View Full Version : Sky-high prices in the UK!

John Gearing
07-23-2006, 04:03 PM
Went to England a few weeks ago (sadly, no time to look up John R. Smith, but may try to do so in October; to those who don't know of him, go over to people and places and read the wonderful little essays he wrote about his adventures in "Lulu", and know too that at one time the members of the bilge chipped in and bought JohnRSmith a real souwester of his very own)....

and I was astounded at the prices of things! Everything seemed to be about twice what it is in the US. Today an American friend called me from the Fairnborough (sp?) Air Show to report that his admission ticket had cost L27, or almost $55! Are the salaries over there double what they are here, or is the standard of living just a heckova lot lower?

UK bilge-mates, info please!!

07-23-2006, 04:10 PM
John, when I travel over there I have found that UK Pricing is the same. A drink in the US is $1.00 and in the UK it is 1 GBP (just an example), but the exchange rate kills you. 1 gbp = $1.84 (+/-)
I have wondered about the standard of living too. My friend in Chesterfield gets along pretty well, but no fancy cars, no frills, nothing like all the gotta haves that we excpect on this side of the pond.

Ed Harrow
07-23-2006, 04:29 PM
Gasoline is not the only thing that's cheap in the US. It might be interesting to come up with a list of common items and do some international price comparing.

07-23-2006, 05:14 PM
I've had this talk with John Welsford about NZ prices too. Most things have "number parity": something that costs $US1 costs $NZ1, but the exchange rate means that you're paying 40% (or so) less.

Imports are spendy everywhere. ;)

Paul Pless
07-23-2006, 05:32 PM
It might be interesting to come up with a list of common items and do some international price comparing.

This basket might be a nice place to start, its the one the 'pros' typically use.

FOOD AND BEVERAGES (breakfast cereal, milk, coffee, chicken, wine, service meals and snacks)
HOUSING (rent of primary residence, owners' equivalent rent, fuel oil, bedroom furniture)
APPAREL (men's shirts and sweaters, women's dresses, jewelry)
TRANSPORTATION (new vehicles, airline fares, gasoline, motor vehicle insurance)
MEDICAL CARE (prescription drugs and medical supplies, physicians' services, eyeglasses and eye care, hospital services)
RECREATION (televisions, pets and pet products, sports equipment, admissions);
EDUCATION AND COMMUNICATION (college tuition, postage, telephone services, computer software and accessories);
OTHER GOODS AND SERVICES (tobacco and smoking products, haircuts and other personal services, funeral expenses).

Oh yes, don't forget to delineate the various issues surrounding taxation.

John Gearing
07-23-2006, 06:35 PM
Okay, I'll start. Gasoline was about L1.0 per liter, which rounds out to about $8 a gallon given the exchange rate when I was there. Rent for a small, inexpensively furnished, 3 room apartment located above a convience store in a town 25 miles south of London is about $2200 a month; this is about what a place twice as big with central air, all utils paid and located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan (vicinity 80th and 1st) costs. Other housing examples: duplexes and even quad-plexes selling for $300k and up. And I am thinking these are not freeholds, but leaseholds? And how is it that my favorite Lagavullin 16 yr old single malt costs roughly 30% more within an hour's drive of the distillery than it does at my favorite place over here? And yet, on Saturday in this particular English town I saw scads of flash cars: BMWs, Porsche's, a Bentley (new one), a Ferrari, Lambo, a few Mercs. Bimmers were the most plentiful of the lot, with Boxsters not far behind.

P.I. Stazzer-Newt
07-23-2006, 06:45 PM
You'll have a hard time driving for a whole hour from the Lagavullin distillery.

Gary E
07-23-2006, 07:11 PM
Prices of stuff does not mean much unless you also state the incomes for like jobs.

And that price of gas??? Most of it is the TAX imposed by their govmint.
The raw material, Crude Oil, cost them the same as it does everyone else in the world.

07-23-2006, 07:19 PM
The dollar has been falling against other currencies for months. This is NOT the time to go abroad.

John Gearing
07-23-2006, 08:26 PM
Yeah, I know, Lag is made on an island. But there I was in Oban at the distillery (Lag is also under this corporate banner), which is not too far from where I could get to where Lag is actually made, and in the main hall they of course had Lag for sale.

As for jobs, I took a look at the posters outside a recruiter's office. Basic clerical jobs could be as low as L7/hour, but quite a few higher level clerical positions were in the $34K range give or take a couple of thou. Saw a few manager spots for around $80k but most seem to be closer to $50k. A friend I have there says his company is hiring computer/business ops analysts at around $60k, which seems to be about the same as he said they make here in the States. Now up in the Hebrides I saw some jobs that paid more than I expected but I'm thinking there must have been some differential involved due to the remote location. Saw an article in one of the London tabloids (one wihthout page 3 girls) trumpeting the creation of another few thousand who had earned at least $1million last year; but the article went on to say that except for those who got it as family money, the vast majority of the millionaires were either bankers or lawyers who worked in the financial heart of the country, the square mile known as The City of London.

