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My first trip to China was approaching. I started a packing list. Walking stick for the Great Wall? Check. Eddie Bauer ‘moisture-wicking’ shorts and tanks? Check. Comfortable shoes ? Check. (Don’t ask how many pairs I took!)

But to enjoy and appreciate this people-crammed, but gorgeous country to the max,  I learned while there, it’s also necessary to pack a few items not always listed in the tour books.

Here are 5 items to pack for travel to China that won’t take up much space in your suitcase, but, will add greatly to the overall pleasure of your Chinese travels.

  1. A Positive Attitude – China is a lovely country, and high-tech.  I was so impressed with the train system and the beautiful highway system with lush and colorful landscaping alongside.  I was amazed how  the Chinese make transactions via QR codes on their phones. But, there are still a few things to get used to. At my daughter’s reminder (She and her husband have lived there nearly a year.) just know that “squatty potties” are pretty much the norm. At the tourist spots. At the train stations. At the open-air local restaurants. I learned to carry plenty of small packets of tissues and hand wipes in my Eddie Bauer shorts pockets. Then, all was well!

Also, I discovered there’s not much lining up (queuing) in China. So, when you’re in a crowd (and you will be!) at the Metro, at the train station, on the city bus, at Forbidden City…just be okay with “being in a crowd” and often pushing through as a crowd!

  1. A Few Words of Mandarin – We all know it’s nice to learn a few words or phrases in another language when visiting abroad. It shows the nationals we respect their language and culture. It’s easy to learn and say ni hao (“Hi, Hello, or How are you?”) and xiè xiè (“thank you”).
  2. A Few Chinese Etiquette Tips – Try not to ask for a fork. Use chopsticks as much as possible.  (It’s a good way to hone your chopstick skills!) When paying with a credit card, hand it to the cashier with both hands, print facing the recipient. Your credit card will also be returned to you with both hands. Read more: How to Use Chopsticks
  3. An Ability to Go with the Flow – We found the Chinese to be friendly and polite to foreign guests. So friendly, in fact, they wanted to take selfies with us! Hey, it’s okay. It’s not every day they see tall, blonde Americans!
  4. A Desire to Embrace the Culture – One evening while walking in the park along West Lake, we stopped to listen to a group of local Chinese musicians performing on a small stage. Before long, the lead dancer beckoned me to join her on stage (After all, I was the only blonde in the growing crowd of onlookers). After resisting for a few minutes, I finally thought, why not? Embrace it. Be part of it. I joined her on stage and waved a large, billowing pink fan she handed me to the beat of the music along with her. The crowd grew. They applauded. The crowd grew larger. They applauded more. Phones are recording. More applause. But, not for the blonde American’s dancing skills, but for the blonde American  embracing their culture.

I hope  my global travels include another visit to China  before my daughter and son-in-law move back to the U.S. My “packing list” will again include these 5 items…but, fewer pairs of shoes!