Have Your Cake and Eat it


We might want it all, but sometimes we need to make sacrifices…


I don’t know about you, but I am going to admit it straight out: I want it all. I want a wholesome family life, but I want to get drunk on ladies’ night at a Chippendales show. I want a career I love, but I want to be a homemaker who cooks and bakes for the ones I love. I want to eat like a wrestler, but I want to be the skinniest bitch in the room.

And sometimes, just sometimes, I get the best of both worlds (all too rarely), but more often than not, that is not the way the world works.

Living out here, the temptation is to grab for everything, but sometimes we have to compromise, in all manner of things:

1) Housing
Let’s face it. Rent here is dirt cheap. This is indisputable. In Dongguan, you can live above the trendiest mall for a tiny fraction of what you would pay anywhere else in the world. But maybe your tap leaks once in a while, or you sit on a chair and it’s wobbly, or the hot water takes ages to come, and sputters when it does. Suck it up! You pay for what you get.

2) Education
As expats here, we often make more money than we would back home, and we make sacrifices to move here accordingly. Unfortunately, quality of education is one of them.

There is a selection of good international schools here. But examine carefully, and there are undeniable pros and cons of each one. If you can settle and make your peace with their shortcomings, good. If not, get out of China and make less money. Simple.

3) A Wife and a Girlfriend
Sure, it is easy to straddle both (no pun intended!), especially if the wife is not here. The dollar stretches a lot more, and a man can easily get a cute young girl who just left her hometown, hungry for companionship and anything more than the meager income she was getting back home.

If your conscience says it’s ok, then great. But enjoy it while it lasts, because sooner or later it will come back to bite you on the ass, and not in a good way.

And girls, it goes both ways.

4) Ayi
When it comes to the subject of helpers, it is a never-ending story of complaints and drama. My nanny once fed my child fish oil instead of cod liver oil, and another time, was going to feed my children leftover meat straight from the refrigerator, without heating it up. But, most of us want to come home to a clean house, meals waiting on the table, clothes pressed, and kids bathed and fed.

So sometimes she throws your favorite wool sweater into the dryer, or puts your cream cheese in the freezer. Worse, she tells your kids not to worry about tooth decay, because the same teeth will grow again and again, no matter how many times they fall out.

The truth is, if she is smart or educated she would not be working for us. And, we need her. So, turn a blindeye when she complains she is overworked and scuttles off to play with her phone and take a nap.

5) Food
Imported food can sometimes be twice or triple the price here. I’m often standing at the cashier of everybody’s favorite deli, and inside I’m screaming “You’re robbing me blind … just take my whole wallet already!”

Take a deep breath and swallow. If you want it bad enough, you have to pay the price. There is no “cheap and good” when imported groceries are concerned.

6) Fitness
There is a reason why models do not eat. They work hard to keep their bodies in great shape.

People are often astonished to see the amount of food I can consume in a single sitting. My friends love to watch me eat. And I indulge them; I should probably start charging them.

But they also know that I work out and burn at least a thousand calories or two a day.

People moan about being fat, but instead of getting off their ass to exercise, they pop in a DVD, grab a bag of chips, and wash it all down with a bottle of coke.

Ultimately, life is all about making choices. It is about making trade-offs and realizing that you can’t have one thing if you want another. Sometimes you get lucky and get the best of both worlds, but more often than not your options are mutually exclusive. Such is life. Embrace it!