Category Archives: Shopping Online

Having A Baby In China: Prenatal Vitamins and Radiation Smocks

pregnancy in China
A two-part smock that pregnant women in China wear to keep the baby safe.
Prenatal Vitamins and Supplements in China
With my son I didn’t take any supplements or extra vitamins besides the regular woman’s daily and extra vitamin C that I always took. I ate a very healthy diet of mostly vegetables and some meat (we were paying off my student loans that year, so money was tight) and I walked everywhere and exercised daily. Apparently we didn’t feel that I needed anything else.


Fast forward to finding out we were expecting our second child, and my husband bought me some prenatal vitamins. They were a pink chew-able that I took daily for the rest of the pregnancy. By this time I was more familiar with the pharmacy and bought calcium supplements as well, since I don’t like milk and only drink it when mixed with iced coffee and cocoa powder. 🙂
But since there are lots of questions about the safety of medicines and supplements in China, and since they don’t weigh all that much, I’d suggest bringing them along or buying some online and having them shipped here.


Radiation Proof Smocks (Fang Fu Yi Fu)
These are massively popular as Chinese are very concerned about radiation. When I was pregnancy with our first, my husband told me to stay out of the kitchen when I used the microwave. Because of this inconvenience, and because Chinese food does not reheat well at all, I slowly stopped using it and by the time we moved two years later, I no longer used it at all.


He also asked me to go to the shopping center to buy a smock that protects against radiation which is made of special material that makes it more difficult for the radiation to affect the growing baby. I went, unsure of what I’d find, and even though there were ones that would fit my size-14 body, the price tag didn’t fit our budget. They ran about 500 yuan, so I decided that I’d just keep the internet off unless I was using the computer. I’m not sure how much of this is hype, since most parents only get one shot at having a kid, they want it to be the best, brightest and healthiest, but some Western websites say that the amount of radiation that a person is exposed to on a daily basis is minimal and Fit Pregnancy says that you should keep your cell phone a safe distance away from you since does pose the most risk.


By the time I had my daughter, I was freelancing and using the computer several hours a day. Online shopping had also developed to where people trusted sellers and weren’t afraid to use sites like Taobao.
One day he came home with a package for me: a navy blue smock, the same as the one pictured above except navy, complete with an inner piece, to wear whenever I was at home. You wear them together, with the silver one inside.


Most Chinese women wear them all the time, but I had something against wearing it out in public–not to mention that it was so hot–so I agreed to wear both pieces at home, and the inner layer even at night. You can’t wash them, so I made sure to always wear an apron when cooking and cleaning.


Afterwards, my husband sold it on a local Craigslist-like site for something like 50 yuan.
Other posts in the Having A Baby In China series:
the American Embassy regulations
•prenatal vitamins and radiation smocks
•prenatal hospital visits
•birthing classes
•breast feeding
•shopping for baby
•the Chinese moon month (zuo yue zi)

Update on Vitacost Orders to China

I’ve placed, and received, three orders with Vitacost and thought I’d give an update on my experiences so far.

In my previous post, I told how there was some glitch in the package leaving Hong Kong but otherwise it arrived without a problem, and within the given time frame.


With my second Vitacost order I bought a bag of beef gelatin to make a healthy gummy candy for the kids. It never clicked in my mind that since it’s derived from animals, customs doesn’t allow it. And they caught it. The box arrived with the item highlighted and a sentence saying that it’s not allowed to be shipped in the country. I spent a good two days upset with myself for making such a stupid mistake, which cost be almost $20 when you factor in the shipping cost.  That was in mid June. Imagine my surprise when about a week ago I got an email saying that my return was received and that my credit card was credited for the product! Sure enough there’s a credit back on my credit card for that amount. What an unexpected blessing. I’m still out the shipping cost and tax but I’ll chalk that up to “stupid tax.”


Now I’m very careful with my orders, double checking to ensure that I’m not accidentally violating customs rules.


My third order went through just fine, though I wasn’t allowed to add the two free samples, like I was in the past. I was able to add them but it said that they couldn’t be shipped to China. Once I removed them from my cart, the order was processed. Honestly I’m a little bummed because I love free samples of things like granola bars, toothpaste and deodorant (super hard to find outside of the big cities in China).


Vitacost Has Some Great Sales
My last order included 8 bottles of ALA (which my husband takes daily) since there was a buy one, get one 50% off sale. This week I got an email about a buy one get one free sale. Bummer…and it’s on the same sort of products, all Vitacost brand items, it seems. Next time I’ll wait for that; were pretty well stocked on all the supplements we take but in a few months I’ll jump on this discount when it rolls around again. I’m sure it will; retailers typically follow a sales cycle.


Shipping and Customs Fees
Since my first order, the packages have arrived much sooner. I’m pretty sure that was just a fluke, though it seems that it does take two to four days for the package to be picked up by the shipper. I’m not exactly sure how the process works, but once it gets picked up by Shun Feng I can track it via a link in my order confirmation.


With all three orders, each totaling over $100, the customs fee was 60 yuan. The first one was just over $100 and the second one was close to the order limit (imposed by Shun Feng) of $160. So I’m guessing that it’s a flat fee no matter the order total, which means you get more bang for your buck (or yuan) when you place a larger order.
Other Discounts
I also always start my order though (join to get a credit) which gives 4% back on Vitacost orders. Not much, to be sure, but it helps take the sting out of the shipping costs. Twice I’ve encountered problems with not being credited properly, but upon filling out the online customer service form, I was credited the amount within a few days. Ebates only pays out quarterly, so the delay in that wasn’t a problem.


