It’s a commonly held notion in North American that living in Europe is incredibly expensive in comparison. And like many commonly held notions, there is at least some measure of truth to that idea. For example, a pair of hockey skates that would cost Dave about $500 would cost him about €700, or $1,023.85, clearly a considerable mark-up. For that amount of money the skates should be jet-propelled or able to speak words of hockey wisdom. Gas is averaging about $3.01 for a gallon of regular unleaded in the U.S., while here we are paying about €1.35 per liter (this converts to almost $8.00 per gallon). I would never buy Nike or Diesel over here knowing what kind of price people at home are getting. I’d prefer to buy electronics and cars at North American prices if at all possible.
And despite all I’ve just said and what I’m about to say following this caveat, it is most important to remember one thing. Often North Americans say ‘Europe’ and mean one big thing, while in reality Europe is a lot of highly varied places. Just ask any European. The difference between the standard and cost of living from Sweden to Portugal to Germany to Slovakia is vast. One currency does not mean one economy; a Euro can buy you something different in each region or country.
All that having been said, one of the similarities between our economic experiences in high tech Eastern Holland to slow growth Eastern Germany can be found at the till of the local grocery store. We don’t shop the same way here as we would at home. Instead of a giant haul in a giant store once in a while with horrific light, we pop into various smaller stores a few times a week or even daily. The horrific lighting is universal. And yet even when you add up our weekly receipts, it is nothing in comparison to the bills dedicated to groceries back home. Each time we fill a cart and watch our choices ride the conveyor belt through the incessant beep beep beep of the scanner, our eyes fill with wonder and our heads shake in disbelief when the total is read. Luxury items might cost you an arm and a leg, but at least you can eat!
Below is a sample of a typical shopping trip for me, the actual items from last night’s receipt (please don’t judge, I like what I like and I can’t help it!):
1 Package of Penne
2 Frozen Garlic Bread Baguettes
1 Package Chocolate-Covered Butter Cookies
1 Bag of Mozzarella
2 Heads of Broccoli
6 Roma Tomatoes
1 Bag of Soup Noodles
1 Package of Sandwich Baggies
1 Can of White Beans in Tomato Sauce
1 Pack (50 bags) of Ceylon Tea
1 2 liter of Cola Zero
Most expensive items: 6 Roma tomatoes €1.39 = $2.02
Least expensive item: Penne €0.55 = $0.80
And the Grand Total? Any guesses? The entire lot cost us €10.23, or $15.03. Say what you will, but don’t tell me that isn’t reasonable. Mind you, the conversion is only for your benefit, because since we are making Euros we think in Euros when doing our spending. But even at $15.03, I dare say this is the deal of the century. And while we make attempts to ‘save’ money since we are ‘adults’, we’ve been lucky to be able to eat like kings. Budget-conscious, snack-happy, kings.