Ok imported butter. But still!
You may have seen my blog posts about grocery shopping in China and how imported products are outrageously expensive. Especially dairy and wine. But the good news is that most services are very cheap!
An example from every expat family's life: everybody has an 'ayi' (cleaning lady/babysitter/cook). It's not considred a luxury like in Europe. We all have one! A generous full-time monthly salary for an ayi is roughly 5000 rmb (around 680 euros). That's just over 4 euros per hour. Don't expect a speedy and thourough cleaning service but let's admit that it's a huge help. And while you enjoy your free time, you could get out and about. In my case very often by bike but a subway ticket costs you 3-5 rmb (40-70 cents). And if you can't be bothered to walk to the metro, take a taxi!! 13 rmb (the starting fee) will get you quite far. But believe it or not: Uber is even cheaper! A 20 minute ride costs you less than 2 euros!
And let's talk about massages. Beijing is full of massage places. Traditional Chinese massage, Thai massage, massage by blind masseurs (tested for you - and not bad at all), aromatherapy, cupping...you name it!
If you avoid the expensive Spas at western luxury hotels, a one hour Chinese full-body massage will cost you between 80 and 100 rmb. Around 11-14 Euros. If you go "luxury", 160 rmb (22 euros) will get you a one-hour oil and hot stones massage. No booking required and (oddly) open until 2 am 😳
And there is a reason why so many people have suits shirts and dresses tailor made here. Cheap, good quality (of course depending on the fabric you choose) and ultra-fast service.
Need baskets on your bike? 7 Euros for the big ones including fixing. You dropped your iphone and the screen broke into a thousand pieces? Repaired in 10 mins for 35 euros.
And services are quick and efficient! We needed to install a door on our balcony and my lovely friend and neighbour Alessia took me to a market which is full of glaziers. We asked (or rather Alessia asked in Chinese) whether he could come one day and take the measurements for the door. He said "xiànzài" (now) and followed us back to the apartment by scooter. Measured the gap, came back 3 days later and installed the door in 45 minutes. No time wasted.
On every other street corner you will find a guy who repairs bicycles, a locksmith, a shoemaker. Their shops consist of a trolley full of tools and spare parts. You negotiate a bit and walk away smiling about the good deal and equally good service while you wonder how they can survive in a city where the cost of living is high. Still a mystery to me!