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December 16, 2010

What It Costs to Be Me

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Photo Credit: Bjoern Steinz/Panos Pictures/Bjoern Steinz/OKA2

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Anna Desmarais, 33, Seoul, South Korea

Occupation: Voice-over actress and gym owner

Annual income: $75,000 (converted from Korean won)

Average income for a woman in South Korea: $16,931

Home, sweet home: "I rent a two-bedroom town house for $900 per month. The big selling point was the garden in front. South Korea is so overpopulated that it's rare to find any green space."

Bills, bills, bills: "My cell phone is about $88 per month; utilities are another $100. Taxis are also a major expense for me — $350 a month. I take them often for work."

Meal plan: "I don't cook — ever. I don't enjoy it anyway. I'll rarely spend more than $5 for lunch, unless it's for Western food, which can cost twice as much as Korean."

The weekender: "Going out is an eight-to-10-hour ordeal. You'll start with dinner or drinks, then hit a couple more places before ending up at a 'singing room' or going out to eat again. You'll always be sharing two meals together in the course of an evening. Big Saturday nights run me more than $200."

Only in South Korea: "The pace of life is extremely fast and can be stressful. So people are really into wellness, yoga, and detoxing. Last year I did the Master Cleanse for 13 days. It was hard-core."

Shoe index: "The most I've ever spent was $300 on a pair of Nine West boots. They wouldn't have been expensive at all in the States, but import tariffs here are really, really high."

The road to recovery: "I can honestly say the recession didn't affect me much. I still enjoyed the same lifestyle."

Checks and balances: "I definitely live a comfortable lifestyle and still manage to save. I have about $40,000 in cash, and the rest is tied up in my business. I never worry about money — there are so many business opportunities here."


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