John Gearing
07-23-2006, 08:29 PM
It's not that the dollar is weak. My friend is making the same money (on an absolute basis) he did in the US but in England it goes half as far.

How does your average Brit do it?

07-23-2006, 10:42 PM
Isn't London now the most expensive city on earth to live in?

John Gearing
07-23-2006, 10:50 PM
Could be, Meer. The town I was in is called "Guildford" and is apparently known throughout England for its high cost of living. I even met a woman on the Isle of Skye who said she and her husband had moved down that way around 1990 to work for a few years and they had found it quite expensive. Not that petrol or most goods are any cheaper in Western Scotland. Houses were, a bit.

P.I. Stazzer-Newt
07-24-2006, 03:00 AM
Fuel and whisky are generally spendy because of the high duty levels (tax).

Distillery shops are "tourist mines" so it is doubleplusextra spendy.

Housing is a disaster - probably the worst single aspect of the UK economy - prices are artificially high due the the long term shortage engineered by the planning (zoning) laws and the inate nimbiness of the natives.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
07-24-2006, 04:24 AM
We simply have much less land.

It becomes difficult to compare apples with apples. The building codes are different; British housing is more expensive both from the point of view of buying the land and obtaining planning consent and from the point of view of actual construction.

I am not that bothered by paying US$ 8 per gallon for road diesel, although I drive 34,000 miles a year, because I think that is the "fair" price for it. I would like to see aviation fuel taxed internationally at the same rate.

Yes, our standard of living is certainly lower, measured on the goodies index, and quite probably our quality of life is lower also, although it is extremely difficult to measure this sensibly.

I don't pay for medical care (well, actually I am in a company insurance scheme, but in the UK these schemes are aimed at getting you priority treatment for elective surgery, only - everything else is NHS.

By choosing to live in an area of high house prices (a small market town or 12,000 people , on an estuary, about 80 miles from London) I can be assured of good free state education for my two sons and a pleasant, safe, environment for my wife as well.

In the USA we would certainly be living in a bigger house.

Garrett Lowell
07-24-2006, 05:31 AM
My France and UK colleagues come over to the DC area about 4 times a year and they marvel at the lower prices for consumer goods. Not just some things, everything (according to them). Same with my India colleagues, though here we're only referencing electronics. The flip side is that the Schuco toys I like to get for my son are about 60% cheaper in the UK.

Paul Pless
07-24-2006, 06:56 AM
Isn't London now the most expensive city on earth to live in?

More expensive than the cities in Japan?

Gary E
07-24-2006, 09:10 AM
Is it your Value Added Tax that make stuff cost so much?

What does a Big Mac cost ?

Order of Fries?


07-24-2006, 09:22 AM
Comparing prices across countries is difficult, very difficult. One measure some economist use, is the average number of hours one has to work to afford buy item X. That seems to be a fair way of comparison.

07-24-2006, 09:28 AM
Ideas are cheaper over here too, check out our prez.

Oyvind Snibsoer
07-25-2006, 05:53 AM
The world's most expensive city is - surprise - MOSCOW. Then comes Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong, London, Osaka, Geneva, Copenhagen, Zürich, Oslo, and New York. See http://www.finfacts.com/costofliving.htm

John Gearing
07-28-2006, 08:33 AM
Based on my recent experience in the UK, it seems likely to me that there is a sufficient market for those goods (just about all of them, IMHO) that seem so highly priced to a Yank. If the market wasn't there, then presumably the price would have to drop. And it seemed evident that there are some people that are not bothered much by price. Recall that I saw tons of Bimmers, Jags, Porsches on the road. These are not cheap cars. And the estate agents ("real estate offices" here in the States) hardly had a single-family 3BR house with a garage for less than about $600K. If no one could afford this stuff, prices ought to be falling. So who's buying? I doubt it is the personal assistant making $38k a year. And as I mentioned, my friend's UK office hires business analysts for about $58k/year, which is exactly what they would pay over here. On the basis of this very limited sample, I'd guess that in the UK one has to work between 1.5 and 2.0 more hours to afford a given product than one has to here. But what I suspect is happening is that there is a large gap between those at the upper end and those around the middle. That would account for the plethora of expensive cars and super expensive houses in and around this market town of Guildford, which my sources tell me is known as having the highest per capita income in southern England.