slow boat to china.
September 21, 2008 6:49 AM   Subscribe

What should NOT go in a care package to China?

Have a friend who recently moved to Beijing for an extended gig as an architect. Sounds like he's got access to most of the basics, but I'd still like to send him a care package of awesomeness every now and again. Just got some good ideas from browsing similar questions here but any additional (and China-specific) ideas would be most appreciated. Also, is there anything I should definitely NOT try to send? Anything that definitely will NOT make it through customs and thus compromise the entire package?
posted by hydrate to Human Relations (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Other than the obvious drugs anti Mao propaganda - no. All is fair in a package of care.
posted by watercarrier at 7:02 AM on September 21, 2008

Except for booze, bombs, and live pets. The usual things that can't go through the mail.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:07 AM on September 21, 2008

No Bibles.
posted by HotPatatta at 7:11 AM on September 21, 2008

That should probably be amended to "religious tracts of any sort".
posted by baphomet at 7:21 AM on September 21, 2008

Prohibited items here:
Articles in hermetically sealed, nontransparent containers.
Chinese currency.
Coins; banknotes; securities payable to bearer; traveler’s checks; gold, silver, platinum, manufactured or not; precious stones; jewelry; and other valuable articles, unless sent as an insured post.
Manuscripts, printed matter, photographic negatives, gramophone records, films, magnetic tapes, video tapes, etc., which could do political, economical, cultural, or moral harm to the People’s Republic of China.
Meat and meat products.
Perishable infectious biological substances.
Radioactive materials.
Radio receivers, transmitters or receivers of all kinds, walkie-talkies and parts thereof; valves, antennae, etc.
Used clothing and bedding.
Wrist-watches, cameras, television sets, radio sets, tape records, bicycles, sewing machines, and ventilators.
posted by crapmatic at 7:29 AM on September 21, 2008

any kind of "Free Tibet" stuff, Dalai Lama books, etc
posted by matteo at 8:10 AM on September 21, 2008

I would add weapons of any kind to that list.
posted by zia at 8:11 AM on September 21, 2008

Remember, almost anything available in the west can be found there. So send very specific or local stuff that are not even available in europe.
posted by ChabonJabon at 8:35 AM on September 21, 2008

I usually got care packages in China no problem - but they did open the bags of cookies (homemade and oreos) and rumble through them. Innocuous things were fine, but don't send anything too precious.

In terms of what to pack, I lived in a big city (Nanjing), and had access to almost anything I wanted. But the things that were hard to find were things like spices (chili powder, cumin especially. They mainly just had "Italian Seasoning"), curry pastes/powders that weren't Japanese, tortillas/taco shells, and the like (hmm, looks like I mainly missed food...). We were very happy to receive presents from home come holiday time. Someone sent us some fake snow, and a Canadian sent us Nanaimo bar mix.

Getting fancier things from home, or clothes or the like, didn't make much sense to us - we could get whatever we liked, cheaper, in China. My sister's over there now, and all she requests are powerbars and dried fruit, which were hard to come by where she was, but which she could get easily in Shanghai.

When I was there, she had sent me tabloid magazines from the US, they were a lot of fun to go through in China, and went around through all the foreign students in my dorm. Also, any English books were devoured (it was hard to find English books, except the Penguin classics). I also really appreciated having things from home, like a coffee mug from Tim Horton's, or a few pens from the NYC subway shop. Those sorts of things also make good gifts to regift to Chinese friends. :)

I've never heard of packages not going through at all - they'd just take out the parts of them that caused a problem, or pocket the expensive looking things in there. Don't hope to get lucky - they WILL go through packages. Maybe not all of them, but even in my limited experience, it was not rare at all to receive a pre-ransacked package.
posted by Herman Hermanson at 8:58 AM on September 21, 2008

Yummy powdered milk!
posted by atrazine at 12:28 PM on September 21, 2008

crapmatic's list is what you should follow, but to clarify about the moral harm thing, porn is a big no-no. Just, y'know, clarifying.

My care packages were strangely unopened when the got to me. I really enjoyed a simple box of hamburger helper, or mac and cheese. Spices definitely made a big difference. Books are heavy, therefore pretty expensive, but well received. Make sure you put a letter in there. My family never seemed to understand that a care package with no note doesn't feel quite as caring as it should.

The only thing I ever had searched, package-wise, was a box from containing a guide book and phrasebook for Japan. I always thought that was kind of funny.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:37 PM on September 21, 2008


They are "trigger happy" when executing convicted drug users/traffickers in China.
posted by Mephisto at 4:45 PM on September 21, 2008

2 things that you SHOULD pack. deodorant and toothpaste. that is if china is anything like korea.
posted by docmccoy at 4:55 PM on September 21, 2008

As for what should go in, consider shoes, glorious shoes. If he wears anything above a 10 and a half or 11 US, he'll have a hard time finding anything that will fit him.

And things have changed a bit since Herman Hermanson lived in Nanjing; cumin's easily found at any of the hypermarkets, Metro (which is in most big Chinese cities) has a lot of spices hard to find elsewhere. And there's also various ethnic restaurants (Indian, German, etc.) that have small groceries attached with a good selection of spices/cheeses/meats and the like for sale.
posted by msbrauer at 4:56 PM on September 21, 2008

seconding the letter. emails are alright, but there's nothing like a hand written letter. also, assuming he has a computer you should both sign up for SKYPE. you can talk to and see each other just like a video phone(assuming you also have webcams) and it's FREE. I live in WA and talk to my sister in Seoul once a week. It's great.
posted by docmccoy at 5:00 PM on September 21, 2008

Thanks everyone for your suggestions! The deoderant goes. The "Free Tibet" shirt stays.
posted by hydrate at 8:55 PM on September 21, 2008

Taco seasoning and flour tortillas. Mexican food was the only thing we never found anywhere when I lived in China, and the Mexican food themed care package we got was the best ever! Seconding magazines - I don't read them here, but things like Entertainment Weekly and People were awesome fun to read. Anything specific to your home town is great too.
posted by gemmy at 9:00 PM on September 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I really liked postcards, pictures and letters. Nothing expensive. Agreeing with gemmy about the taco seasoning. Magazines in English would be a good thing to send too.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 11:30 PM on September 21, 2008

In the to-send category, I'd casually ask your friend what he's craving in your next IM/Skype/email convo. Thoughtful foodstuffs from the home country that travel well are especially appreciated. Also, any little local items that he could give as a gift to new Chinese friends would help him out, I'm sure.
posted by xiaolongbao at 7:00 AM on October 1, 2008

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