My 6 China Must-Haves When Traveling Back Home

It’s the summer travel season – and this summer, Jun and I will be traveling back to the US.

Granted, it’s more business than pleasure – Jun is court-ordered to return to Idaho to continue participating in his lawsuit. (You can learn more about that and support Jun here.)

But regardless, it’s also a trip back home, which means reconnecting with family and friends we haven’t seen in years. We hope to make the most of that.

At the same time, it’s an opportunity for me to flex my packing and organization “muscles” so to speak. After all, when you’ve lived in China as long as I have, you become accustomed to certain things – and can’t imagine being anywhere in the world without them. Even when traveling back home.

Here are 6 things from China that I always pack along with me when I return to the US:

IMG_20160710_184039#1: Chinese remedies and medicines

No matter where I am in the world, the must-have at the top of my list is my personal “first-aid kit” filled with my preferred remedies from China.

While everyone has their favorites, here’s what I always pack:

  • Sweets Golden Throat (or other herbal lozenges)
  • Fengyou Jing
  • Pain-relieving medicinal patches
  • Tiger balm (or similar pain-relieving medicinal ointment)

Fine teas#2: Tea

One of the things I’ve learned from China (and my husband) is that there’s nothing like a nice, fragrant cup of loose-leaf green tea to start your day.

But as we all know, the best green teas come from China and NOT America.

That’s why I always pack a canister of the best green tea I can afford. When I’m back in the US, it’s like a little taste of China every single morning. Mmmmmm!

IMG_20160710_183322#3: Red Chinese jujube dates

The Chinese have touted the health benefits of these tasty little dates for thousands of years. So it’s no wonder that they’re a popular snack here in China, and one of my favorite things to munch on.

But good luck finding them in the US!

So I always pack a bag of delicious dried jujube dates in my luggage (especially the dates from the Xinjiang region, which are usually sweeter). They’re a terrific snack and wonderful for sharing.

Who knows? This trip, I might just convert a few family and friends over to these fantastic dates. 😉

IMG_20160710_183108_HDR#4: Hair accessories

When I lived in the US, I always came across a familiar phrase on every single hair accessory I purchased.

Made in China.

Yes, China is responsible for producing all of those lovely hairpins, hair ties, hair clips, headbands and more. So what’s the point of buying in the US when I can purchase straight from the source?

With the convenience of online shopping, it’s so easy to find the best and most beautiful accessories in China. That means I can save my money for something else in the US…such as buying more of those delicious avocadoes. 😉

IMG_20160710_184349#5: Silk scarves

Throwing on a nice silk scarf is the perfect way to dress up your outfit, especially when you’re traveling and trying to pack light. And since China is the silk road country – with a wide selection of silk scarves at great prices – guess where all of my scarves come from?

This trip, I’m packing my favorite floral silk scarf, which will add a touch of class to my black shirt and black maxi skirt for any dressy occasion.

版本 2#6: Renminbi cash

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Why would she put RMB cash on this list?

Well, you would be surprised by the times when I’ve left China to travel abroad – and wished I packed more cash with me.

Having some cash from China comes in handy if you get stranded at a major international airport and, for whatever reason, cannot use your credit cards or bank cards. Just head to a currency exchange window and you’re set.

It gives me extra peace of mind whenever I’m navigating the uncertainties that come along with international travel.

It’s also a wonderful conversation piece for friends and family back home. Most of them have never seen Chinese money or even touched it. Americans love the novelty of red money, not to mention those portraits of Chairman Mao! 😉

What do you like to bring when you’re traveling back home?

Ask the Yangxifu: On Wealth/Income for Chinese Men + Western Women Couples

(photo by

Do couples of Chinese men and Western women struggle with wealth or income? That’s the question a friend posed to me by e-mail.

In the past, I’ve written about obstacles that couples of Chinese men and Western women will face in employment and earning power:

Even with a favorable visa (for example, a permanent resident card), [Chinese men] will face discrimination in hiring for jobs [in English-speaking countries] if he doesn’t: 1) know how to “perform” in job interviews; 2) have a degree from your country (remember, news about China has primed them to be suspicious about China, including Chinese credentials), or; 3) speak good English. As Jessica explains, “my husband has no marketable skills—he’s a career musician—and speaks no English. Guess where we’ll be living for the foreseeable future?”

