Thurston, Anne F., Turner-Gottschang, Karen, Reed, Linda A.. "2. Preparing for the Trip." China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1994.
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CHINA BOUND: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC
dressed Americans will hear frequently from their Chinese friends. Unheated buildings are often as cold as, or colder than, the temperature outside and are damp as well. Chinese wear many layers of socks and sweater-like long underwear together with cotton longjohns, as well as layers of undershirts, cotton shirts, and several sweaters, all covered by thick wool or cotton padded coats or down jackets. The Chinese mian'ao, or cotton padded jacket, is less fashionable among Chinese now than in the past, but American students and teachers will appreciate its warmth. Thus layered, even the coldest, dampest room is comfortable, and layers can be peeled as the temperature rises. Cotton or woolen gloves with the tips of the fingers cut out are ideal for writing in unheated libraries or classrooms.
Chinese cities boast good tailors, and many Americans take advantage of the high-quality Chinese silk and wool to supplement their wardrobes. Ask friends, both Chinese and Western, for advice on good tailors, remembering that the cheapest are not usually the best. One strategy is to bring samples of your favorite styles and have them copied —which will mean leaving the original with the tailor until the task is complete. Several fittings will probably be necessary. Zippers and buttons are not of the highest quality in China, so it may be best to bring some of your own.
Chinese cities are usually dusty and polluted, so cleaning clothes is always a problem. Hot water in dormitories is neither abundant nor constant. Because laundry must be done by hand or sent out, clothing should be washable, sturdy, easy to care for, and of preshrunk material. Bring rubber gloves if detergents bother your skin. In a typical Beijing hotel these days, laundry costs Y3 or more per piece and is usually returned in the evening if taken in the early morning. Local neighborhood laundries are cheaper but will take longer. It may be best to wash underwear, socks, and sweaters by hand (bring a mild detergent) and send out larger items such as sheets, towels, shirts, and trousers. A few universities have washing machines installed in the foreign teachers' dormitory. Teachers and researchers sometimes buy small washing machines, and some hire an ayi (female helper) to come in once or twice a week to help with cleaning and marketing. Dry cleaning is available but expensive and may be of dubious quality. The best results are usually from the joint-venture hotels, several of which (for instance, the Jianguo and Jinglun in Beijing) have services for the public. One researcher notes that good, inexpensive, private dry cleaning businesses have sprung up in the alleys next to the Jinglun. When sending your clothing out at a Chinese hotel, be sure to specify dry cleaning. More than one Western scholar has found his woolen sports jacket laundered.
Clothing repairs are usually easy to arrange: sewing supplies are common in neighborhood shops; clothing repair shops are inexpensive