Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Greece vs. USA price comparison 2008

Euro vs. Dollar
Photo from the Kuwait Times

The Living in Greece price comparison between Greece and America started in 2007, after a trip to the United States made clear we were being charged considerably more in Athens for groceries and double the price for things such as milk, mouthwash and shampoo.

Is Greece expensive? It isn’t cheap to live anywhere these days, but fuel prices have come down and the euro-dollar exchange rate is back at levels from last year, so it’s an excellent time to publish a price comparison for 2008 and you can see for yourself.

Author’s note

Prices have risen 10-25 percent since doing this chart, salaries have fallen 25-40 percent, everyday VAT/sales tax rates now reach up to 23 percent, the price of fuel skyrocketed in 2011 and never came down, public transport ticket prices doubled, and the unemployment rate is now 27.6 percent, the highest in the EU as of May 2013.

*Last updated August 8, 2013.

How it was compiled

New York City and Athens were used to determine costs because Mercer ranked them #22 and #25 respectively on their Cost of Living survey for 2008.

To determine grocery and product costs:

I used whatever price was higher from stores in New York or California for the U.S. price. New York was chosen for the reason stated above, and California was selected because it is the 8th largest economy in the world and historically the most expensive American state. Both U.S. cities (#29 and #49) have considerably higher standard/quality of living than Athens (#77), according to the Mercer 2008 survey.

Shop Rite was selected for New York, Safeway for California and Alfa Bita for Greece. The New York and California supermarkets are superior in quality/selection and located in comparable suburbs on par with the northern Athens suburb in which we did our survey to equalize demographic and affluence. Many argue that Alfa Bita is the most expensive Greek supermarket chain, but I found this to be untrue as prices are often the same or lower than Sklavenitis and Carrefour for the same products.

The same brands of the same quality and same circumstances were compared. Either both products were home grown or both imported — I also allowed a home grown Greek/EU product against an imported product for the USA, even though this is technically unfair to the USA.

To determine service costs:

In comparing ‘service’ costs such as Internet or cell phone subscriptions, I took everyday costs not special limited-time packages, since it would give America a deeper advantage than is already shown. Other carriers may have lower prices, however the same carriers were used from 2007 for consistency.

What about clothes and furniture?

Things like clothes, shoes and furniture were not included because competitive pricing would again favor America.

Are costs higher/lower elsewhere in Greece?

Prices in more remote villages and islands tend to be higher because of fuel costs involved in transporting goods. In tourist destinations, many vendors use location and convenience to their advantage by inflating prices (some to the point of price gouging), in hopes of earning sufficient profits during summer to offset closing in winter.

Can cheaper prices be found?

Yes, but this survey is not about finding the cheapest possible price; it is about comparing the same quality brands with each other in two countries. If I’d used the absolute cheapest price without regard to brand, quality, location or supermarket, America would have won by a wide margin.

Protocol and explanations pertaining to this survey are shown at the bottom, and they are more than fair. In fact it is highly unfair to the USA where prices of 10-40% lower are possible with the same quality, even in affluent neighborhoods. Athens prices could only go another 10-40% lower at lower class supermarkets with significantly compromised quality, i.e., razor-thin toilet paper. It is important to read the fine print that follows the table before crucifying the comparison.

How do prices compare to last year?

Tables illustrating U.S. inflation and Greek inflation in one year can be found at, “Greece vs. USA: Inflation in one year.” If you’d like to see the original survey from June 2007, click “Greece vs. USA price comparison 2007.” This article was plagiarized by a Greek newspaper in May 2008 without crediting me as the author, and a number of Greek TV programs on the same subject followed, coincidentally or not.

Why is everything shown in metric?

Greece and most of the world use the metric system. Therefore, all weight and volume measurements in ounces or pounds were converted to liters and grams, and prices were scaled accordingly. Please keep this important fact in mind if doing a comparison of your own.

Why isn’t the table in dollars?

