6 Gift Ideas for the China Expat

We are happy to welcome our friend Billy Meyers (fellow Minnesotan) as guest poster today.

Still not sure what to get your friend living in China for Christmas this year? Just follow the handy gift giving guide below for ideas for the perfect gift:

1. Deodorant. Very early on when you first move to China, you discover a terrible truth: Chinese people don’t wear deodorant. They have this spray on stuff that’s supposed to be similar, but nothing beats the all-day protection of Degree or Speed Stick. Also, most Western medications like Advil or Peptal Bismol are expensive or hard to find here – and they make great stocking stuffers.

2. iPod Touch. For a lot of people the iPhone is too expensive, but the iPod Touch comes with all the same features (minus the phone part) for half the price. With all the language learning apps, Chinese dictionaries, and games to pass the time on the subway, the iPod Touch is the perfect gift for your friend in China. And if they already have one, an iTunes gift card is the gift that keeps on giving.

3. Subscription to language learning software. Your friend has been living in China over a year now now – and he still can’t speak Chinese. Help him out by getting him a 1 month subscription to Useful dialogues, challenging exercises, and helpful support makes this a great site for learning Chinese on the go. Now he’ll have no more excuses.

4. Kindle. Living overseas comes with the painful reality of not being able to purchase many books. English language books are hard to find in China, and shipping them overseas is is slow and expensive. Not so with the Kindle. Most Kindle books are priced at $9.99, so they’re cheaper than the physical version. And with WhisperSync technology, there’s no shipping fees. Alternatively, a $25 Amazon gift card can buy almost 3 books, which can then be downloaded to the Kindle app on the iPod Touch.

5. A taste of home. One of the things that your friend in China misses the most during the holidays is the food. Maybe his grandma always made this delicious pumpkin pie, or maybe his mom always made sugar cookies shaped like Santa’s reindeer. This Christmas, send him the recipe, plus all the key ingredients and utensils that might be hard to find overseas. He’ll think about you while he’s eating them.

6. VPN. Wondering why your friend hasn’t responded to your Facebook message from six months ago? Still don’t know why your friend replied with a sarcastic email when you sent him that hilarious YouTube link? Well, it’s because those sites are blocked in China. Enter the VPN. VPNs allow your friend access the internet from a server outside of China, thus bypassing the GFW. The Bankers love Freedur; (Update: The Bankers now use and recommend PureVPN as our VPN of choice) I (Billy) prefer Witopia. Either way, your friend will thank you by posting on your Facebook wall.


What’d I miss? What do you think would be the perfect gift for the foreigner living in China this Christmas?

  • Tanya December 22, 2010, 10:15 AM

    Some great ideas there! Totally with you on the “taste of home” – comfort foods are AWESOME to get. I especially love when a friend sends something we used to enjoy together – a particular brand of crackers, or a certain chocolate bar. The combination of memories and good food is fantastic :)

  • Billy December 23, 2010, 1:21 PM

    Thanks for the comment, Tanya. Agreed, good memories + good food = hard to beat.

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