What should you really bring to China


That’s Guangzhou recently listed 18 Things All Newcomers Absolutely Need to Bring to Guangzhou and I would like to add a few words of my own to the list. Do you actually need to bring all of these?

1 Hand sanitizer

I don’t personally carry hand sanitizer around with me, but I have seen it being sold on Minisoto and Watson’s for example. Feel free to bring a bottle, but no need to stock up.

2 Skincare and make up

Brand products are more expensive in China than abroad so do bring your favorite products. I don’t do make up my self so I buy the skincare products I need here. I even found face cream with UV protection at Watson’s.

3 Deodorant

Deodorant might be cheaper elsewhere, but it’s easily to be found in any supermarkets, Watson’s, Mannings and so on.

4 Tampons

Difficult to find 7 years ago, but now easy to find same as the deodorant. All Watson’s and Mannings have tampons, mostly ob brand so if you prefer something else, you can consider bringing them with you.

5 Painkillers

Do bring your important medication with you, but for an occasional headache it’s easy to find ibuprofen tables (布洛芬片) in any local pharmacy.

6 Unlocked cell phone

If  you are staying long term, get a Chinese SIM card for your old phone or get a new Chinese brand phone.

7 Photocopies of your passport and visa

You should carry your passport with you, but if you are worried losing it, at least carry a copy of it with you. You might be fined if the police find out you don’t have your passport with you.


Yes! Definitely do download and register a VPN before you come. I have used VyprnVPN since 2015. Click her to get it with a nice discount!

9 Extra clothes and shoes

My shoe size is 38 and in clothes I use M or L (European size) so I don’t have too many troubles finding things to wear. I usually shop at Uniqlo and H&M. If you have a large shoe or clothing size, you probably want to bring more with you, especially nice shoes. Also if you are much taller than the average Chinese.

10 Basic Mandarin

You can learn a few phrases before you come, or even better, join me at Expat Chinese and register for my courses!

11 Baby powder

Guangzhou is hot and humid, but I’ve never used baby powder after leaving toddlerhood. I do use roll-on deodorant for my thighs to avoid rubbing the skin.

12 Antidiarrheals

Same as with number 5, take the medicine you are used to using back home too. For sudden stomach pain, Chinese pharmacies have better remedies than I’ve been able to find in Finland.

13 Portable fan

Very useful during the Summer, but much cheaper to buy once you arrive!

14 Adapters

Depend on each country, but coming from Finland I haven’t needed any adapters. Many Chinese extension cords are suitable for any kinds of sockets.

15 Gifts from home

Always a good idea to bring special gifts from your hometown, but remember Chinese have a very different style compared to Finns for example. Finnish design isn’t that big of a deal here yet so I often just buy Fazer chocolate for everyone.

16 Extra space in your luggage

Sure, if you are coming for a short trip, you probably want to do some shopping over here. If you live here, you most likely want to bring more stuff from home to China. Besides chocolate, I always bring rye bread with me.

17 An open mind

Absolutely! This is the most important thing to bring with you. China is huge, China is amazing, China is different, be ready for a culture shock. I’ve lived here more than 7 years and there are still parts of the culture that shocks me or surprises me in a good way. It’s constant learning that keeps you going when living in a new culture.

Sara’s short list of things to bring to Guangzhou or China in general:

  • Open mind!
  • A good VPN
  • Personal medicine and hygiene products you can’t live without
  • Some comfort snacks
  • Well… that’s it!

Moving to Guangzhou: Choosing where to live

Moving to Guangzhou for work, study or with a family is an exciting adventure and many problems have to be solved before one is settled in the City of Rams. One of the most common questions I get through email is where to live in Guangzhou. Which compounds are good with kids? In order to solve this, I asked my friends and accquittances to tell me a bit about how they chose which compound to live in Guangzhou.

Oakwood Gold Arch Guangzhou

Oakwood Gold Arch, Ersha Island

“I moved here because of the great expat community”.

“It’s close to the American school where I wanted my kids to enroll.”