The price comparison is not in U.S. dollars because the target country is Greece, and Greece uses the euro. If you would like to calculate prices in dollars, use the price shown and multiply by 1.3. For example, a 1.5 liter bottle of Coke in Greece is €1.42 x 1.30 = $1.85. The same 1.5 liter bottle of Coke in the USA is €0.87 x 1.30 = $1.13. (Note: Coke is bottled in Athens, so paying 39 percent more in Greece is not due to importing).

If prices were listed in U.S. dollars, the difference would appear more dramatic.

Prices in the EU

For those unfamiliar with the EU, these prices do not necessarily reflect the rest of the member states. In fact, Greece was found to be the most expensive or second most expensive EU country by both Greek and EU institutions conducting independent surveys. Therefore, prices will be lower in other European cities.

The Table

All prices shown in euros (€).

ITEM Greece USA
Beverages
Fanta, 1.5 liter 1.42 0.87
Coke, 1.5 liter 1.45 0.87
Orange juice, 1 liter (packaged) 1.19 1.04
4.06 2.78
Dairy
Milk (pasteurized), 1 liter 1.49 0.78
Plain yogurt, 200 g 1.18 0.43
Salted butter, 250 g 2.96 1.49
Unsalted butter, 250 g 1.89 1.49
Margarine, 500 g 0.82 0.43
12 Large eggs 2.82 2.15
Philadelphia cream cheese, 200 g 1.65 1.68
Cheddar cheese, 200 g 2.40 1.68
Ricotta, 250 g 1.85 1.35
Sour cream, 150 g 2.79 0.65
Haagen Dazs, 500 ml (pint)
6.32 3.07
26.17 15.20
Basics
Rice, 500 g 0.55 0.67
Sugar, 1 kilo 0.84 1.08
Brown sugar, 500 g 1.41 0.84
Fructose, 400 g 1.95 0.76
Flour, 1 kilo 0.89 1.08
5.64 4.43
Complex carbs
Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, 500 g
3.79 3.45
Bread (white sliced), 350 g 1.65 0.85
Bread (unsliced oval loaf) 0.69 0.76
El Paso Tortillas (8 ) 2.16 2.53
Lay’s Salt vinegar chips, 130 g 1.16 0.99
9.45 8.58
Pasta
Tomato Sauce, 1.5 liter 1.56 2.03
Barilla sauce, 380 ml (both from Italy)
1.96 1.34
Barilla spaghetti, 1 kilo (both from Italy)
2.08 1.08
Whole peeled tomatoes, 400 g 0.72 0.75
6.32 5.20
Meat
Chicken breast, 1 kilo 8.10 5.57
Chicken drumsticks, 1 kilo 5.67 3.36
Ground beef, 1 kilo 9.39 4.55
Pork top loin boneless, 1 kilo 11.19 4.22
Turkey breast, 1 kilo 6.23 7.09
Bacon, 1 kilo 9.67 5.08
Cooked ham (counter), 1 kilo 14.80 6.76
Hot dogs, 340 g 1.89 1.44
66.94 38.07
Fresh produce
Broccoli, 1 kilo 2.19 1.48
Zucchini, 1 kilo 0.98 2.45
Green beans, 1 kilo 4.47 4.72
Carrots, 1 kilo 0.82 0.68
Mushrooms, 250 g 1.09 0.81
Spinach, 1 kilo 1.57 3.03
Yellow pepper, 1 kilo (both from Netherlands)
6.49 3.39
Onion, 1 kilo 0.58 1.41
Potatoes, 1 kilo 0.47 1.44
Tomatoes, 1 kilo 2.39 2.54
Apples, 1 kilo 1.89 2.37
Bananas, 1 kilo (both from Latin America) 1.67 1.52
Pears, 1 kilo 1.79 3.03
Red seedless grapes, 1 kilo (both from Chile)
3.07 3.37
29.47 32.24
Condiments
Salt, 500 g 0.65 0.41
Pepper, 50 g 0.46 2.03
