Dress and Grooming Standards
China Horizons defines business casual as dressing professionally, but comfortably. Business casual is not as formal as professional business attire, but it is more professional than ‘hangout’ clothes. You should look relaxed and comfortable, while still maintaining a clean and polished look. Trendy styles can qualify as business casual as long as the statement you are making is “I am professional,” not “Look at how trendy and stylish I am.”
Dark or light colored dress slacks and suit pants. Solid color or modest patterned skirts and dresses. Simple pencil skirts and looser fitting skirts.
Denim, capris, three-quarter length pants, short skirts and dresses, extremely baggy or tight-fitting pants, skirts, dresses, or any other unprofessional bottoms.
Depending on the weather: polo shirts, button-down shirts, light blouses, sweaters, cardigans, dressy jackets, etc. It is hard to teach if you are shivering cold or sweating to death!
Sleeveless tops, spaghetti straps, t-shirts, tank-tops, cleavage baring tops, or any other unprofessional tops.
Flats, boots, modest heels, dressy open-toe shoes, etc. During the winter you will be most comfortable in warm boots or shoes with at least one pair of thick socks. In the summertime, you will be most comfortable in flats or nice open-toe shoes.
Flip-flops, sneakers, extreme shoe styles or colors, or any other unprofessional shoes.
Too much makeup, overdone hair, and over powering perfume are inappropriate while teaching. Most schools disapprove of extreme hair styles, unnatural hair color, and visible piercings (besides earring).
Khakis, dark or light colored dress slacks and suit pants.
Denim, tight-fitting pants, shorts, capris, three-quarter length pants, or any other unprofessional bottoms.
Depending on the weather: light cotton collared shirts, polo shirts, button-down shirts, solid color or simple patterned shirts, sweaters, jackets, vests, blazers, dressy overcoats, and other professional attire. It is hard to teach if you are shivering cold or sweating to death! Ties are appropriate, but not required.
T-shirts, tight- fitting tops, elaborate fashions, extremely bright colored tops, or any other unprofessional tops.
Loafers, dress shoes, and other professional shoes.
Flip-flops, sandals, sneakers, extreme shoe styles or colors, or any other unprofessional shoes.
Most schools disapprove of facial hair, long hair, any extreme hair style, unnatural hair color, or any visible piercings. It is important to be clean cut, well groomed, and maintain a professional look while teaching.
Past teacher clothing suggestions
Some suggestions contradict each other. Everyone is different, and every participant has a unique experience in China. These suggestions are only advisory and is not a comprehensive packing list. Remember, you are only allowed one checked bag, so you need to pack light!
I’m a female, 5’8″, 140 pounds, size 9 shoe, and taught in China for 10 months (both seasons). Here’s what I’d pack for teaching in China if I could do it all again knowing what I know.
- 2 pairs of dress pants
- 1 dress or skirt
- 5 dress shirts
- comfortable dress shoes
- optional: boots & dress sandals
That’s it. If you are teaching only 4-5 months, you could easily cut what I said in half. I haven’t left anything out; don’t fill up your bag with unnecessary items or things you can easily get there (that will be much cheaper and cuter) like scarves or heavy coats. I bought my coat in China ($18) and layered it with a sweater and was fine. I also bought gloves (only men’s gloves fit me), warm socks, scarves, and hats in China. Instead of packing a lot of different shirts, I found I generally wore the same thing and just changed the look of my outfit with a scarf since my coat covered my shirt anyway (my classroom didn’t have a heater). If you have feet smaller than size 9, I wouldn’t pack any boots. If you find that you need them, you can easily buy them for cheap. As a size 9, I was able to find shoes that fit, but not boots.
I never found a pair of pants that fit me. Dresses, shirts, and sweaters of all types, colors, and sizes were easy to find. Everything I bought in China were because I wanted them, not needed them. If you pack what I listed above, you won’t need anything else for teaching. I left most of my clothes there anyway because they were worn pretty thin; I wouldn’t take anything you absolutely love…the washers are rough on clothes.
Fall 2011-Spring 2012
Take a few plain skirts that go with anything like a black, dark blue, and gray ones. You can buy all the patterned shirts you could ever want in China and plenty of sweaters for cheap in the winter. It doesn’t matter what you look like in China because anything goes (no matter how ugly) style wise in China. I’d rather fill my suitcase with things other than clothes. There are scarves galore so I wouldn’t pack any of those. Take a pair of flats that go with all the skirts to wear during the summer. I would bring a pair of warm boots because I couldn’t ever find a pair that fit me while in China and I wore mine from home nearly every day in the winter. Take leggings for skirts in the winter. Dress pants too. Chinese girls’ waists are way smaller than most Americans, so keep that in mind when packing too.
Be prepared for a lot of clothing in China to NOT fit you. The Chinese girls are ridiculously small. Even if the clothes do fit, a lot of the clothes are weird. Fake fur and bedazzles everywhere. I would bring a few pairs of pants and shirts for teaching that are sturdy and can handle being washed a lot. Make sure you have good shoes. Pack for both extremes, REALLY HOT and REALLY COLD!!
Take thermals and good thick socks for winter. Plan to layer. Believe me, it will get super cold at some point either semester. Clothes and shoes are available here, but the quality is cheap for cheaply priced clothes. As for the summer, it’s easier to wear skirts. They’re cool, easy, and you can wear them to class.
