A Breakdown Guide For The Cost of Living in Europe

cost of living

We just spent 8 months in developing Asian countries living quite cheaply. Before leaving, I wrote that we were somewhat anxious about our impending move to Europe; partly due to cost, but also in dealing with undesirable weather and straight-laced Europeans.

Now, after a full week in Germany, I can safely say I was wrong on all accounts (except maybe the weather). Food is surprisingly cheap, the property is shockingly cheap, and guess what, Germans are anything but straight-laced.

Renting an Apartment

  • Renting an apartment in Thailand is unbelievably cheap; we paid US$300/month
  • In Berlin (Germany) we’re paying about $1,100/month
  • Granted, we’re in the center of Berlin in a gorgeous period apartment
  • If we rented a similar apartment, it would be about $700/month
  • In Thailand, utilities are extra, so the cost went to about $450/month
  • So the difference is about $250/month

Buying an Apartment

  • Let’s use Lauren’s apartment in Sydney as a base, which is worth about $400k
  • In Montreal (Canada), a similar apartment in an equally desirable location would be $250k
  • In Bangalore (India), as above, the apartment would be about $200k
  • In Chiang Mai (Thailand), the apartment would be $50-100k
  • In Berlin, it’s about $60-120k

The lady we just rented our apartment from said you’d be crazy to rent in Berlin, before quickly suggesting it’s okay for short term. I think she’s right, a property is super cheap to buy, but not-so-cheap to rent.

Food Glorious Food

  • A German sandwich starts at 0.80 Euro, about US$1.10, but most are about 2 Euro, so $2.80
  • Pizza across the road from us (in Berlin) starts at 2.50 Euro, which is $3.50
  • I bought a 500ml beer last night for 0.80 Euro, which is $1.10
  • We’re yet to do proper grocery shopping, but so far food looks reasonably cheap
  • Our preferred breakfast (muesli) is cheaper in Germany compared to Thailand
  • Lunch is about the same price, but dinner costs a lot more here
  • On average, for us, food is 30% more expensive in Germany

Transport

  • For the record, we love cities that don’t require public transport (or have cheap taxis)
  • In Chiang Mai (Thailand), a shared taxi is 20 Baht, so about $0.70
  • In Berlin, the metro is 2.30 Euro each way, which is about $3.20
  • Public transport here can get expensive and taxis are way too expensive
  • It’s easy to walk in Berlin, but distances can be far
  • We much preferred the pervasiveness of cheap taxis in Asia, easy and no fuss
  • Berlin transport is on average 5 times more expensive

Anomalies

  • Bicycles seem very expensive here: minimum 500 Euro for a new bike
  • Property manager¬†commissions¬†are very high: 20 to 30% (5-8% in other countries)
  • Beer is about the same price as most of Asia; South America is the cheapest so far
  • I love the idea of pizza for $3.50
Otherwise, Berlin is quite nice. It has a similar grungy feel as Montreal, but it’s a little more widespread, which requires more travel via public transport. English is widely spoken, about on par with Montreal. Now we just have to decide if the low property prices justify relocating here some day.