Everything is Made in China So Why Bring Anything Back?

My kids and I just got back from the States last week. OOPs… let me re-phrase – My kids and I, SIX suitcases at 50.5 lbs each and FOUR hand carry-on bags at 20 lbs each, just got back. To boot, our flight was delayed so we had to lug all those suitcases to the shady Shanghai Airport Hotel for the night.

SOOOooOO much fun.

baby boy crying

But when you get back “home” to China- it is like Christmas when you open up your bags to all the goodies!

All my friends and family in the US are always shocked by everything we bring back to China when so much of it is made here. “Why are you leaving China to come to America to buy the stuff that’s from China???” Of course, it makes sense to think this way, but what’s made in China isn’t always available in China. Most of the time, goods are made for export only. But if it is available here, then it’s either 3-4x more expensive in China or just a pain to get (ehem…clothes for western size women, especially). So for all you curious folks, this is list of the guilty pleasures I loaded up on when I went back to the states:

US stores300-400 Thread Count sheets – I LOOOVE HomeGoods and Costco. It’s like an amusement park going to those stores! Of course, you can buy sheets in China but it’s no match what we can find at home! I think I paid around $30 for each set – what a steal.

Plushy blankets – For $11 at Costco, I got one of those massive, cuddly blankets. Now I’ll never get off my couch.

Shower curtain and liner – Sounds weird, but the ones I have found in China are either florescent-neon-green-circa-1980s style, and/or thin and short. We bought thick, mold resistant ones for $5 in the states.

Toilettries – So much of that stuff here has whitening elements for the face. Buying our Aveda, Mitchum, Sensodyne toothpaste, Shea butter, and Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap is such a treat!

Medicine – Pepto, Aleve, Cold and flu meds, After Bite for mosquitos – anything because it’s in English.

Suitcase back to QingdaoThroat Coat Tea– The greatest tea ever when you have a sore throat.

Nalgene – BPA free bottles because it can be trusted.

Clothes and Shoes– Can I get a call out for “Nordstrom’s Rack”! Designer jeans, real leather boots and shoes for cheaper than what you can find at the malls. It’s nice to take a break from the usual fair at Decathalon.

Sunglasses and case – You always can find a good pair at TJ Maxx that will last. I can finally ditched my taped up$20 Coach ones that I’ve had over 2 years!

Kids Clothes– I think every piece of clothing I bought the kids was well under $10. Again, a nice break from Decathalon!

Toys and books – My friend Renee told me about the Joys of REAL Legos. You know, the ones that click into place and have actual staying power. Then my kids got a box a week before we left for the states. Needless to say, one suitcase was devoted to a good amount of Legos, as they run almost 3x more in China.


Coloring books and educational workbooks – for $1-$5 it keeps them busy and off the Ipads for a little bit of time!

And last but not least …..FOOD!!!


It’s so easy in the states to pick up already-made baked goods or a quick salad at the grocery store. We don’t have that luxury here in China, and it can get very frustrating when I can’t find ingredients here or that are much more expensive than back home.

Trader Joe’s Pound Plus Chocolate Bars, Nestle Chips and cocoa powder– Seriously, I think I brought back at least 20 lbs! It just takes like home. Great for making brownies, chocolate chunk cookies, chocolate cake, chocolate ganache – oh my…I’m getting hungry now.

Vanilla beans – Stick it in a bottle of vodka and 6 months later you have extracts!

Maple Syrup Grade A – Costco, costco, costco

Honey – I’m worried that the Chinese honey is just sugar. So I just bring ours in.

Balsamic Vinegar – The thick, 25 year aged Balsamic. In China a bottle can cost up to $50. I bought mine for $15.

Knorr Beef / Chicken Bouillon – This is for my hubby – the connoisseur of Bouillon. We have bought the Knorr version in China, Vietnam and Thailand, but it just isn’t the same.

Popcorn topper – just because it’s awesome.

Organic milk powder – 2 words: hot chocolate.

Candy – The greatest ones of all time – Reese’s, Blow pops, and Pop Rocks

Misc – Liquid smoke (so good on pork), Sweet Baby Rays BBQ Sauce, Organic Beef Jerky, and Karo syrup.

And voila!


What’s your must-buy things from the West? Comment below!


One thought on “Everything is Made in China So Why Bring Anything Back?

  1. Oh you know we did the same on our last trip! Trail mix and coffee from Costco? Check. Three bags of candy from Target? Check. Baby clothes on sale from Old Navy? Check. Adult jeans and shoes from Ross? Check and double check. Toys, meds, books from Amazon? Check. God. Bless. America.

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