Tuesday, November 06, 2007

the cost of things

One thing you learn, as an American expat living in Norway, is that, unless you want to drive yourself crazy, you CANNOT think of the cost of things here, in the most expensive place in the world, in dollars. Not, especially, since the dollar has fallen into the crapper but HARD.

When we came to Norway in 2002, the exchange rate was 7.8 Norwegian Kroner to the dollar.

The exchange rate now, in 2007, is 5.34 kroner to the dollar.

Let's look at this for a moment. Here's a list of things I have bought (except the car!) over the past few days, and I've translated them into their dollar rates for 2002 (first dollar number) and 2007 (second dollar number). (Columns won't work so I am not sure how this will look.)

Item.....................Norway cost...........$2002..........$2007

1.5kg chicken breasts .....170nok..... $21.79....... $31.83

20 candles from IKEA..... 240nok.... $30.76 .......$44.94

My morning coffee...... 34nok............ $4.35.......... $6.36

Skirt from H&M....... 349nok ............$44.74 ........$65.35

Whopper at Burger King... 70nok..... $8.97......... $13,10

*A Cheap Car ......240,000.nok .......$30,769. .......$44,943.

**1 litre milk .............11nok .............$1.40.............. $2.06

Movie ticket................. 80nok ........$10.25 .......$14.98

***Norway Minimum Wage...... 120nok ....$15.38 .........$22.47

As you can see, the cost of living, if you think in dollars, has gone WAY the hell up. (So have salaries , though, if you want to go there.) I don't blame Norway for this, obviously, as their prices haven't really changed. I blame the US government for letting the dollar get that low.

So yesterday, I came home from an expedition to Smart Club and Ikea, stocking up on stuff like chicken and candles for the long dark days ahead (and not having a car, when I do get a ride with someone who has one, I stock up!). Rich saw the receipts and freaked the fuck OUT, hollering that I spent too much and yadda yadda. It really pissed me off for two reasons: 1) He was thinking in dollars (AND making the exchange rate like 5 to the dollar, which is horrendous anyhow) and 2) He wasn't thinking like a Norwegian. The cost of things here hasn't changed, but he was tying to think American and he is wigging out about it. And yelling at me!

A nice dinner out (but not THAT nice) can easily top 1200 kroner. The "blue plate special" at the pub on a Friday night is 119 nok, which is over 20 bucks. And we are thrilled to have a meal for that cheap. The lowest paper money amount is 50nok (just under ten bucks) and that MIGHT get you a kebab or a slice of pizza if you are lucky. (I equate it with a five dollar bill in the US for buying power.) It costs 49 kroner for a train ride into Oslo from the suburbs. A coke from the machine is 20 nok ($3.75). (20 nok is pocket change, like a quarter. Valuable, yes, but not an amount you really worry about, you know?)

Basically, 1200 nok ($225.) isn't ALL that much here. That's the cost of a nice dress, maybe, or a largish shopping trip at the grocery store. It's the cost of my monthly rail pass to get to work. 99kroner ($18.50) is, like, bargain basement for a t shirt or a tank top. The other day I got a skirt and two tops for 597 nok ($112.)(all of it half price) and counted myself ecstatically lucky.

So, since moving to Norway, my whole idea of what is expensive and not has skewed horribly. Because, if I thought of what things cost here in dollars, I would crawl under my bed and hide as I watched the dollars tick away minute by minute. So, I think in kroners and suddenly a sweater on sale for 299nok is a good deal and aren't I a lucky girl to have found that?

Next time I am sending Rich shopping and HE can buy stuff and then I can yell at him for spending too much. See how easy it is for HIM!

* A used car can routinely cost that or more. Cars are EXPENSIVE here, mostly because of high taxes.
**So a gallon of milk, right now, is about 8 bucks. Gas is around 10. Just fyi. See why I sold the car?
** Norway doesn't have a legal minimum wage, this is just a guideline I found on the web.

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