China is the place where everything is made – or so it seems; a manufacturing mecca of the world. I live in a small city that hosts malls dedicated to plastics goods, electronics, and furniture. We sometimes also hear that China is the great copy-cat mimicking many things made by others. To boot, China is also the breeding ground for amazing technology companies like Alibaba and Taobao that make bringing items to market, and then buying them extremely easy!
Items that are surprisingly cheap in China; how bout good and cheap! Let’s start with…
1. Food Stuff
In China homemade noodles or wraps (the pasta that hold the traditional dumpling called zhouzi) are so inexpensive, and incredible yummy! I find these pasta items in the farmer markets here (often referred to as ‘wet markets’) that have everything grown and produced on a farm, and then some!
Fruits and vegetables are also incredibly inexpensive, and the variety is huge! There are frutis and veg we use the world over and specialty ones, too. I can go to the wet market and purchase the freshest produce to create any cuisine from around the world! And the costs are so nominal it’s mind blowing! In the States we look forward to Farmer Markets in the late spring and summer on the weekends typically, but here in China, boy howdy the markets are year-round – every day nearly!
Meat, fish and poultry can also be purchased at these wet markets and the price per pound is again amazingly affordable especially compared with prices back home in the States. The meat is also organic, well not certified organic, but home grown on the farm, some small family operated, and some really small. One will have the choice of pork from several sellers, chickens (whole or parted, including the feet here that are a favorite) and then the fresh fish here in Southeast China is a wow and so amazing! The varieties of fish is astounding. You can also every shellfish imaginable, along with seaweed, and homemade fish and oyster stocks as well.
Then the choice of eggs blew my mind at my first visit the wet market. You’ll find chicken eggs, duck, quail, pigeon, and geese eggs and the cost again is amazing low. The best part is that these eggs are literally farm fresh!
Clothing and linens are equally inexpensive. In the cities there is not much originality in the clothes and shoes (in my opinion), but you can find any style for every season again at the most amazingly low cost! As a foreigner it is worth learning to barter for clothing and shoes (everything really) as there will be the same item a couple doors or stalls down. It is also worth being willing to be able to walk away from a shop only to have the owner follow you out and say ‘ok’ to your suggested price!
I have learned to search in Chinese on a Chinese shopping website called Taobao for everything, but especially my linens – bedding and table. Sheets, duvet covers, mattress pads, pillows, everything for the bed really, can be found at very low prices! You just need some time to search and compare and to use translation apps to learn of thread count or whatever is important to you.
3. Kitchen Supplies
I love to cook, including learning to cook Chinese food! With the beautiful and well-priced produce and meat available it is really preferable for me to cook most of my meals (saving money in the process)! Outfitting your kitchen here in China is another easy thing to do using Taobao – again! I have found absolutely everything I have wanted (ok, except that box grater I would like)! Dishes (any shape and color), glassware (for every beverage you can dream up), to flatware (full sets of western cutlery or individual pieces), and also cookware.
Most kitchens come equipped with a single electric or gas hot plate, but I was more accustomed to using at least two burners at a time. You can find all manner of hot plates, with, 4, 6 burners even! And then the choices for pots and pan is also broad – everything from stainless steel, copper, cast iron, and fancy name brands; really anything you could want. Then you can imagine the next thing in my kitchen will be the knives and spoons, spatulas and ladles used in preparation. These items come in a very wide assortment and the cook in you will not be disappointed. The cost, again I am wowed at the affordability of these items on, yep you guessed it, TAOBAO!
Likewise, with spices, oh yea baby, I have found every spice I have wanted to cook Mediterranean, Indian, Chinese, and plain ole American dishes! The spices available to me allow me to make up the blends I like to use and to even experiment, like when I went on the Moroccan dish kick for a bit! I even found Sumac on Taobao!
Clothing, textiles, kitchen ware – these have been the important areas for me in creating a home-away-from-home for myself here in China. My challenge has been in finding larger size shoes (apparently, I have boats for feet) and lingerie for my American girl curves. I did eventually find these items as well on Taobao, too, but the search took much longer.
In a nutshell, discover Alibaba and Taobao, or JD, or Boapals sites that are all similar and help you find anything and everything your heart will desire – to buy that is… I don’t think love is available on Taobao, but there is a significant discount on Chinese Valentine’s day that makes the already affordable even more so!
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Teach, travel, and train with EF English First
Susan is an American woman living a dream — a dream to live and work in community in different countries! Several years in to her journey, she has found her home-away-from-home, while learning more about herself, more about the world, and building bridges through common language as an ESL teacher with EF Kids and Teens in Taizhou, Zheijiang, China. #Livin’aDreamInChina!
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