Thursday, May 26, 2011

Casual price comparisons

A couple people have asked me about it, so here are some very personal, anecdotal, imprecise comparisons of prices in India vs. the States.  The basic  trend is that things you don't really need are expensive/similar to price in the States, absolute essentials and labor are cheap.

Pharmacy - I find this is the most dramatic.  I never get a receipt, so I don't know what individual items cost.  Last time I went to the pharmacy I got 2 tubes of antifungal cream, 4 toothbrushes, and 40 Xanax.  It was under $4.  My copay for a month's supply of name brand prescriptions was $45 in Seattle.  I think Lotrimin is like $8 and what is a toothbrush, $3?  So it would have been somewhere around $75 for me at Walgreens.

Meat - Chicken or mutton or beef on the bone from a butcher in Shivaji market seems to be a little less than the supermarket fare in the States, but not by much.  Meat of totally mysterious origin, deboned, prettily wrapped in celophane and stored in a giant grocery freezer just like home?  Like, expensive and clear across town.  I never buy it.

Produce - Sometimes seems the most expensive thing at the supermarket in the States.  What were tomatoes, $3/lb?  I can get a bag of tomatoes for 20 cents.  A bunch of cilantro is also pennies.  A watermelon is about 50 cents.  I have yet to come across a single produce item I've purchased that was more than $2.  I think those were imported Fiji apples.  A can of imported Rosarita refried beans is $5.

Packaged beverages - 1 lt bottled water is about 25 cents here vs over a dollar.  20oz Coke is probably 50 cents.  I don't buy it enough to know.  A box of milk (like those boxes of chicken stock) is a dollar or 2.  A little more expensive than in the States and lower quality in my opinion simply by being highly pasturized.  You can get fresh milk delivered, but I don't know how yet.

Fast food - A large McSpicy chicken sandwich meal, delivered to your door, is $4.  It is also probably the most expensive meal at McDonalds.  I haven't been to KFC or Pizza Hut yet, but they are everywhere too.  Fast food is an upper-middle class, almost prestigious phenomena here.

Wine - Is pretty expensive.  Domestic wine is similar in price, but much lower in quality than domestic US wine.  I have not found a domestic red I would choose to drink again.  The whites I get on a regular basis range from $5-20 a bottle.  Imported wine is available, but really damn expensive.  I haven't purchased any liquor yet and Boaz handles the bill when we go out, so I'm pretty clueless there.

Cheese - :(  Basically not available.  There are things they call cheese....   You can get tinned, imported, almost passable cheese at some specialty stores.  I don't look at the price when I get it.  Hey!  I did that at home too.  Ignorance is bliss.

Rent - Our unusually cheap 1100sqf, 2 bed 1 bath with fireplace and small patio apartment plus parking in Seattle was about $1100/mo with lease ($1300 month to month).  Our 3 bed, 3.5 bath, private driveway, tiny backyard, and rooftop terrace rowhouse in Pune, which came with 0 appliances, is little more  than half that.  We also have 24 hour guards, water provided, several public green spaces, etc. within our housing society, but no hot tub and the pool is under some kind of dispute.  I find the notices about improving community behavior here amusing and endearing, whereas in Seattle I found them infuriatingly condescending and wanted to torch the leasing office.

Electricity - Always seemed insane to me in Seattle.  Baseboard heat I guess?  I think it was often $200/mo.  My last apartment in Portland was only like $25/mo.  As I just learned, if we run the AC all the time here, it is about $300.  But now that I know that, it will probably usually be more like $100.  For a lot of lower class folks, their only appliances are a tv and a cellphone.  I'm sure that's pretty inexpensive.

Internet service - This is a truly sad state of affairs.  It is apparently impossible to get a totally unlimited, broadband connection in residential Pune anymore.  We have a 40gig throughput limit that is very, very hard to stay under for $20/month.  Even with things like Hulu and Netflix geo-blocked.  Otherwise the service is about as good as Comcast's was for double that.

Maid - Our maid now comes in 6 days a week for a few hours a day.  She does anything and everything, including proffering suggestions about how you should live your life, but in a nice way.  You only have to clean for the maid here, if you're easily embarrassed.  About $125/mo plus supplies.   I imagine it would only cost about a million dollars at home. 

Household goods - Like cookware, linens, knick-knacks seem to be about the same price.  This is probably because I buy the western style stuff in western style stores.  My kitchen, unlike most Indian's, is not filled with stainless steel cups and bowls and trays and sauce dishes.  Sheet sets only come with pillowcases and a top sheet.  Rip.  Off.

Transportation - A metered rickshaw ride is maybe 30 cents/km.  If you're white, or in a nice neighborhood, or it's Saturday, or it's nighttime, or you have a lot of stuff with you, or you aren't going round trip - they will try to get as much out of you as they can.  I usually pay $1-3 dollars per trip, no matter how short.  A non-AC car and likely non-English speaking driver for 8 hours is maybe $40.  I owned a car in the States, so it is hard to make a direct comparison, but it sure is nice to have my soul back.

That's all I can really think of for now.  If you were curious about something I didn't mention, say so in the comments and I'll get back to you.

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