I have been in China since 2016; at this writing going on 3 years. I came up with the idea of living in China for a year, maybe two, and moving to the next country. I'm in a great time in life; my kids are all grown, no dependents (except pets now), and soon I fell in love with China and her people. Equally, I have found the challenges and differences with not just local people and customs, but also with my diverse workplace working for Swedish company EF Education First and franchised owned English Second Language schools, has brought me incredible personal growth and global awareness.
Three years in and I am just now writing an article on what to pack or what to bring to China. For me, I simplified from my long and full life in America, down to 4 large suitcases that I thought with research would be what I needed. I had the fortune to travel for a couple months before leaving for China, to see friends and family. On this two-month journey, I lived out of a small travel sized suitcase and I realized that the four large suitcases I had packed for China, was probably a bit too much! Also, long time world travelers and my daughters (who traveled by backpack for months on end), guided me to take just what I needed. So, below are my suggestions on what to bring to China for simple, light travel.
This is the greatest advice! Choose what will work for you, such as denims and T's, wrinkle resistant khakis, and comfortable walking shoes. Pack for the weather where you will reside and importantly keep your personal size in mind; for me I am tall and curvy with big feet! It is hard to find women's shoes in size 42+, so it's important to bear such things in mind. For me, it was denim and black. I packed 4 pairs of jeans, a jean skirt, and 7 various styled black t-shirts (long sleeved, short sleeved, tank top because I figured I could always layer if I needed). I packed 2 pair of walking shoes, (an open-toed, sandal type shoe and another close-toed hiking type shoe) and 2 pairs of boots (an ankle high pair and a knee high pair for when it is colder/wetter weather). I packed a full month of dainties, a cardigan for cool days, and a heavy jacket with scarf, hat and gloves for winter. These all turned out to be good choices for me and I've worn every bit of clothing and had enough to get me through without being a slave to laundry.
I love photography, writing, and keeping in touch with family and friends, so for me this was a huge consideration. I became accustomed to mobile photography and editing apps so I didn't have the weight or worry of camera equipment. In the end, I chose to bring both a laptop and an iPad. For me this seemed ideal, for convenience and being able to view films and such. In reality, I have rarely used my iPad! Here in China, we all use our phones for everything from social media to paying for things and ordering takeaway and delivery. The laptop is a must for communicating with family and friends, watching films, and for me writing and organizing my photography. I also bought 2 sets of outlet adapters and a voltage converter. In hindsight, these really aren't necessary. I still have them all, just in case, but they are now in storage! I was concerned about the voltage of my laptop and phone, but I have no problem at all, my plugs for my MacBook and phone work fine here with the outlets. In the very least, give this some thought, but no need to go overboard.
Three things I did do before leaving for China, were first, to establish a Stateside phone number which I did through Skype so family and friends could easily stay in touch with me no matter how much I moved around (it is a nominal annual fee and I have the same US local number for as long as I want it). I also researched and chose a VPN (Virtual Private Network provider) which is needed if you want to have access to certain social media sites, film viewing or torrent sites, and unfettered access to any information you may want to access. Finally, I made a choice of how to store my photography and for me, it is cloud based for ease and not having the need for an external hard drive, and also it is accessible to me wherever I might find myself in the world (as long as I have access either through WLAN or data hotspot through my phone).
I am familiar and comfortable with a few things from back home, and there are some things I cannot get here in China. So I brought a safety kit with acetaminophen and ibuprofen, hydrogen peroxide, Pepto Bismol (Bismuth Subsalicylate medicine for upset bellies), whitening toothpaste and mouthwash, bluing shampoo (brightening shampoo for my blonde hair), my hair color (these sorts of colors are not available here in China), feminine products like tampons (not readily available here), stick or roll on deodorant, and any medicines including eye care solutions and prescriptions. I chose to have 3- to 6-month supply, because I could have more sent from home or hopefully I would find them or a suitable substitute here in China.
So when I repacked and simplified, I went from four large suitcases down to two and a carry on. The biggest things for me were my winter coat and my knee-high boots, but I still have them both and have used them a lot these last three years. Since being here, I have found where to get most all the things I like and use in way of personal care. Clothing and shoe size is still a challenge, but I am working that out too, online and with local seamstresses and tailors. Even food stuffs from back home are getting easier to obtain through online sellers.
The best advice I can give you is to keep it simple, less is better, but do plan ahead for where you'll reside and for your comfort and health. Happy trails!