Communal Living

by Dual Income No Kids on October 12, 2007 · 0 comments

Here in Kabul I’m living in a group house. This means that I both live and work with ten other international staff. While we all have our own space in the house that seems to work out very well, there are a few aspects that are very communal in nature.

We have a system where you can buy into a meal plan for $30 a week. This will buy you a four to five dish meal at lunch, a desert left for the evening on most nights, fresh fruit, breads, and cereals, and leftovers available any time.

To me this feels like a bargain in comparison to what I normally shell out for groceries and lunches out in DC. At the same time I found it funny to hear people commenting on who eats more and so forth.

This was until I noticed discrepancies in eating out. After a couple of weeks here it seems pretty clear that no matter what you eat or drink, the bill is divided by whatever number of people and there you have it. The only difference is when some people have drank wine, then this is taken off of their bill. Otherwise it doesn’t matter if you had a beer or five.

As we all have experienced at one time or another, splitting the bill means that in most cases someone gets the shaft. For instance, last night a group of us went out to Chinese food together. I ordered a meal for $8 when most others ordered meals for $16 plus appetizers and drinks. I had a headache and opted out of the two bottles of wine that were shared among four of the six of us. In the end my bill was $30 when if paying for only my portion it would have been $20 with a hefty tip.

I’m not grumbling about an extra $10 for dinner, but I can certainly see how this could be an expensive lesson in communal living over the next couple of years.

This is definitely the case when it comes to alcohol. Back in DC I might have a drink or two a couple of times a year. Here my colleagues have been accustomed to the ex-pat lifestyle with a fair bit more drinking than that. I see this will have to be kept in note when wanting to keep an eye on expenses. Bottles of wine in restaurants are $30 a pop and my colleagues drink at least two to one.

Of course there are certainly times when I’ll want to indulge with my colleagues. Last week we shared wine and a group meal of Lebanese appetizers and I thought it was a fair deal all around, even with some drinking more.

I think in the end there isn’t a great deal to be done, as I enjoy going out with my colleagues and am certainly not going to stay in my room to save money. In the end I think my month bills for groceries and eating out will be about $300 a month. This is about what I paid for groceries for James & I without considering lunches and dinners out. I’ll keep folks posted as I know more of my monthly budget and so forth.



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