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The Cost of Living in Europe (After 8 Months in Asia)

by Globetrooper Todd | 6 Responses
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, 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 centre 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 different 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, 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.
Posted in Germany, India, Thailand | September 18th, 2011

6 Responses to The Cost of Living in Europe (After 8 Months in Asia)

  1. I’d take Berlin over Montreal or any other place in Canada. I just relocated here from Toronto myself. :)

    A few things about the above article:

    - A one way ticket costs 2.30 euros not 2.20 euros. You also need to remove the $ sign before the listed price of the one way ticket.
    - If you’re going to traveling around the city a lot via public transit, it’s more economical to buy day, weekend, week, month passes. Transit costs will be reduced substantially.
    - No one buys really bikes “new” in Berlin. You can buy one for as low as 20 – 30 euros at any flea market.
    - You can find much cheaper rents in Berlin even in the more expensive and trendy areas. You’re paying way too much.

    • Hi Cheryl, thanks for dropping buy. May I ask how you’re staying here long term? Do you have a work visa? We were just talking about this amongst the three of us here. Thanks for spotting the metro mistake, all fixed. As for apartments, you mention we can find much cheaper, but we looked and looked and looked. We’re paying 750 Euro for a big 1 bedder in Rosenthal Platz. Keep in mind it’s furnished and only for 2 months. I imagine it’s much cheaper unfurnished and for longer term. Would love any tips though, in case we return.

      Also interested in why you prefer Berlin over Montreal. One of our group (not me) is from Montreal, and he says the same. I personally loved Montreal. But I guess we’d all rather be anywhere but home. I’m not big on Sydney, but other people love it.

  2. Hey Todd – I think I may have met you at a Toronto Travel Massive meet-up some time last year.

    I am here on a working holiday visa that lasts until June. Hoping to find someone to hire me long term though!

    Where did you look for flats? Did you try Craigslist or some of the other flat sharing web sites? Mine is furnished too and I am paying about the same price but everyone locally has told me I am paying too much.

    I love Berlin as it’s such a great place to be … the relaxed feel, the creative vibe, the energy of the start-ups, the fact the rest of Europe is at your door and the long list of weird and wonderful things to do. Montreal is nice, but nothing at all like Berlin.

    • Yeah, I was at one of the Toronto meetups. I remember it was about minus 20C. One of the coldest days I’ve felt.

      We searched craigslist, airbnb (asking for long term) and a few German sites. At first we were trying to find a place for the 3 of us, but in the last day or two we decided it was much easier to find two smaller places.

      Hey, if you’re free and want to catch up, let me know. I read on your site that you’re looking to work at a tech startup. So maybe we can talk shop. We’re here to work on a new startup and Felipe (a guy staying with us) is the founder of twtvite.com, twtpoll.com and a few other apps. My email is todsul(at)gmail.com.

      All the best, Todd

  3. Good article but I have to say that Berlin is the cheapest city in Europe. Italy, UK, France are more expensive than Berlin.
    In London a room would cost the same of an entire appartment in Berlin, public transport are crazy expensive. Same in Italy (Rome and Milan).
    I think you would feel the difference more here than in Berlin.

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