“Ersha Island and especially Gold Arch is green, quiet, great for kids. We have a nice pool, playground, indroor playroom. Here it’s really easy to socialise with parents and other families. It’s also close to American School”

“My child goes to American School so most of his friends live here too.”

Canton Mansion

Canton Mansion, Liede

“We love the  community here. My children spend a lot of time with the local swim lessons, tennis lessons, playground and play dates. Convenient shops, delis and restaurants all downstairs.”

“The convenience of the location is what matters the most.”

“The facilities, service and location are perfect for us.”

Golden Lake Guangzhou

Golden Lake, Baiyun

“Nice environment and houses feel like living in USA, which is where we moved from. Good neighborhood feeling and supportive network.”

“Green area, pool and proximity of the school are important for us.”

Other compounds

One Link Apartments, Tianhe: “Easy access to public transportation and shops.”

Fraser Suites, Tianhe (next to One Link Apartments): “Central location is convenient and near metro station.”

Favorview Palace, Wushan: “The French school was located here when we arrive. Plus I liked the green areas. It’s also away from hustle and bustle of the city center.”

COSMOS, Zhujiang New Town: “Bright and spacious.  Within our budget and easy commute to office.”

How to choose?

When choosing the place to live inside Guangzhou, many expat families first consider the location of the school and then the location of the workplace. If there are multiple options, then things like greenery, play areas, transportation and local services come into play. Some prefer to be right in the city with convenient bus and metro routes, other prefer more quiet compound in Panyu or Baiyun districts.

In  the next post of the Moving to Guangzhou -series I’ll be sharing the reasons and tips on choosing which school to sign your kids in.


Chinese lessons in Guangzhou are continuing in September

Learn Chinese in Guangzhou

I’ve gotten emails asking when do I resume teaching Chinese and I thought it’s best to share the plans in a blog post as well. Chinese lessons are continuing in September!

I’ll arrive back to Guangzhou a bit earlier than planned, on the first week of September. After that I’ll need to find a nanny and then I can continue teaching Mandarin. My estimate is that I can continue lessons in mid-September.

I’ll be offering one on one or small group lessons for beginners and elementary level students. Most of my students are keen to learn the basics of spoken Chinese but I have students who are fascinated by the Chinese characters as well. In any case the lessons are always tailored to your personal needs with a flexible schedule.

If you want more information about Chinese lessons in Guangzhou or want to book a meeting with me, get in touch through my contact form!


Living and having fun in Guangzhou

Living in Guangzhou

I’ve been living in Guangzhou since March 2010, have been to many places and noticed that there really is much to see and do here in Canton! Sure I have heard how others love Hong Kong, rest of them swear by Shenzhen, but I’m sure that’s just because they haven’t really seen what Guangzhou is like.

So you are out and about in Guangzhou, where do you go? In this post I will introduce a few great websites that will point you to the next best restaurant, bar, event or an ancient village to explore.

City Weekend Guangzhou

If you’ve been to Beijing or Shanghai, you might have seen their magazine, but even though we don’t have anything on print here in Guangzhou yet, their website is still full of great recommendations. And new ones coming up all the time!

Check out what to eat and where to drink and party in Guangzhou.

Guangzhou Stuff

What’s going on today in Guangzhou? Check out the events in Guangzhou Stuff and plan your day of fun! This is where I heard of the German Chamber of Commerce’s Students and Young Professionals events for the first time, they are organized once a month and an amazing way to meet new faces.

eChinacities Guangzhou

For sightseeing and places worth visiting you should check out Travel & Outdoors section over at eChinacities. They have great recommendations for cultural and historical day trips as well, featuring many places that are on my wish list.

the nanfang

For interesting news from Guangzhou (+ Shenzhen +Dongguan) head to thenanfang.com. They for example reported how Guangzhou is banning the favourite pastime of middle aged women in Guangzhou, at least in some areas. Oh and if you really want to see some dancing, be sure to visit the North Gate of Sun Yat-Sen University after 6pm. It’s packed every night!

