Monday, 19 May 2008

What is it really like here . . . Cost of Living?

I look at Sky News each day and most days I see that costs appear to be rising out of control in the UK (or is it that the tabloid newspapers are out of control?).  Fuel costs are rising, food costs are rising and petrol is simply crazy.  It makes me honestly wonder how long we could have kept going in the UK with costs as they appear to be.

So, is it any different here?  Well, if you have followed our journey you will know that the major cost here is that of housing, which is extortionate.  However, as someone pointed out to me the other day, if we were renting this house in the middle of London, it would probably be more expensive.  Yes, I agree.

Cars are relatively cheap over here - most are US imports and you lease them on 5 year plans so they are much cheaper than in the UK.  I think I am paying about the same amount per month here for my massive wagon than I was at home for my Ford Focus.  Petrol - and I am cringing as I am writing this, because I know it has to be such a sore subject with all of you guys - costs a ridiculous 19 pence a litre.  People here though are rather cross about the price of petrol - it has doubled in the last few years.  Still laughably cheap though.  If it makes you feel any better, my car insurance is about triple my UK premium, but if you see the way people drive here, I guess it makes sense!

I did the supermarket shop yesterday and managed to buy all of my weekly groceries for about £50.  Quite how they manage to sell me an apple, imported from Australia for 12p, I have no idea; equally, banana are about 8 pence each.  There are quite a few manufacturing plants here - the Coca Cola company has a factory, so I can buy 12 cans of Diet Coke for about £1.50.  24 bottles of water costs around £1.50.  Similarly a Mars bar costs 23p (not that I eat any of course - just pure research).  Meat is cheaper too and generally of good quality - a lovely joint of fresh lamb - cost £4.90.  HOWEVER, and there has to be one doesn't there - it has to be that over here there are very few reliable "sell by" dates!  They are more likely to have production dates on the label and yes, there are occasions where I have got home and my yoghurt with a good sell by date is curdled and when my meat smells off (it happens a fair bit, despite carting everything home in cool boxes).  I think it's fair to say that things aren't transported here well so I find that I am always at the grocery store trying to find fresh ingredients - even bananas here only seem to last about 2 days!  Eggs- now this I find rather strange.  The sell-by date in the UK is usually about two weeks after they hit the shelves - here, it is a whopping three months.  Chickens to my knowledge lay the same eggs worldwide, so are mine really safe to eat three months after they have emerged?  Who knows!  Generally, I would say, groceries are about 25% cheaper than in the UK.

Going out is probably a major difference that we have seen.  We eat out a lot - nowhere flashy but a local steakhouse or similar.  For a family of 4 it probably costs us about £25 which I think is pretty good.  I remember being in Pizza Express in the UK and paying nearly £40 for the family.  Days out are also cheaper - a day in the water park for all of us is about £50.  No, not cheap - but compared to nearly £120 for Legoland Windsor last summer, it's much better value.  cartoon

I think it's fair to say that we have a better standard of living here, but let's be honest, we're not paying any tax or NI, which has certainly helped us considerably!  They're thinking of introducing VAT here though, which will probably change things quite a lot.  There's also talk of income tax in the future . . . oh dear . . . we may be home sooner than we think!!!!

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