If you are over 5 feet 5 inches and weigh over 125 pounds, it will be hard to find clothes that fit nicely.
Take clothes for both kinds of weather. Sometimes I needed one good thick coat and other times I just needed one thin coat. I would bring a variety of long sleeves and short sleeves. You can wash clothes so you don’t need to bring a lot. Chinese teachers at my school wore outfits for a week at a time. No one will judge you for wearing clothes multiple days in a row or for a lack of variety.
Take a few dollars for buying clothes. I probably spent around $50. I wish I had bought rain boots. To be safe take around $100. You can go online and buy stuff and get them from online Chinese stores; this is really popular in China.
Take long sleeves and sweaters so you can layer when it starts to get cold!
I loved my simple black skirt that never wrinkled. It was $8 at Walmart and took no maintenance. Take dress pants because when it gets cold you can wear tights and thermals underneath them.
Take money to buy layers, or pack clothing you can layer. You will want thermals, and if you think you can’t wear any layers under your clothes, you can. Trust me. Take boots (or take money to buy boots). Make sure they are waterproof. Take money to buy a heavy coat, gloves, hats, and scarfs or bring them with you. There is no break from the cold (Dec-Mar). It is cold outside and inside the school buildings.
I would advise you to budget money for buying clothes to adjust to the weather. I was expecting it to be like America where I would be cold outside, but then I could just run inside quickly and get warm. My apartment was the only ‘warm’ place.
Take clothing that is good for layering in the winter and light enough to wear in the summer. Take a good coat and a light jacket. You’ll really want shoes that won’t get completely soaked if it rains because having wet shoes is the worst. You really don’t need a ton of jeans because you teach in nice pants, skirts, or dresses, but bring a pair of sturdy jeans that won’t wear out easily.
Clothes can be hard to find if you are tall or in any way well endowed. If you are, don’t plan on buying tons of clothes. It is possible to find things that will fit, but it’s difficult. If you wear anything above a size 7 shoes, don’t plan on buying tons of shoes either. Go prepared for both winter and summer.
Bring clothing that is easy to layer or to wear separately from warm to cold. You will be able to find tights and leggings and they are easy to layer more than one pair for warmth in the fall and winter. Expect for everywhere (indoors included) to be constantly cold in the winter. Bring sweaters that can be layered over lighter clothing. If you plan on buying clothing in China, the sizes differ from the US. For good clothing, the prices are about the same in China as they are in the US.
Haley Van Meeteren
We thought dressing as teachers would be tricky, but we found wearing slacks for a boy and dress pants/skirts for a girl was respected. We wore button-up shirts and blouses (only Paige wore blouses).
When we first heard we needed to dress business-like, we worried we would have to bring a ton of different clothes, but learned we could wear the same things multiple times a week (this is what all the teachers and students did at our school).
Keep in mind that clothes seem to wear out faster in China, so don’t take your absolute favorite clothes.
Ultimately, if we dressed nicely, the students respected us more, and I felt like I was a good representative of America and China Horizons.
Paige and Austin Slade
I packed lightly, thinking I would just buy everything when I got to China (under the misconception that everything is cheap in China). However, if I were to redo it, this is what I would take by category:
Winter boots (quality shoes in China are not any cheaper and cheap shoes are cheap quality). Running shoes, if you run. If you have big feet (My husband wears a size 11 mens), then it is hard to find shoes in China.
Depending on your body frame, it might be difficult to find pants that fit you the way you want them to in China. Most Chinese girls are very petite, and just have a different body shape. Depending on your city, you can get tailor made clothes for a cheap price.
Expect to be wearing multiple layers. Winters are different in China because they don’t heat most buildings. You can buy long-johns to wear under your clothes for pretty cheap. You also don’t need to bring your own winter coat. Mine cost $40 and lasted all season. Scarves, hats, gloves, etc. are all cheap (2-5 dollars) in China. Take thick socks and a nice zip-up jacket you can wear during the fall and spring. You can use it for layering in the winter.
For the fashion forward individuals, also note that fashion in China is drastically different than fashion in the US. You will find some brand name stores in bigger cities, although the prices are not cheaper at all. You can find H&M, Mango, Zara, Gap, Adidas, Nike, Converse, Sephora (cosmetics), Maybelline (cosmetics), and American Apparel.
Fall 2011-Spring 2012
Take 2 pairs of slacks. During the cold months you probably will want two jackets or a jacket and a coat. Layering is recommended….it gets so dang cold sometimes.
Take 2 pairs of teaching pants (slacks as well as khakis), a few dress shirts, and also a few polo shirts. When I needed more clothes for teaching I used www.taobao.com. It is like eBay, but Chinese style. It is all in Chinese, but if you use google chrome, it translates it for you. Finding clothes in the stores is a little hard, just because they are made to fit bodies that aren’t like our bodies. The hardest thing to find during winter was thick socks. I found a few shops that had Nike socks, but they were not cheap. I did not take a winter coat, I just bought one there. China has H&M and also a store called Meters/bonwe. I discovered they have pretty good sizes that fit and are fairly decent in price.
Fall 2011-Spring 2012