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Living in Asia – or – Hanging out Laundry

August 15, 2011

the percentage you’re paying is too high priced

and you’re living beyond all your means

“low spark of high heeled boys”, Traffic

A different kind of post, this .

Asian culture is quite alien to us, Midwesterners born and bred. It struck us as a dichotomy when we visited Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong that these cities are some of the most expensive in the world – yet people making very little manage to live.

How do they do it?

For starters, the average resident lives in a high rise.  Apartment living is the exception, rather than the rule.

Make no mistake – these are small apartments – some only a few hundred square feet, and they’re often occupied by several people.

I was on a flight home to Key West a while back, and I overheard a one passenger remark to the other how impossible it was for him to live in less than 3500 square feet.  I’m calling bullshit on that one; we lived in a custom California ranch where everyone had their own bedroom, bathroom and living space.  The Pheebs spent most of her time cleaning – and we occasionally lost a kid in the sprawl.

In the process of re-engineering our lives, it dawned on us  we paid stupid expensive utility bills (upwards of $800 a month for water/electric/gas) and crazy fuel bills ($300/month) to drive our cars.

That’s 2X the cost of our first mortgage.

What sent us over the edge, though, was that we only lived in 1/3rd of our suburban mansion.  Had to hire a landscaper and two lawn services – one to fertilize and apply week killer – another to keep the yard trim and neat.

All told – I had to earn $50,000 a year just to service the house.

That’s insane.

Living Asian-style means much less money is spent on utilities, as there’s less space to keep cool – and with 5 of 6 walls shared with one’s neighbor – there’s less heat seeping in during the summer.

So we followed the example of the Asians (in part) and sold the albatross of a house to live in one-quarter the space in Key West.  We now spend one-eighth the money on utilities as before – not counting depreciation and insurance on multiple cars.

Simple things add up – like air-drying one’s laundry, for example.  We’re sneered at by some of our neighbors for being gauche to the point of hanging out laundry – but this is commonplace in Asia.

George Herbert Walker Bush once said, “The American way of life is not negotiable.”. I have news for GHW – the American way of life is not sustainable.   This hanging of laundry (not allowed in my very American Guam apartment, BTW)?  Much more so.

The benefit of living in a fashion alien to us?

The way I figure it – I’ve given myself an equivalent $33,000 raise by waving good-bye to my version of the American dream.

Happily hanging out laundry,

Chuck and the Pheebs.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 15, 2011 1:11 am

    You are soooo right brother.

    • dangerboyandpixie permalink*
      August 15, 2011 1:58 am

      Two wake up calls:

      1. In the mid 90’s, a third of what I made went to servicing interest expense. Simple terms? Take a third of your wage and give it to the bank. No – not principal to reduce debt, just the interest on a mortgage, a car loan and credit card debt.

      (imitating H. Ross Perot) That’s just sad.

      so we paid it down.

      2. The second one is in this post. Cable? No. Landline? no. Heating bill? No. Income taxes? No. Last tank of gas I put in my wife’s car was February. It’s gotta be getting a little gunky by now.

      We own everything we have outright – and don’t need all that much. Do we have much? Not by the McMansion/SUV standard – but considering no one seems to own their house/car/cable box/telephone…we’re doing all right.

  2. August 15, 2011 2:49 pm

    I’m trying to picture you hanging laundry in Singapore. Expect large changes in your new island lifestyle.Police at the door for serious offences like exposed laundry.

    • dangerboyandpixie permalink*
      August 15, 2011 4:18 pm

      interestingly – the majority of photos in this essay are from Singapore. They’re much neater than the Chinese at hanging laundry – and – they have single payer healthcare.

  3. August 16, 2011 11:38 am

    Who says we are moving to Singapore or anywhere anytime soon? I just want to make it home to Key West in the next month…..and hang some laundry out to dry in the Florida Sunshine.

    • dangerboyandpixie permalink*
      August 16, 2011 12:42 pm

      Um…it’s raining there; September, you know.

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