I also check to get the link to the free samples and see if there are any discount codes. Often if I place a few items in my cart, but don’t check out, I get an email saying they’ll give me 10% off my order. But I’ve had a coupon code for 12% off and seen another for 15% off, as well.


Overall I’m a very happy customer and so excited that I can get these things shipped to China at rather affordable prices.


(Links are affiliate links, which means I get a small credit if you place an order, but your price isn’t affected at all. Thanks for helping keep the lights on here!)

How To Get Affordable Coconut Oil, Vitamins and Other Health Foods Shipped to China Inexpensively

Online shopping is huge in China; the November 11 sales (for the 11.11 “single guys holiday”) easily outdo America’s Black Friday, but online shopping isn’t so easy if you can’t read Chinese. Besides having to read Chinese to find out the details about the product, which often includes a very long drawn out sales page with a lot of neon type, you have to engage in a chat with the seller to get more specifics. Something a simple as buying cocoa powder takes my husband at least 20 minutes. Seriously.


So for everyone who prefers to order in English, and without interacting with the seller, meet my new favorite retailer, Vitacost. They have a huge selection of food and beauty products, many of which are organic and natural. I was thrilled to find coconut oil for $25, compared to the $40 I paid in China. I also ordered some vitamins, cocoa powder, coffee and protein powder.


I’ve really been wanting to use more coconut oil in our meals and my husband wanted a certain vitamin, so I was so excited about this and really hoped it would work out well. And it did!


I’ve heard of Vitacost before, but didn’t realize that they ship to China. When a friend told me about this, I was skeptical, thinking the shipping will be outrageous. But it’s not. They use SF Express and DHL Global to ship from the USA to China. There’s a flat rate for up to a certain weight (and the weight is calculated as you add things to your cart so you can be sure to maximize your limit), and then a per pound weight for each pound above that. With Shun Feng Express your order can’t exceed a value of $160. And of course you have to pay import fees and taxes upon arrival. You can get more details about shipping and customs here.


My order was just over $100, $25 for shipping and then 60 yuan in taxes that I paid the delivery person.


There are, of course, some restrictions as to what cannot be imported. Mainly for China it’s meats and seeds. Don’t try to order them thinking it will go unnoticed; from the way it was taped, my package was opened twice. Once at customs in Hong Kong and the other in Tianjin. Everything was in the box and not damaged at all.


Not only is Shun Feng Express cheaper, it comes with tracking. My order arrived in Hong Kong less than 48 hours after ordering, but then got held up there for a week. When I called to inquire, they told me that it wasn’t anything with my package, just a delay. After it arrived in Tianjin, it was in my house less that 24 hours later. From the time stamps, they work round-the-clock! Less than 30 minutes after it arrived in town, it was in my community.


With SF Express, you do need a Chinese friend to help you upload their ID card to the SF website after you order and the order has to be addressed to that person. I thought I could use my passport, but they only accept Chinese ID cards so I used my husband’s name as the recipient and then uploaded his ID card. But you only have to upload the ID card the first time. Subsequent orders still need the same name, but the actual address and telephone number doesn’t matter. I don’t think you need to to this with DHL Global; that’s the only benefit that I can see since it’s more expensive and slower.


Get $10 off your first order of $30 or more by clicking here. (If you do order, I also get a $10 credit.)

The Best Books and Flashcards for Learning Chinese

The first book that I used for learning Chinese was Chinese in 10 Minutes A Day.  While I did learn a lot of words and enjoyed the short lessons and activities, I didn’t like that it only used pin yin. That’s not practical for living in China. Hardly anyone over the age of 55 studied it in school and even the teenagers I know often forget the pin yin for words. The only place I regularly see pin yin is in my son’s school books. This new edition is probably more helpful since it includes a CD with audio so you can learn how to speak the words correctly.

If you want to study words on your own, I highly recommend the two 250 Essential Chinese Characters
books. I have the old edition of both the books shown above and the two sets of flashcards. The new sets are aligned with the HSK exam, a Chinese proficiency exam that colleges use to admit foreign students, and have fewer cards per set.


There are now three sets of Chinese character flash cards, each with the cards, a booklet and audio. Be sure to order the paper version, not the Kindle one, if you want the cards! I personally love the cards and wouldn’t use them much, nor would the kids, if they were on the Kindle.

I love that they put as much info on each card as possible. They show both the simplified and traditional characters, plus the stroke order on the front. On the back is the pin yin, the radicals, a sentence with the word and up to four additional words that the character is a part of.
There were several typos and errors in set two of the old edition of Chinese Flash Cards ; I hope they’ve fixed that for their new edition. The reviews on Amazon look great, and the cards are now laminated to resist wear and tear and they come with a ring to clip them all together. I’m pretty sure my sets are missing a few cards because they’ve been lost over time with four people having used them and enduring four moves.
Rather than finishing out my collection with sets three and four (three is super expensive!) I think I’ll just purchase the new ones since they’ll get used for many more years. Also the new set comes with a CD, which the old one didn’t have, and the little booklet is a handy reference tool for looking up words quickly.


I also have Reading & Writing Chinese  which is a nice resource, though I’ve not used it to study from directly. Currently it’s my go-to for finding the meaning of words on my son’s homework. I love the Pleco app, but sometimes it’s just nice to have an old-fashioned book to make notes in.
What are your favorite resources for learning Chinese?
(Affiliate links go to Amazon and won’t change your purchase price, though I do get a small commission.)