….If your Chinese husband is not very highly educated or highly paid, you’ll almost always earn more than your husband if you live in China because of the discrepancies between expat and local salaries. A lot of Chinese men cannot handle a foreign wife as the primary breadwinner. Even Jessica’s husband, who is pretty accepting, still has trouble with the reality: “My husband is extremely unconventional and doesn’t mind being a stay-at-home dad for now. But, even for him, it gets to be a bit of a bummer that I make in a month what he used to make in a year and that he can’t contribute meaningfully to our family income at this point.”

But do these obstacles necessarily translate into financial setbacks for the rest of your life?  Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: On Wealth/Income for Chinese Men + Western Women Couples”

Ask the Yangxifu: My Chinese Husband Cares About Money Too Much

A pile of US 100 and 50 dollar bills
An American woman with a penny-pinching Chinese husband wonders, is it normal for Chinese men to be very thrifty? (photo by Tracy Olson)

Pinched asks:

I don’t know if this will sound weird to you, but are Chinese men in general *very* thrifty with money? It’s interesting to me that before my husband and I were married, he really doted on me and practically bought me anything and everything if I even just said “oh look at this, how nice.” (Of course, I was always saying, “No, I don’t want you to *buy* it, I was just thinking out loud!”) But now that we’re in the US and married, he’s turned into a real penny-pincher. I get the idea that money in the bank is worth more than even happy memories sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I totally think saving money is wise and the right thing to do, it’s just that he seems overly concerned about money all the time. I even overheard him telling his older sister (who is also very “thrift”) on the phone one day how much money we have and how much [I] spend… that really upset me and I told him so, and he acted clueless as to what he had done wrong. I tried to explain that in American culture, one family’s money matters are not to be discussed with another’s. I know that Chinese are a lot more “saving” than Americans are, and I think money is very important to them… like my husband once said to me, “You know, Chinese think wasting is like a sin.” And I admire a lot of that aspect of their culture, and have learned a lot from it. But I guess I place more value on enjoying life than counting my pocketbook. 😛

It just bothers me how whenever we go shopping or buy something or want to do something, my husband complains about how much this or that costs, almost as if it was the most important thing in life. My friends and family think he’s so weird because of it. And it’s almost impossible for me to explain cultural differences to people who have never experienced the culture in China. When they want us to go do things with them on a whim, like go watch a movie, my husband will say he’d rather stay home and watch one and save the money and gas. Which is totally okay with me, really, it’s just that when we were dating he would do anything with me without hesitation.

I was just really surprised how he changed a lot when we came to the States… I am SO proud of him for getting jobs and working hard and I really do not mean to complain. I just wanted to get your take on this, and see if there’s something you can suggest to me in responding to my husband in a way that he knows I both care about him and saving money. When he’s worried about finances, and I try to smooth things over by saying, “Honey we’re fine, everything will be alright,” he gets upset and says that because I just don’t care, or something to that effect.

I think it’s the US economy and how expensive everything is here that burdens him. I’m just not sure how to help. We are NOT struggling financially, in fact, we’re doing surprisingly well. But according to Chinese standards for some reason it’s not good enough. I have a feeling some of my husband’s frustration stems from his family and friends “back home” constantly asking how much money he makes here and stuff like that. Maybe he’s trying to live up to their expectations? My husband is the youngest child and only boy in a family with 4 sisters. I understand there is some pressure on him. Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: My Chinese Husband Cares About Money Too Much”

Of Love, Money and An “Unsettled Relationship” With a Chinese Man

Wedding rings and money
When I asked my Chinese husband about why he took out a loan to treat me on our first "official date," the answer -- which said a lot about how he viewed love and money -- surprised me.

On our first official date, John gave me a copy of a Dream of Red Mansions, treated me to a Buddhist vegetarian Chinese feast, and then romanced me beside the West Lake in Hangzhou. An unforgettable night with the man who would become my Chinese husband? Priceless.

Except for John, who not only paid for it, but actually took out a loan to make it happen — from his friend, a guy we call “Lao Da.”

But when I asked John why he went to such great lengths to pay for me, he gave me an answer I never expected: “Our relationship wasn’t settled yet.”

“What do you mean by that?” I asked him, rocking back and forth in his arms playfully as we traded smiles. Continue reading “Of Love, Money and An “Unsettled Relationship” With a Chinese Man”