When we lived in a 90 sqm two-bedroom condo unit Thailand all we had was a maid who would come in 2-3 times a week and spend an hour or two cleaning our place and the laundry. We usually ate out, as it was cheaper to do that; and regularly entertained as many people we can fit in the cramped living room for weekly movie nights and monthly dinner and movie specials.
Then we moved to Islamabad, and quickly found ourselves in a two-storey, three-bedroom duplex, with a front and backyard plus a live-in cook and gardener who comes in everyday for a couple of hours. They were “hired” by the school before we got there, so they were sort of part of the welcome package. We used to have maids, but they get didn’t get along with the cook, who is like the butler or chief of household staff. So he took over the tasks of doing the laundry and cleaning the house with a generous raise. (Now we have an ayah instead, who looks after our baby and helps with the cleaning chores. They make a good team.) Our cook makes the best french fries. He can also read English recipes and is willing to learn new dishes. My only complaint is once he knows we like a certain dish (lamb chops, beef stroganoff, chicken parmigiana) he keeps serving them like every week that the novelty dissipates with my appetite.
The biggest irony is we hardly entertain now. Everybody has their own cook and gardener, even a bearer (janitorial assistant to the cook) and dobis (laundrymen) … and 24-hour security. In the absence of nightclubs, the concept of dining out in the expat community is limited to house parties and diplomatic functions, and going to embassy clubs where alcohol is served. There are some good restaurants but the recent bombing of an Italian restaurant popular among Westerners prevents us from going to our favorite restaurant for now.
Sometimes I miss the simplicity of just hooking up with friends at a downtown restaurant or our favorite club. But it’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when you can get breakfast in bed everyday.