Calling all American Expats living in China!!
I know this “Items Expats Can Purchase on Taobao” post isn’t for most of my readers, but I do hope that it will be helpful for anyone living in China who is looking for ways to include certain foods in their diet or just feel like they have access to the comforts of home. I was definitely nervous about what foods I would or wouldn’t have access to when we were preparing to move to China. Since I eat a plant-based diet and cook mostly vegan meals, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find certain ingredients that I used in America on a daily basis. If only I had known about how amazing Taobao was before moving!
We started using Taobao right after we moved to China. We initially had a friend place orders for us until we got our account set up. Since then I’ve been learning how to better search for items (using both Chinese characters and English) and have found great success in purchasing many foreign foods, kitchen appliances and household items. Other than some furniture which we bought from IKEA, our apartment in China is mostly filled with items that we purchased on Taobao.
Today I want to share with you items that I’ve been able to successfully purchase on Taobao in hopes that it will help any of you who are already living in China or who are preparing to move here.
But first, let me mention tips that I’ve learned along the way:
- How to search for items: It’s good to search for items in both Chinese and English. If you have studied Chinese and know pinyin or characters, searching for items in Chinese can bring up a wider variety of results. You will need to install a Chinese keyboard on your computer in order to do this. If you don’t know Chinese well, you can start by searching for items in English and use a Chinese dictionary if necessary.
- Keep an eye out for cancelled purchases: Sometimes the vender will cancel an order, but you are the one responsible for asking for a refund. So after you place an order, check the status of your purchase after a day or two to make sure your items have been shipped. If the vender has cancelled your purchase for some reason, you should be able to ask for a refund
- Vender Ratings: Taobao uses different symbols to show how reliable the vendor is. I try to buy items that have a gold crown or blue crown on the right hand side of the screen. Red hearts and blue diamonds show that the vendor or the vendor’s items aren’t as reliable or good. The more symbols the better. So a vender with 4 blue crowns is better than one with only 1 blue crown.
- Difficult aspects of purchasing food items:
- Reading Ingredient Labels: If you care about the ingredients in the foods your purchasing, be aware that sometimes it’s hard to know every ingredient included in the item. Many import food item’s labels are covered with Chinese characters so that you won’t be able to see the English label when looking at pictures of the item. However, in the descriptions below, you can sometimes see a list of ingredients written in English.
- Links can change or go missing: I often return to previous purchases to re-purchase them, but sometimes items have been discontinued or are no longer available. This requires you to start the whole searching process over again.
- Items to purchase with caution:
- Chips: We have found that chips (especilally tortilla chips) are hit or miss on Taobao. They are oftentimes stale and tasteless. But, don’t let that deter you if you really fancy some chips. It may just take a few purchases to find a vendor who sells what you’re looking for.
- Clothes: I’ve bought many clothes on Taobao that I love, but it can take a while to figure out what size you are. In America I wear an XS or S on top, but in China I’m often a size L. Keep in mind the petite nature of most Chinese people. Pants and shorts that fit are really hard for me to find as well. If you plan to purchase clothes on Taobao, make sure you know how to return items or be willing to lose some money on these purchases if the items you ordered don’t fit well.
Items that I buy/have bought with success on Taobao:
I will include links to some of these items, but keep in mind that the links can change or the food items may no longer be purchased. Either way, I hope this list will give you an idea of items expats can purchase on Taobao.
Apple Cider Vinegar
GRAINS, FLOURS & PASTA:
NUTS, SEEDS & NUT BUTTER:
SPICES & CONDIMENTS:
Cream of Tartar
BAKING UTENSILS & PANS:
Measuring Cups and Spoons
Red Tomato Oven (I believe this is one of the largest ovens you can purchase on Taobao and I love mine!)
Silicone Baking Pans
Glass Swing Top Bottles (for bottling kombucha, homemade drinks)
Alcoholic Beverages (beers, wine, liquors)
KITCHEN APPLIANCES & TOOLS:
Soy Milk Maker
CLOTHING & TOILETRIES:
Booties and Flats
FURNITURE & HOUSEHOLD ITEMS:
Concrete Wall Hooks
Trash Bags (large and heavy duty)
Games: Quirkle, Apple to Apple
Hot Glue Gun
Please let me know if you live in China or if posts like this are helpful! If you do live in China and have any tips for purchasing items on Taobao, please let me know in the comments down below!