After discussing it for nearly two years, I finally made it to Andy’s place in Shijiazhuang, China.
Welcome to a life of luxury.
When I got off the train from Jinan at 4:20am, I exited the station to find not a tall American, but a short Chinese man holding a sign that said “JUSTIN.” It was Andy’s personal driver. We walked out to the parking lot and – ah – there was my friend, half-asleep in the back seat of his shiny black SUV. The driver tossed my bags in the trunk, and soon, we were on our way.
For years Andy has been telling me how it’s possible to live the good life in China for barely a percentage of what it would cost in the US. And while it’s not like I didn’t believe him, it’s hard to imagine quite what that means until you witness it firsthand. Besides, we’ve all heard stories of how China has been experiencing mindboggling inflation – somewhere in the vicinity of 15% a year – so could it really be as cheap now as it once was?
No, not as cheap as before. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t freakin’ cheap. When you see what kind of bang you can get for your buck in Shijiazhuang – you’d probably crap your pants.
Andy’s apartment is absolutely mindblowing. It could NOT go for less than $8-9,000 a month if it were in Los Angeles. Located the 18th floor with fabulous views of the city on 3 sides, it sits in a high-rise right across from a massive shopping mall and just minutes away from the center of the city. The interior? White tile and rosewood flooring, chandeliers, auto-locking doors, and spacious enough for a 4-person family. His kitchen table is surrounded by 8 chairs situated in front of a 40″ LCD TV and next to a window that looks out halfway across the city. And is topped off with neatly folded napkin animals, like you might find in a first-class New York restaurant. His office – attached to its own private bathroom – larger than two of my entire apartment this last time I was in Japan.
And here’s the kicker. The rent is about 70% of what I was paying for my little Kyoto shoebox, constructed circa 1985. Less than $600 a month.
When I first walked through the front door, my initial reaction was “Whoa, this guy’s even more obsessive-compulsive than me – I’ve never SEEN such a perfectly tidy and spotless place!” But then I realized why. That’s what happens when you have a full-time maid to buff the floors and polish the silverware every day of the week, 365 days a year – not to mention do all your shopping and cook every meal. For under $100 a month. He really likes his maid, so he pays her well over the going rate.
Sitting on a Queen-sized bed in my underwear, waiting for his driver to come pick us up and take us to his own personal photo studio – a hobby he picked up over the recent years – it’s tough to remember that image I had of what it’s like to “live in China.” Because this doesn’t feel like China. It feels like Beverly Hills.
At least until I go outside 😉
What a lifestyle.