Register ← Return to Sign In or Edit Profile

Returning to the Developed World Makes Us Nervous

by Globetrooper Todd | 6 Responses
Developed Countries

When we left Australia, we started our trip in Canada and slowly made our way to less developed countries like India. We thought it made sense to ease into life on the road.

It’s quite ironic now that we’re a little worried about heading back to the developed world. Clearly not for the culture shock, but rather for comparative value. I wonder if we’ll enjoy somewhere that costs five times more but doesn’t offer the same sensory overload.

Either way, we’ll soon find out when we head to Europe in September. I’m already taking bets on how long we’ll last.

A Matter of Expectations?

I often joke that cheaper food tastes better. But more often than not, I’m not actually joking. I really do enjoy cheaper food.

Take India for example. I loved heading out to buy street food and loved to talk about how good it was like some evangelical nutcase. “Yummmm, isn’t this banana paratha sooooo good!”

Then take New York. I’ve never been so disappointed over and over again by food. We once paid $20 for fish & chips and it was atrocious. “But this is New York, isn’t everything meant to be the greatest.”

From these comments, I wonder if it’s just a case of expectations. In India we expected the worst, so it was easy to be pleasantly surprised. Whereas in New York we expected the absolute best and it would be hard for anywhere to live up to those expectations.

Is the Gap Really That Big?

When I think of the cost of living in India, I think of samosas that cost 3 rupees. Of course, they only cost us 3 rupees in Assam and were actually 10 rupees in Bangalore.

The same goes for New York. I can’t help think of the $20 for fish & chips or the $80 for a French-inspired dinner. But we also spent $8 at a deli, where the food was miles better than many of the celebrated establishments.

Taking that further, we prefer to cook for ourselves, even in somewhere like India where you can eat out 3 times a day for less than $5 in total. But in India, the food we liked to cook was expensive compared to the legumes that locals would buy. So does this close the gap further?

If I continue to play devil’s advocate against myself, when we splurged in India, dinner cost about $40. In Montreal, a splurge would be $60-80. (Sydney is on another planet in this respect, so we’ll just ignore it for now.) So what seems to be a huge gap in the cost of living, may not be so bad after all.

Heading to Europe

As displayed on the itinerary from our WP World Travel plugin, we’re heading to Berlin in September. We hear it’s similar to Montreal in many ways, but especially that it’s relatively cheap when looking at the surroundings.

There’s no doubt that Berlin will cost more than most places in India or Thailand, but maybe the gap will be smaller than we think. From estimates, I think Lauren and I can live comfortably in Chiang Mai for $1k per month. Whereas in Berlin I expect it to be closer to $2k per month (not really 5 times more at all).

The real benefit of moving to Berlin is what it offers our business projects. It’s currently considered a startup hotspot with lots of investors and other industry contacts. So we’ll see if these benefits outweigh the higher cost of living. If not, you may see us return to the nearest developing city near you.

I’ve also done some research and come across many resources that list cheaper European travel activities. Of course Eastern Europe is cheaper, but even in the UK many of the attractions are free. In India and Asia, foreigners are often charged more for attractions that would otherwise be free in the West. So this is another consideration that may close the gap.

For example, check out the Interactive Guide for British Tourism. We may head to the UK after Berlin for visa reasons and because both Lauren and my ancestry is UK-based. So this guide will come in handy.

Posted in Adventure Travel, India, United Kingdom, United States | July 22nd, 2011

6 Responses to Returning to the Developed World Makes Us Nervous

  1. I can definitely vouch for this being a real issue. After traveling a lot in Thailand and South Africa, going back home (Vancouver) is just painful when it comes to food prices. Not just eating out, but buying groceries even generally costs twice as much.

    Like you say, cheaper food tastes better… I think in many cases this is quite true :).

    I’ve been to both Montreal and Berlin in the past 9 months and I can vouch for their prices being comparable in terms of food. Berlin may be a bit more costly but not by much. And you can’t go wrong with the currywurst!

    • Thanks for the tip Scott. I feel like some currywurst right now and I don’t even know what it is. Sounds good.

  2. I’m starting to think about this too. Admittedly, I’m in one of the cheapest places in North America (Guate). Going home for a visit, though, is making me wonder. I’m already adding things up. Falafel kebab for $6–that’s what I was spending two weeks ago *per day* for everything. Hostel’s $25/night–that’s like 3 days’ travel.

    I agree, though. I’m not so worried about culture shock. Sticker shock, though, that I’m expecting. Luckily, I have a couple months still to figure out how to deal with it. And a week in Costa Rica should help there….

    Good luck in Berlin.

    • Thanks J. I like the line too, “not so much culture shock but, sticker shock”. I was surprised to hear the other day how cheap some places in the US really are. We had dinner with a couple from Nebraska and the prices they mentioned sounded nothing like the prices in Australia at any time in the past 15 years.

  3. The same points can apply within a continent, country or even a city, as you mentioned about New York. The differences just within the U.S. Canada and Mexico as we have travelled around the past few years are stark. Have to agree also that street food is ofter the best.

Leave a Reply to Scott Hadfield Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *