this short and sweet incase your boyfriend is lurking behind your shoulder. Just consider that anything could happen while you’re here. Anything. You’re in a foreign country. ANYTHING. Please, use your imagination without making me say it. Please?
Keep in mind western medicine is not the same as Chinese medicine and I had to resort to Taobao and a lot of embarrassment to get some over-the-counter treatment from the U.S. that costed double what it costs back home. Do yourself a favor – bring it.
Never been a fan of granny panties, and guess what? That’s all there is here for us ladies! Bring yourself all of your favorite varieties of undies, because the options plummet when you get to The PRC.
7. Cosmetics/Hair/Body Products
There’s about three major western brands that made their way to China: Dove, Pantene, and Head and Shoulders. Ick.
Just like the tax on clothing or any western products for that matter, it happens with make-up and other beauty products as well. Bring all of your favorite products or be prepared for the icy cold winter of ugly.
If there’s anything I forgot to mention or anything that you find with ease in the city you’re in, leave it in comments below! If you have more specific questions about any of these items don’t hesitate to contact me directly. I love you.