Jess Cooper

Your China Survival Guide

Don't be a China Chump.

1. Hardcore pollution masks

Do you know what PM2.5 is? You will once it's all up in your insides! Get these masks to protect your lungs and upper respiratory tract from the ravages of Beijing’s coal-driven heating systems, then cancel it all out with an ill-conceived night on the town involving 7-11 baijiu and Zhongnanhai cigarettes. Does double duty as a fetching accessory for your Half Life 2 cosplay.

2. Pepto

Your mother is right about this one. Hotpot is just as spicy going out as coming in. And not all bathrooms have western-style toilets, if you know what we’re getting at. Save yourself!

3. Deodorant

Let’s face it: you probably sweat a lot more than the average Chinese person. Your hairy barbarian genes need industrial-strength anti-perspirant instead of the local deodorant, which is roughly equivalent to waving a blade of grass at your underarm.

4. Condoms

Unless the facehugger scene from Alien triggered your sexual awakening, you’d be well-advised to stay away from the local condoms. Stock up on condoms before you leave, lest you be forced to suffer through the indignity of avoiding eye contact as you take these through the Carrefour checkout.

5. Sunscreen in normal sizes

If you’re lucky enough to find sunscreen in China, you’ll be disappointed to see that they’re about the size of a box of TicTacs. No bueno!! According to the American Academy of Dermatology, you’re meant to use a shotglass full of sunscreen on your body before you go outside.

6. Economy sized bottle of hand sanitizer

This 2-Liter bottle of Purell should tide you over while you’re in China, the land of poor hygiene. Many bathrooms don’t have sinks or soap dispensers. Or toilet paper. Or doors.

7. Aeropress

Don’t forgo your morning joe! Brought to you by the inventor of the Aerobie, the Aeropress means a nice steaming cup of coffee in 1 minute. You should probably buy some beans to go with it. And a grinder. (Most grocery stores in China only sell Nescafé. We think Nescafé tastes like someone ashed in a cup of hot water, so this is a godsend).

8. Evan Osnos' Age of Ambition

We know, we know, another middle-aged Western guy promising to explain China in 500 pages or less, but hear us out. Evan Osnos is the rare old China hand who’s spent his adult life immersed in China without succumbing to the expat scene and descending into gin-soaked bitterness. In his book, Osnos doesn’t claim to understand China; instead, he elides personal vignettes from countryside and city into a witty, moving snapshot of Chinese life in all its complexity. You’ll never understand China and neither will we–if you want to be reminded how much you have to learn, read this book.

9. Last Train Home

Every year, 130 million migrant workers clamor to get on trains to get home to their villages for the Chinese New Year holiday. We don’t recommend that you experience it in person, so watch it in this beautiful film instead! (Pro Tip #1: Don’t try to travel by train around Chinese New Year. Pro Tip #2: If you do, make sure you don’t have a standing-only ticket for that 30-hour train ride Pro Tip #3: if you do, bring a stool and a carton of Shuangxi).
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