White vinegar, 500 ml 1.26 1.04
Ketchup Heinz, 340 g 1.70 1.84
Knorr chicken cubes 1.66 1.53
5.73 6.85
Frozen
Frozen Pizza, 320 g 3.10 1.34
Frozen green beans, 450 g 1.55 1.34
Frozen peas, 500 g 1.55 1.48
6.20 4.16
Toiletries
Colgate med head toothbrush, massager 3.02 2.30
Oral B satin floss, 25 m 3.16 1.89
Colgate total whitening, 75 ml 2.49 1.32
Listerine cool mint, 500 ml 6.55 3.84
Fructis 2 in 1 shampoo, 400 ml 4.58 2.39
Dove beauty bar, 100 g 0.87 0.81
Mach 3 Turbo, 8 refills (GR sold only in 4-packs in 2008) 17.98 13.84
Gillette shaving gel Ultra comfort, 200 ml 3.23 2.58
41.88 28.92
Kitchen & Paper
Palmolive ultra, regular, 1250 ml 3.58 3.30
Scotch Brite blue sponge 1.11 0.82
Kleenex toilet paper (12) single rolls 6.15 2.50
10.84 6.62
Media
iPod Nano (8 GB) 159.00 114.64
Apple keyboard 59.50 37.70
TDK CD-R 700 MB 52x (50) 10.95 13.46
Spindle of DVD-R Verbatim (50) 13.49 23.84
Sony memory stick 1 GB pro duo (no longer sold in USA) 24.00 -N/A-
Sony 4 GB pro duo 39.00 40.00
Sony 8 GB pro duo 70.00 76.93
375.94 330.57
Medical
Private doctor’s appt
>60.00 60.78
Chiropractor 85.00 42.31
Birth control pills, 1 month >2.80 16.89
Botox injection 350.00 192.35
497.80 312.33
Maintenance
Men’s haircut, no tip 15.00 11.54
- N. suburbs Greek stylist vs. Manhattan stylist
Women’s haircut, incl 20% tip 70.00 42.32
- UK stylist in Glyfada vs. Manhattan stylist
85.00 53.86
Transportation
Bus, metro/subway, tram
- All modes single ticket (valid 90 min), ATH vs. NYC 0.80 1.54
- All modes monthly pass: ATH vs. NYC 35.00 62.32
- L.A. (comparison only,not totaled) 47.70
35.80 63.86
Communication
Cable (Nova vs. Comcast) 56.40 46.12
- 48 Nova channels vs. 615 Comcast channels
Basic Phone Service 14.76 25.38
- OTE: 34.91 install, per call charge.
- AT&T: no install fee, unlimited nationwide calling 24/7
High speed internet, “24 mbps” vs. 12 mbps 24.90 33.05
- Forthnet vs. Comcast
Cell phone subscription
Vodafone vs. T-mobile
- 300 min 44.50 23.07*
- 900 min 113.00 34.62*
- Cheapest domestic sms 0.10 0.01**
- Cheapest overseas sms 0.20 0.27 (send)
*includes unlimited nights/weekends 0.15 (receive)
**also has unlimited plan for 11.99
253.86 162.67
Room with a view
Hilton Hotel, “King guestroom plus”
during same Sept. dates
all in the city center
all European style
all non-smoking
DSL, newspaper, breakfast
- with prepayment, ATH vs. NYC 345.00 360.84
- L.A. 191.58
- without prepayment, ATH vs. NYC 415.00 360.84
- L.A. 191.58

Comparison protocol

1. A selection of both common and uncommon products/services were used for diversity. Products deemed ‘rare’ in Greece were not used as to not unfairly bias the comparison, i.e., Lactose-free, gluten-free, organic, tomatillos, peanut butter, 100 kinds of breakfast cereal, lemongrass, fresh rosemary, etc.

