Necessities for China
June 6, 2006 1:09 AM   Subscribe

My sister is moving to Shanghai in eight weeks, for a six month position. Is there anything that I should get her for her trip?

Is there anything great that she'd need, but not know about, that I could get her?
posted by graventy to Travel & Transportation around Shanghai, China (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Shortwave radio so she can pull in uncensored news.
posted by nathan_teske at 1:12 AM on June 6, 2006

I'm spending the summer in Shanghai right now. Shortwave radio probably won't be necessary if she will have Internet access (you can see Google News and visit most popular news portals like the NYTimes Online though a few appear to be blacklisted).

Right now the only thing I can think of is a Brita (or equivalent) water filter. You can't drink from the tap here, and boiled drinking water doesn't taste too great. Unless she's going to buy bottled water exclusively, a filter for the boiled water might help.
posted by roomwithaview at 2:35 AM on June 6, 2006

Second the Brita or equivalent.

Shanghai is a very, very modern city in many respects. Not much you can't find and there are lots of expat stores for the gwai lo's (or white devil as I like to call 'em (us)).

Probably a nice gift would be some quick Chinese lessons if she has the time, or some CDs on the language. I highly recommend the Pimsleur Mandarin Chinese, though they are pretty expensive.

Ni hui shuo yingwen ma?!
posted by qwip at 3:03 AM on June 6, 2006

A britta might be unnessary as bottled water is incredibly cheap, and you can always just have a water cooler set up in your apartment, granted the water wont be cold, but that is how the Chinese roll and she will get used to it. With China you really don't need anything going in other then an acceptance of the fact that it is crazy over there and an ability to go with the flow.

Non-perishable western food is a good idea though, that stuff is available but super-pricey over there.
posted by BobbyDigital at 5:33 AM on June 6, 2006

Britta is unnecessary since, as BobbyDigital mentioned, bottled water is incredibly cheap. I brought a shortwave radio to Beijing in '99 and I thought it was worse than useless: I couldn't pick up the BBC and VOA is third-rate, half-assed propaganda. Reading English news on the Web, unless it's specifically about Falun Gong, is not a problem.

The best thing I can think of is to give her something personalized, like a scrapbook with all sorts of family pictures and pictures of your hometown. She'll get a lot of mileage out of showing that to locals.

A second idea which would be great for males, but perhaps not so much for females, is to take a picture of her with her preferred hairstyle and get the picture laminated. When it's time for a haircut, instead of trying to relate what you want with sign language or phrasebook Chinese, you can just show the stylist the picture.
posted by alidarbac at 7:07 AM on June 6, 2006

They're not great gifts, but if she feels strongly about particular brands of personal care items and the like, remind her to bring extra.

Some personal care items can be replaced; why bother packing a six month supply of your favorite shampoo when you can buy it over there? It's a little reminder of home, it's something normal in a place that's otherwise powerfully different. Speaking as an American who'd never traveled abroad before, I found the entire Shanghai experience really overwhelming, and I was glad to smell a familiar soap in the shower. It was a little oasis of normalcy.

More practically, some personal care items are difficult to replace. I ran out of deodorant, and I had a hell of a time finding more.

I also like alidarbec's haircut picture idea.
posted by liet at 12:09 PM on June 6, 2006

Doritos and other american snack food are hard to find and expensive in Shanghai. Even if she dosn't like to eat it, it's a good way to make friends with other americans, give them a little taste of home.
posted by afu at 6:17 PM on June 6, 2006

As one who lived in Beijing for almost 2 years, I missed English language books the most. A thoughtful gift would be a book like Wild Swans by Jung Chang, or if you are adventuresome, The Private Life of Chairman Mao by Li Zhi-Sui.

Some unsolicited advice: the best thing she can do while over there is to make a concerted effort to not hang out with other US expats. It is altogether too easy to live in an expat 'bubble' without really experiencing anything authentic.
posted by scooterdog at 7:33 PM on June 6, 2006

« Older How do I keep my neighbors from stealing my power?   |   Online creative writing collaboration tools? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.