Menstruation in China: Your Guide for Eating, Drinking and Buying Tampons

Menstruation in China: Your Guide for Eating, Drinking and Buying Tampons

In January, I was train hopping around Southern China, following the promise of warmer temperatures, cleaner air, and (if even possible) more delicious food. This is how I ended up in a dorm-style hostel in the beachside city of Xiamen, awake at 2 am with cramps. Everyone’s personal uterus party is a little different; for me, I get bad cramps the first day. Then things even out and I’m good to go.

I take an anti-inflammatory within the first hour, and that’s usually all I need. So at 2 am, I roll off my creaky bunk and use my phone flashlight to fumble through the endless zippers of my bag for Advil. This wakes up my only other roommate that night, a 19-year-old Chinese girl who favors big sun hats.

Menstruation in China: Your Guide for Eating, Drinking and Buying Tampons

Shénme shì? she asked. What’s up?

Wo shì nege. I’m that. Wo huì chi yào, I’m going to take some medicine.

I located the Advil and reached for my water bottle sitting by my bed.

She sat straight up. BIE HE! DON’T DRINK THAT! She didn’t use a 2-am-just-woke-up-why-are-you-talking-to-me-while-I-hurt-voice. Not even an inside voice. She shouted.

She took some convincing before she was okay being a complicit bystander while I endangered my body’s fragile state by consuming something cold.

This conversation had happened to me before, just never at 2 am and with the other person so vehement that I shouldn’t drink my water. So I knew it was the temperature of my water that she had a problem with. I knew to say, “It’s okay, I’m used to drinking cold water. Don’t worry.” She took some convincing before she was okay being a complicit bystander while I endangered my body’s fragile state by consuming something cold. Eventually she listened, I hydrated my cramps away, and we both fell back to sleep.

When you have your period in China, life slows down. Over the course of last year, I saw my female Chinese classmates change up their routine one week per month: more frequent naps than the normal post-lunch one, less going out for dinner and more takeout, PJs more than day clothes, and no cold things to eat at all.

Menstruation in China: Your Guide for Eating, Drinking and Buying Tampons

The food temperature stipulation was the one I found the most fascinating. In the States, ladies often use fanny-pack heating pads – or if you’re a college housemate from my past, a microwaveable purple hippo heating pack sitting snugly in the waist of her sweatpants. Instead of this, Chinese girls drink hot water, tea, soup, and eat only warm dishes. Consuming cold foods, literally cold in temperature like ice cream or foods with cold properties like green tea, are said to bring discomfort and imbalance in your body during your period. There are finer points of combining flavors to balance your internal temperature, like warm and sour, but I haven’t mastered those nuances yet.

There is a special drink with red jujubes sold by vendors on the street just for when you’re nege. Or as I found out a few days ago, black tea helps soothe your chángwèi (internal organs), while green tea will make you feel worse. I haven’t really changed any of my period habits to take these into account, and I certainly don’t think it will make you sick to drink cold water at 2 am while on your period, but all those little oddities were created with specific attention to your health.

Over the course of last year, I saw my female Chinese classmates change up their routine one week per month: more frequent naps than the normal post-lunch one, less going out for dinner and more takeout, PJs more than day clothes, and no cold things to eat at all.

I retold this 2 am cold water story to a good friend of mine, also Chinese. She said that ever since she started her period, her mom enforced the temperature rules. Her mom never said the cold would make her sick, but the repetition made my friend skeptical that anything other than warm food and drink would be soothing. She still doesn’t eat or drink cold things during shark week.

A practical note for any traveler in Asia, tampons are available in China, as well as Taiwan and Hong Kong. They can be reliably fount at Watsons, a chain store with branches in most large cities.

 

What’s your international period story? And have you found any other places to buy tampons in China?

Menstruation in China: Your Guide for Eating, Drinking and Buying Tampons

About Anne Twombly

Anne TwomblyAnnie Twombly is a born Oregonian, resident of nowhere, and curious of everywhere. She has lived in and traveled to France, Switzerland, Senegal, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and South Korea. When traveling to a new city, the two things she looks for first are: live music and a pretty park.

4 thoughts on “Menstruation in China: Your Guide for Eating, Drinking and Buying Tampons

  1. Avatar
    March 8, 2016
    Reply

    Dear Anne, I hear about these Chinese habits everyday! It’s very interesting actually to understand how Chinese girls consider their period and act in different ways to protect themselves and keep their body balance.
    Now in China, mostly through online marketplaces, you can find both applicator or non-applicator tampons. Also in retail stores in Shanghai and BJ you can find Wishu brand.
    Cheers!
    Virginie

  2. Avatar
    Martina Hui
    July 29, 2015
    Reply

    Hi Anne,

    Very interesting article. I also want to point out there are more and more dustributors like myself who are introducing tampons to the Asian market as well.

    If anyone is interested, we are the sole distributor of Moxie in Hong Kong.

    Free feel to visit our Facebook page: Facebook.com/moxiehk

    Enjiy travelling!

    • Anne Twombly
      Anne Twombly
      July 29, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks for the information! It’s great to know our options are expanding. I will keep this in mind next time I’m in Hong Kong!

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