2. It is a proper comparison of one product/service in Greece and one comparable or identical product/service in the USA with a euro figure shown for each. It is NOT a list with one price in both euros and dollars.

3. Weight (kilo, lbs, gram, ounces) and volume conversions (liter, ml, fl. ounces) were calculated using www.conversion-metric.com

4. A standard euro – dollar conversion rate of 1.00 EUR = 1.30 USD was used throughout for consistency, though the daily rate fluctuates.

5. All prices are shown to two decimal places, rounding the third in the traditional way (1-4 down, 5-9 up).

6. AB, Safeway and Shop Rite all offer free customer cards with incentives to holders. Prices were figured without taking this into consideration.

7. The same brands were compared when possible, otherwise generics were used to obtain the most inexpensive price possible, with attention to equal quality at all stores.

8. Brand name items in Greece were made in Greece or the EC (Coca-cola, Lay’s, Kleenex, etc.); there were no transatlantic imports, except for things that are imported almost everywhere, i.e., Bananas from South America, and media from Japan/Asia. For America, transatlantic imports were consistently used if not made in America because it’s unavoidable (year-round availability is central, and many consumers care about authenticity).

9. If a U.S. item of larger size was used, it was scaled down and calculated equal to the product in Greece. America practices responsible bulk packaging and uses recycled material, so smaller sizes are rare or simply don’t exist. Greece could do the same, which would benefit consumers and the environment, but doesn’t. There is no such thing as Costco in Greece or any warehouse store for grocery shopping.

10. The laiki or local manabis in Greece and many open/farmers’ markets in America all offer cheaper prices on produce, but were both omitted for the purpose of equality.

11. There is no tax on food items in the USA; non-food items carry a tax of between 7.00-9.00 percent, depending on U.S. state. There is tax of 9 percent in Greece. Adjustments were not made for tax because the price of food is what it is.

12. Taking into account there is price variation by area and company/stores in both Greece and America, I realize one can do better or worse at different places in both countries, so I called it even.

13. Since Greece has little or no selection and America has a wide variety of choices and sizes, I used the American item or service most comparable to the item or service in Greece. In doing this, the comparison is more fair to Greece since the USA has “value packs” at huge discounts that would have favored the USA if used.

14. Online prices for things like computer equipment and media were used since they offer nationwide pricing and do not discriminate according to area or individual store owner.

15. Prices for all products were surveyed on June 22, 2008 and again on October 22, 2008.

Related posts

Athens, Greece: Cost of living 2008
Mercer quality/standard of living survey 2008
EU minimum salaries vs. cost and quality of living

* This price comparison took days to research, compile, calculate and code, while consulting others for fairness and accuracy in reporting before publication. Please respect that, even if you may not appreciate it. Republishing information from this article must attribute this website as the source. Thank you :)

Eleftherotypia

Kathimerini.gr

Letter

54 Comments

  panos wrote @ November 10th, 2008 at 08:19

good one, i would be very much interested to see two additions to this list: 1) accomodation cost (rent price, purchase price/sqm) and 2) average and lowest wage. That would give me a more complete picture of the cost of living.

Kat Reply:

P – Legal minimum salaries are already listed in, “Minimum monthly salaries in the EU.” The lowest possible wage is impossible to list because of the black market and exploitation of illegal workers. There is also a comparison I compiled on, “EU salaries vs. cost and quality of living,” which already gives the picture you seek. Please search more carefully next time.

As I said last year when someone asked for this information, rent and home prices are too far ranging by American and Greek city/suburb and neighborhood, age and condition to list. Greek homes really don’t compare in quality, professional planning, architecture or construction to American homes besides that. I’m a private citizen with a full-time career, not a real estate agent or institution paid to spend my time doing this research. You can easily open the the Chrysi Efkairia and another newspaper pertaining to New York/California, and take a look or feel free to compile your own research.

