Packing and Shipping
Along with the excitement of living in a new country and the promise of an enriching cultural and professional experience come the tasks of planning your move to China. Not planning well will result in a more stressful move. Prepare a checklist of tasks to accomplish for your move. The key to a successful move is being realistic about what you can do yourself and what assistance others can perform.
Overseas hired teacher housing is equipped with basic furnishings, and additional household and personal items are readily available in Shanghai and Hangzhou. You might, however, consider packing books and personal teaching resources to which you have grown attached. The school has resources available, but most teachers like to bring personal resources they have used successfully in the past. Overseas Hired faculty may use their shipping allowance for overweight baggage or other expenses incurred in your moving here (upon presentation of receipts). Check with your airline for details of your baggage allowance. Usually, when leaving the U.S. and coming to China directly, you may bring two large suitcases (not more than 50 lbs.) for each person. If you come from other countries or if you have a stopover en route, the allowance is usually limited to 20 kg. per person from the first stop onward. Checked baggage allowances may change and some carriers now charge for second bags.
When you arrive in China, you will be entering the country with a temporary visa that allows you to bring in only personal baggage (or “accompanied luggage” that you check in prior to boarding). While Chinese customs is inconsistent, most people will not have trouble clearing the baggage allowed by the airline, provided you are not bringing in any prohibited items. For example, it is recommended not to bring any prerecorded videos (tapes or DVDs) as they may be confiscated.
Because of the availability of most household items in Shanghai and Hangzhou, new teachers are discouraged from making major shipments of goods to China, even if they are sent so as to arrive after you have obtained your more permanent residence visas. Although it is possible to do this, there is a great amount of bureaucracy, lengthy delays in getting a shipments through customs, and you may well be liable for any customs and storage charges as well as some “additional charges” to retrieve your goods. Those sending by sea freight should not plan on having their items before the October National Holiday. Do not send “unaccompanied luggage” (luggage you send via passenger airline but do not travel with). It is important to remember that both Hangzhou and Shanghai are metropolitan centers with supermarkets and department stores. Most teachers agree that bringing what you absolutely need and paying the excess baggage charge, if you are over your allowance, is efficient and convenient. The school provides overseas-hired expatriate faculty with a one-time "freight" allowance for small sea shipments or extra airline baggage costs (the latter is the advised method of bringing a few extra things to Shanghai or Hangzhou).
Shipping and Mailing
Be sensible in what you choose to ship internationally. Customs fees are high especially for electronic goods and luxury items. The school may help negotiate the release of items from customs, but teachers are liable for any costs incurred. It must be noted that many packages sent through the postal system will be opened and although rare, pilferage can occur. It is important to secure your resident visa before having a shipping container sent to China. Teachers are liable for all storage costs if visa delays occur and shipments need to be stored prior to release.
If you feel that you absolutely must ship something, you should label it “gifts—no commercial value.” If you insure the item, note that customs fee will be based on the insured amount, even if it is worth less, so be forewarned. Teachers are liable for any duties levied by customs or airport/postal authorities. It is probably safer and cheaper to bring as much as possible with you, paying overweight charges if necessary.
The postal service is adequate in Shanghai and Hangzhou and slow in the provinces. There are branches throughout both cities. It is impossible to insure parcels. Customs requires that all parcels for international mailing be opened. It is wise to register any important mail.
Teachers use the school’s address for personal mail, which is delivered by SCIS-HIS staff to your school mailbox each day. If you are unsure of your campus assignment, you may use the mailing address for the Hongqiao Campus, and mail will be forwarded to you through the in-school courier system.
Stamps are available at the post office for outgoing mail. Teachers have had good luck sending letters through the regular mail, but there are a couple of express mail services available, including FedEx, DHL, and TNT.
What To Bring
- Your favorite clothes
- Camera equipment if applicable
- Vitamins (they are available but expensive here)
- Brand name medication
- A few novels (Foreign Language Bookstore has a good selection, and the teachers manage bookswaps)
- Extra clothes and shoes if you wear very large sizes (women shoes Size 8 and men's size 12 or above are difficult to find)
- Swimsuits and women's undergarments (especially in larger sizes)
- Domestic stamps (if you plan on using an express mail service)
What NOT to Bring
- Stereo equipment or most electronic equipment
- 110 volt appliances
- Mountains of clothes
- Loads of toiletries
- Dishes/glassware (wide range in quality and price here)
- Sporting goods