When I told my family and friends I was moving to Bangkok, they were thrilled, sad and curious. “Where will you live? How long are you going to be there for? How will you get around the city? Does it snow there?”
But my Dad only had one question: “How much does a Big Mac cost?”
On the surface it sounds like a silly question, but what he really wanted to know was the relative cost of things in Thailand.
Well, I’ve got your answer Dad: $1.83
Maybe Thai cows are cheaper than American ones, but it’s quite a deal compared to the $3.29 it is in the states (or $3.49 in NYC). For goods that are produced for the Thai population there are many bargains to be found. Food especially is quite inexpensive. Things like rice, milk, eggs and even beer are much cheaper here than their counterparts on the other side of the world. But if you’re a expat looking for a little something from home there is an unfortunate reality; if you want the imports you have to pay big.
Department stores, supermarkets and small shops offer everything you could want at home, from graham crackers to makeup to an iPod. But for all goods that are brought in to satisfy our desire for all things Western (I don’t mean cowboy hats), there is a huge import tax, and in many cases you could pay 30-50 percent more than you would at home.
The most vulnerable place for my wallet has proven to be the grocery store. The excursion to Villa, a supermarket that caters to expats and carries all sorts of American treats, is an exercise in self-restraint and mathematical skills (or if you get a fancy phone, you just cheat and use the currency converter). There are just a few things I can’t seem to relinquish from my culinary routine.
Deciding not to give up my love of red wine, I have instead become a connoisseur of some new winemakers that I might have had an unfair bias against at home.
And what goes better with a not-so-perfectly aged wine, than a delicious fromage. They have some nice mozzarellas, cheddars, brie. But even a block of Kraft American costs $10. Thankfully I’m not that desperate yet. But if I start eating individually wrapped cheese slices, one of you is going to have to step in with some gouda.