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How to live like a King on a budget: move to China

August 1, 2010

Your US dollars go a long way in China; exchange rate: $1 = ¥6.8

Yesterday afternoon, I spent 60 yuan (approx. $9 US). I spent 30 kuai on a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Then I spent 30 kuai on an hour long full-body massage.

In other words, I spent $4.50 US for an HOUR LONG MASSAGE. Are you ready to move here yet?

Now, to be clear, this was a Chinese massage, not an American-style luxury spa massage. I kept my clothes on. The room had bright flourescent lights and no music. And the Chinese style of massage is… well, a lot the Chinese style of raising children: keep beating it until the problem goes away.

Surprisingly effective, if not always soothing or pleasant. I mean, if you have tension in your neck and back and prefer your masseuse to knead knead knead until the tension goes away, you’d probably really like Chinese massage. None of that candles, oils, new-age music BS. Just some serious kneading, and a firm slap when he’s ready to move to the next part of the massage.

Which means, yes, a Chinese man smacked my ass a few times. Nothing sexual about it, just doing his job.

I also had a great time chatting with the staff. I practiced my Chinese, and they corrected my tones and pronunciation. Joked that they wanted me to set them up with my American friends so they could find American girlfriends. We all laughed a lot. The young male masseuses kept teasing the female receptionist, who kept hitting them all in phony, flirty anger. This all happened during my massage. Loads of fun!

Other reasons you can live like a King in China on no money:

  • Forget the subway, cabs are dirt cheap.
  • Chinese food is super duper cheap. Expect to pay no more than $10 US per person at most nice restaurants, and easily less than $5 US per person at a typical restaurant.
  • Massages, pedicures, hair cuts, and any other human labor-based service will cost a fraction of what it does in the US.
  • Alcohol? Forget it. If like beer, you can drink up a big bottle of Chinese beer for $5 yuan or less at most restaurants. Yes: under a dollar. Nice bars are more expensive, but still very affordable. And if you stick to the local baijiu (literally “white alcohol,” the closest approximation is vodka), you can buy liquor cheaper than water.
  • Speaking of water, bottled water is also waaaay cheaper here.

Stuff is just way cheaper here! Everything, that is, except for imported things. This includes alcohol, unfortunately, as well as name-brand clothing and many foreign restaurants. However, even imported things are usually only slightly more expensive than they are in the states.

Except coffee. Coffee is expensive everywhere, to my chagrin.

In sum, unless you drink 8 cups of coffee a day, quit your job and move to China! Or hey – retiring Americans, China’s cities are calling you and your savings. They’ll last you seven times as long over here…

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