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What’s Your Wirtschaftlichkeit?

17 August 2011 1 comment
Cost of Living for Several Cities

Cost of Living for Several Cities

No I am not lost.  Nor did read the sign wrong and ended up in a German class by accident.  I just had a weekend in Germany, the other pillar stone of the Euro zone.  The newspapers here are full of articles of opinions on whether the Euro zone will survive this economic crisis.  What is the wirtschaftlichkeit (economic viability) of the Euro?  Clearly everyone is going through a challenging financial time but I feel the Euro will pull through.  Yet I do feel good that I am just under the Euro zone ceiling for cost of living.  Besides the wider streets, bigger food portions and a slightly more American feel, Germany is having to pull more Euros out of its wallet.  The price of a café was much closer to the 2 Euro mark whereas in my French neighborhood I can still get a cup of joe for as little as 1.20 Euros.  German public transport prices reminded back to my days in Philadelphia where a one-way bus trip approached 2 Euros compared to my simple 1 Euro in Nice.  Then for me to board the regional train system to neighboring cities like Cannes and Monaco, a one-way ticket is still under 4 Euros.  It felt like the German system was easily double for similar distances.  (for the record, they weren’t any more on-time then the French trains; so much for German precision.)

Cost of Living: NICE

Cost of Living: NICE

I did come across the site Numbeo.com which is a community website to measure cost of living all around the globe.  My curiosity was giving me a bigger rash then most mosquitos.  I decided to cross-compare the cities that I have lived in throughout my life.  Of course, the data is based upon major cities so I had to round-up on my actual locations to Kansas City, Indianapolis (close to University of Notre Dame), Philadelphia and Nice.  (nerd note: my comparison doesn’t factor in time so these are all 2011 numbers so don’t cite me for a false premise.)  Not to my surprise, Nice is the winner as far as the most expensive place I have lived in so far.  This non-epiphany happens in spite that I do live in the ghetto of the French Riviera: Nice.  It is surprising how much more expensive are the surrounding communities of Cannes, Antibes, St. Jean Cap Ferrat and the obvious Monaco.  I do chuckle every time I examine these indexes as they always say the center of the world is New York, NY.  That city is always the baseline and ranked at a 100 regardless of time or wirtschaftlichkeit.  Another factor to always keep in the back of your head, these indexes are also constructed based upon on the average salary of the region.  Then don’t forget currency exchange as the Euro is stronger still to the U.S. dollar.  The cost of living won’t feel that more expensive because I receive a salary in Euros; the greater purchasing power.  For one of my American colleagues, this point sucks because her contract states that she continue to be paid in U.S. dollars in spite she (and her family) are living in France.

Cost of Living: PHILADELPHIA

Cost of Living: PHILADELPHIA

I also feel these indexes should be taken with a grain of salt as two important factors are missing: taxes (another post soon to come) and health costs.

So what are the highlights?

  • The overall index for Indianapolis is higher than Philadelphia which is not that different from Kansas City.
  • The highest expenditure in Nice is Utilities (19%); whereas in the States it is Rent, Philadelphia (31%); Indianapolis (19%); Kansas City (22%).
  • The lowest expenditure is Clothing / Shoes on both sides of the ocean; Nice (6%); Philadelphia (4%); Indianapolis (5%); Kansas City (4%).
  • As far as lowest Transportation costs, Nice is only coming in 2nd with Kansas City as the winner.
  • In order to eat (combining Markets and Restaurants) Nice is the winner and Kansas City is the loser.  Clearly the cliché that most of my European colleagues tell me that it is more expensive here to eat out is a false one.
Cost of Living: INDIANAPOLIS

Cost of Living: INDIANAPOLIS

So what is my personal feeling?  Do I really feel poorer?  Well to answer that question, I really have to say give me a couple more years of data collection. 😉 This past year has been unique in that I have spent a lot money due to moving expenses.  Yes at the moment I feel my purchasing power is lower than when I was living in Philadelphia.  I have been cautious on my spending just because my nervous personality fears the unknown.  I loath the fact I have returned to car ownership and its related costs.  I agree with the above data that Utilities are expensive in France but my personal budget is still showing Rent as taking the biggest bite.  On the other hand I feel financially empowered by the affordable public transport and there are plenty of leisure things to do for free (the beach, street parties, fireworks, staring at the ocean from my terrace, etc.).  Let’s not forget I can explore several corners of Europe for little over 100 Euros – by plane.

