Suggested packing list
This suggested packing list will point out some of the things you should keep in mind when traveling to China specifically and will not refer to general items, like clothing or shoes that will need to be packed. Speaking of clothing, however, one small note: as in many other articles you will find on our website, we need to point out again that China is a big, diverse country. This means that you are likely to change climate often in the same trip. Always be prepared for such changes in weather by including in your luggage clothes that go well with cooler weather and that you can peel off easily once it gets warmer. Season-wise, there are also things to be kept in mind when packing. Early Spring and sometimes as late as mid-April, it can get quite cold and windy in many parts of China.
A calculator will be good for you especially in the first month when you are trying to get your bearings and figure out how much the things that the Chinese are trying to sell you actually cost in some currency you know off. If you have an iPhone (and you have already sorted out what type of plan you need to make it work), you can install an application called Currency Exchange that automatically updates the exchange rates and makes transformations for you.
Maps and guides should definitely be part of your luggage, especially since you will be able to buy these much easier in an alphabet you can read back home than in China. A map and guide of China and one of the city where you will live should suffice, but you can always print out more information from the Internet (including a couple of these articles).
A photo of your family is always a good introduction to a conversation or after you have met some new interlocutor. Keep in mind, however, that this is likely to move the discussion in a more informal area, so you should think whether this is appropriate or not.
A gift or two that is traditional of your culture will be very useful, since gifts are an important sign of courtesy and are often used in Chinese etiquette.
Here is something you don’t need to pack: the Chinese outlets, especially the new ones, support different types of plugs, including the US one, as long as we are talking about two parallel blades of equal size. This means that you don’t need to bring a special converter from the US, even if they will not support the ground pin those.
Even if China is a place where you now find most of the things you are used to in the West, it may be useful to bring along some of the things for which there may be a slight chance the Chinese are not yet selling it. This would include insect repellent (the Chinese brands seem to call the mosquitoes to feast rather than repel them), sunscreen (especially if you want one with higher SPF factor), deodorant with anti-perspirant and some of the hair products (conditioners, for example, are not too widespread).