11 February 2007

How Much???

I have a confession to make. I am cheap.

No really, I am. I don't like to pay a lot of money for anything.

This is causing some issues here in Switzerland, where everything is expensive!

I was a librarian for more than 10 years. Trust me when I say that librarians make very little money. (Especially given the fact that an advanced graduate degree is required, but that's a topic for another post!)

As a result, I have spent most of my adult life scrimping and saving and literally living from paycheck to paycheck. I never thought about it that much. It was just the way I lived and it was familiar to me.

Even after we got married and there was breathing room, I have continued to live with a close eye to how much things cost and am known to frequently say things such as "we don't really need that." Much to GLH's frustration, I might add. But we lived in Kansas City, with a very low cost of living even by American standards. So it wasn't a big deal.

Since moving to Switzerland, I am now in a near state of shock. Even a trip to the grocery store causes heart palpitations. After the exchange rate, a box of cereal is nearly $5! GLH loves roast beef sandwiches, but at the equivalent of $42 per pound he'll have to get used to ham. And the other day I figured out the exchange rate for a small steak. $60 per pound? I don't think so!

Do not even get me started on the cost of clothes and so on. I desperately need to go shopping. I've lost over 15 pounds since moving here. My clothes are literally falling off. But I just cannot see myself paying 150 CHF for a pair of jeans. Not when I am accustomed to popping into the store and paying $30 for ones that are just as nice. And are easily found in a Size Tall. We were planning a trip to the United States some time this Spring. I'll buy clothes then.

Before moving here I was warned to prepare for the culture shock. I was told that following the long list of rules is what triggers it in most Americans.

The rules are not so bad. After all, I was brought up in a German-American family. Rules are a way of life.

It's the shopping that is causing the culture shock for me!


Kirk said...

We had the same experience, and all I can tell you is that now we hardly bat an eye at the prices. It took a long time, but at some point I stopped automatically converting everything in my head to dollars (except for the big-ticket items, which still make me shake my head). It also helped to realise that since our income and expenses were in francs, the relative prices didn't matter quite as much.

You'll probably even notice a big difference when you go to Germany/France/Italy--all of a sudden everything except gas costs at least 25% less.

Sara said...

my advise (much like what Kirk said) is to stop converting the prices to dollars, especially now that the dollar is so weak and the Swiss Franc is so overvalued. I decided to stop doing that when I first moved to Geneva (at which point the husband was still in France) and my tiny, less than 30 sq meter studio was more than %50 of my grad student salary in the States.
I'm no economist so I can't say anything about why, but everything costs more and salaries are much higher (including for grad students, thankfully).
It makes more sense to compare the cost of something to your total salary now and the cost of the same thing in the states to your old salary, otherwise you will never buy anything here!

Anonymous said...

Trip to the US???? When when when when when????? I need to make sure I plan it into my schedule, are you coming to see me?? Are you?? Are you??? Are you??

Global Librarian said...

Hey Kirk & Sara - I know. And I keep telling myself that. But somehow I cannot stop doing it. Hopefully it will fade in time...

To Anonymous - I don't know if I am coming to see you! Who are you? :-)

A Librarian said...

I have a bunch of "fun" books that I read over the holidays (a couple have some tiny teeth marks in them) that I was planning to send to you. Do you want me to throw in a pair of jeans while I am at it:)

Global Librarian said...

Thanks, AL. Fortunately I have a pair of jeans that were too small, but now fit. So I have at least one pair that actually fits. At least for now.

Also, I washed my too large jeans in hot water and then put them in the dryer. Along with a safety pin, that seems to be working mostly o.k.

Jessica said...

Hmm, I agree, converting is not a great thing to do, because it does prolong the sense of culture shock. However, I'm not just going to forget about the cost of food either. I think it's ridiculous. I make a fuss EVERY time we go shopping. 6 Francs for a head of Cauliflower? 1.50 for ONE cucumber? It is NOT just meat.
However, commend yourself. Almost everyone else here gains weight. I gained twenty pounds in six months!

Global Librarian said...

I had health issues for most of last year. As a result of what was going on, I gained approximately 60 pounds.

I am healthier now and my body is rebalancing itself. As a result, the weight I gained is coming back off. That's why I am losing so much so quickly.

However, I really do not know how people move to Switzerland and gain weight. Truly. Do they not have to climb the same hills? Do they not go to the same restaurants with reasonable portions and natural ingredients instead of preservatives and trans fat?

Do they not have to lug all their groceries up one of those hills, thus making it so you purchase only what you need? Junk food is just not worth it.

For the first time I can remember I am not worrying even in the slightest about exercise. Just doing my errands gives me enough exercise to exceed the recommended amount.

Carrying my groceries back up the hill even counts as weight lifting!

gls said...

Oh sorry, was in a hurry this morning.
Anonymous = caring lovable younger sister who misses you.

And I am pretty sure you figured that out anyway.


The economist point of view: the important thing is not converting; the thing is how much of youyr income it is. Maybe in the US a pair of jeans were 30 usd, but it maight have represented a 10% of your income, while in Switzerland, jeans are at a higher price, but, how mucho do they represent in your income?

Anonymous said...

Clothes can be expensive in the U.S., as well. Especially if you're a guy. The other day, I went to La Boutique Target. Bought two pair of slacks, a pair of jeans, a couple of shirts and a Diet Coke. $37!