Cost of Living: KANSAS CITY

Cost of Living: KANSAS CITY

The bottom-line is that I do have wirtschaftlichkeit and I am not drowning in debt unlike most people/governments.  For making such a drastic change in one’s life, I will wear my coat of pride.

If you really enjoy statistics such as these, I encourage you to participate in Numbeo.com.  The site is dependent on more and more people to enter data of their own budgets to better define the indexes.

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Categories: Everyday Life

Love It or Leave It . . . It Is August!

1 August 2011 Leave a comment

Time is up!  Whatever you have left undone in your office, home or neighborhood – you are just going to have to leave it.  August is at the door and he wants you!  It is time for you to go to paradise.  I am not talking about some out-of-the-body experience here.  It is a temporary moment to truly breathe and relax (in theory) before September arrives with full gusto.

Is It August Yet?

Is It August Yet?

They have always said that everything shifts to lower gear in France during August.  I have to bare witness that yes, in fact, it does.  Whether you like it or not, life around you will take on a new energy – a pensive one.  Depending how you approach life, this change may not be bliss and actually raises the potential of some frustration.

At work, there is definite change of mood as the speed of all projects is alleviated.  The word deadline walks around without a proper definition.  Not to mention you walk down the hallways and there can easily be an eerie silence.  Things don’t come to a screeching halt, we are still an international IT firm that has clients looking at a different calendar and living in a different season.  So it is business as usual.  The colleagues who are in the office in a way look forward to this month as it is a great time to catch up on smaller projects.  There are fewer distractions.  August is also a time to exhale after the July rush to complete projects in order for everyone to go on vacation.

What about outside of work?  I have to adjust my way of life in several manners.  My bus (#230) that carries me to work every day now has a different summer schedule.  My wonderful 5:09 p.m. express bus after work is now a local bus.  During off-peak hours, the bus now only comes every hour instead of every 30 minutes.  I don’t blame them, there is plenty more room on the bus with fewer passengers – so why run as many buses on the road?

I have enjoyed that my neighborhood post office is open until 6:30 p.m. allowing me to pick up any letters or packages right when I get home.  Well I just saw the new hours posted for August and they are now closing at 5:00 p.m.  If I need their services, I will have to wait till a Saturday morning.

My favorite boulangerie has announced on their front door that come August 15th, they will be closed all together until September.  I will have to buy second grade bread?  I did what any good French person would have done – rolled my eyes and complained to the first person I met.

So where are my bus driver, postal worker and baker going on vacation this month?  In 2011, they are staying in France.  I have seen several news stories that the French are taking their vacation domestically.  With the talk of an economic uncertainty and the revolutions in the Arab world, the French are choosing to leave their passport in the closet and program their GPS to another region of France.  I can feel it first hand since Nice is a key tourist destination.  I don’t have any exact numbers but there feels like a lot more people this summer in Nice compared to last year.

Because Nice is a travel destination, there is a flip side to all this vacation energy.  For one month it is easier to do food shopping.  The little market across the street is now open all day Sunday instead of just a half day.  The supermarché down the street is now staying open an extra 30 minutes in the evening till 9:00 p.m.  Everyone has got to eat!

So how am I defining my August?  Well for one, I am taking all my Mondays off for the month.  I mean why bother working a full workweek?  Then the last week of August I am off to Bordeaux to meet a close friend and classmate at the Alliance Française de Philadelphie.  That trip will be another great opportunity to see another corner of France, home to one of the oldest wine growing regions.