Western food is rather expensive; most large cities (Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou especially) offer many choices—from the joint-venture hotels to Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, and McDonalds. Joint-venture hotels sometimes have a delicatessen section, and Friendship Stores now offer a wide variety of often homemade Western foods—from breads, jams, and sweets to cheese and ham for sandwiches. Instant coffee is widely available, but good coffee is not. You may want to take a supply, along with a cup-sized filter and filter paper. Instant soups, hot chocolate, pre-sweetened powdered drinks, and other instant foods can be prepared simply by adding boiled water, usually stored in thermos bottles and kept in your room. Beijing's supermarkets have a wide variety of imported non-perishable foods. Unboiled tap water is not potable in China except in a few joint-venture hotels having their own filtration systems.
For setting up housekeeping in China, most of the equipment can be purchased at local Friendship or hardware stores. As of this writing, only rubber gloves, teflon pans, and sponges seem generally difficult to find in the larger cities.
Electric current in China is 220 volts, 50 Hz (U.S. current is 110 volts, 60 Hz) so a transformer is needed with enough capacity to handle tape recorders, radios, and any other appliances that must be converted from standard American voltage. Many people recommend buying a transformer in the United States or Hong Kong since they can be difficult to find in China. Franzus and Hoffritz make transformers and a variety of different sized plugs, and Voltage Valet sells transformers for 50, 1000, and 1600 watt units. For further information, write:
Voltage Valet Division
P.O. Box 14399, 225 Sutton Place
Santa Rosa, CA 95407
Appliances with moving parts, such as typewriters and tape recorders, will still run more slowly with a transformer since most only convert volts, not frequency. As an alternative, these items can be converted to 50 Hz in the United States; you also might want to purchase equipment that can be used on either 110 or 220 volts or buy electrical items in Hong Kong, which also operates on 220/50. Extension plugs and extender sockets can be purchased in Chinese general stores and at some Friendship Stores; in some cases, Chinese clerks will even make extension cords and replace plugs. There is a bewildering variety of electrical outlets in China, sometimes even within the same building or room; there is no such thing as a "standard plug." An international