Did I miss a website that should be on this list? Please let me know in the comments. Also share with us what you do for fun in Guangzhou.


Guangzhou: Zhu Village


Zhu (Pearl) Village is located in the Tianhe district of Guangzhou. It’s an urban village these days, but the roots get back to the Southern Song Dynasty. I never knew that there could be so much history to be found in the Tianhe district, as it seems so modern with expensive brand stores and high rises. Luckily I got a chance to write a small piece for a magazine and heard about the Zhu Village.


You can take a metro to one of the stations marked in the map above and then continue with taxi. Or you can take a BRT bus and get off at the Zhu Cun (珠村) station. These busses all reach the village: B1B5B15B16B17B20B26 and B27.


I visited Zhu Village two times, first for the magazine and then to experiense the Chinese Valentine’s Day that was on the 13th this month (7th day of the 7 month in the lunar calendar). You can click the map above to get a bigger version.


The first steps into the village made me a bit sceptical, could there be anything ancient found here?

IMG_2965I do enjoy visiting urban villages too, excellent for exploring the daily lives of locals and migrant workers and taking photos of their everyday living.


I even managed to get this cute dog to pose for me! I’m still shy to photograph people, even though that’s what I would really like to do. Sometimes people also refuse to be photographed and I’ve missed many great shots by being a bit too slow.


It’s a bit hard to navigate inside the Pearl Village, but getting lost in the small alleys is also part of the urban village experience. I would advice you to arrange at least a few hours for strolling around.


During my first few months in Guangzhou a Finnish girl asked me why I wanted to stay in Guangzhou. Why wouldn’t I move to Beijing where there is so much more history and culture. Well, we don’t have Forbidden city in here, but everyday living is also an important part of culture and these villages dating back to the emperors’ times are a piece of rich history as well.


Culture isn’t just “high culture” like opera, plays, ballet, but it’s everything humans do. What you eat for breakfast, what kind of clothes you wear and what you watch from TV after work.


If you are interested in the urban villages of Guangzhou, I recommend you to check Adam Robert Young’s photos. He used to live in Guangzhou and took such an amazing photos with interesting stories.


There are many ancient sites inside Zhu Village, including 44 cultural relic buildings, 33 ancestral halls and 8 society temple altars. You might not be able to go inside to all of them, as old people are using them as poker and mahjong venues these days.


The best time to visit Pearl Village is during the Chinese Valentine’s Day which will next time be on the 2nd day of August 2014. Before going though, you should familiarize your self with the ancient legend of the cowherd and the weaver girl.

Wikipedia tells us:

“The general tale is about a love story between Zhinu (the weaver girl) and Niulang (the cowherd).Their love was not allowed, thus they were banished to opposite sides of the Silver River ( the Milky Way).Once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, a flock of magpies would form a bridge to reunite the lovers for one day.”


I read online that if a couple happen to fall in love with each other in Zhu Village, their romance will last for eternity. I saw many couples visiting the village, but according to Wikipedia Qixi Festival is important both to single and married.

“Young girls partake in worshiping the celestials (拜仙) during rituals. They make wishes for marrying someone who would be a good and loving husband.”

“The festival also held an importance for newly wed couples. The celebration stood symbol for a happy marriage and showed that the married woman was treasured by her new family.”


The old temples and buildings were full of decorations during the festival. Miniature houses, people and all kinds of objects. Everything was also on sale and we heard one old lady saying: “They don’t buy anything, why to take so many photos!” My boyfriend explained that the locals had already celebrated the festival and this part was for the tourists to come and spend some money.


A young couple taking a photo of them selves.


In Guangzhou there can’t be a festival without food! We found all sorts of drinks and snacks for sell at the Qixi Square. It’s a bit hectic with all the sellers shouting their offers and different smells blending in together.


During the Qixi or Chinese Valentine’s Day, the local villagers have a tradition to gather together for lunch. Tables and chairs were laid out in front of and inside of the biggest family temple. There was also a local TV station shooting and interviewing locals for the news.

Have you visited urban or ancient villages in Guangzhou or elsewhere in China?