  Vasileios wrote @ November 10th, 2008 at 10:04

Kat,

Very good job on the research of the numbers.

Living in the US I would also like to give another aspect of the problem. Manhattan as you well know is not the norm in the US when it comes to prices and the cost of living, where only 5% of the US population lives around that area. Yet there are other US cities and States where prices are 2-4 times lower than Manhattan, while the salaries remain about the same (isn’t that wonderful?).

On the other hand a bit more than 50% of the population of Greece is conjucted around its capital, Athens; being the only place in Greece that people can find “better” salaries.

My point is

1. Americans have far better choices of more affordable places to live.

2. The difference of prices between the average American and Greek City is wider than the stats show.

Now when it comes to real estate, there is not a true comparison between the US and Greece, because of the way cities have been developed. The truth is that in the US you get a far more for your money in terms of square footage. I would have said that you get a lot more in terms of outter space also, but that depends on people’s taste of living as there are many who prefer the heavily urbanized areas over the suburbs. In Greece unfortunately we don’t have that choice either since all the greek cities are over-urbanized with masses of concrete everywhere.

Kat Reply:

V – NYC (not Manhattan specifically) was selected purely because it was ranked #22 on the Mercer cost of living survey, which is a mere 3 places higher than Athens at #25. When you consider how high cost of living is, and how low quality/standard of living is (#29 and #49 vs. Athens at #77), I think that says it all.

Manhattan is not representative of U.S. cities, let alone the surrounding boroughs of NY (Queens, Brooklyn, etc.). Athens is not representative of all Greek cities, villages and islands. But they were selected for the criteria I mentioned. I make reference to some of the points you mentioned prior to the table, and I agree with you on the rest because they are accurate.

  Cωνσtantίnoς wrote @ November 10th, 2008 at 11:29

Great effort,
especially if you compare it to a similar survey we carried out back on June within Europe (http://ub0.cc/4b/M), where our conclusions were quite similar to yours. (it’s in Greek though)

Kat Reply:

C – My first comparison was in June 2007, then Greek media plagiarized me in May 2008. I intended to publish this in June on the anniversary, but the euro was really strong back then and would have made Greece (and the entire EU) appear more overpriced than it is now. Plus I was buried in work. Thanks for the link. I and many of my readers read Greek, so there will be interest.

  Cheryl wrote @ November 10th, 2008 at 15:01

Great job Kat! It’s nice to see that some of the produce is less here but, wow, the meat is so insanely expensive here! Good time to cut some of the red meat out of my diet :) It’s also interesting to learn that I’m probably paying less for Heinz ketchup here. And, I’m really surprised to see the difference in the cost of DVDs. I would have thought that we paid more for those here…but I guess I was wrong. You’re fantastic! Awesome research once again!

Kat Reply:

Ch – Dairy products, meat and toiletries are nearly double in Greece, so I guess we should be vegans who stink ;) As you, I and many familiar with the USA know, we could indeed find DVDs and other electronics cheaper — in addition to produce, food products, clothes, etc. — at known discount stores (Wal*Mart, Trader Joe’s, BestBuy), warehouse stores (Costco) or a bevy of online stores, but I didn’t use those sources to make it fair to Greece because of course we don’t have those options in Greece. It’s technically unfair to the USA, but I had to level the playing field as much as possible. I attribute the cheaper price of ketchup, tomato paste and red pasta sauce to the abundance of tomatoes grown in the EU, namely Greece and Italy.

  A wrote @ November 10th, 2008 at 15:46

Why are there no Costcos or Sams Clubs in greece? Are there laws that prohibit these types of places? Doesn’t Carrafour have a similar warehouse shopping facility in Europe?

Kat Reply:

A – Before going to Carrefour, everyone kept telling me what a great selection they had and how cheap it was. It’s not that cheap, the selection isn’t better food-wise than Alfa Vita, and they are not widespread so you need to have a car. Also, some are largish and called, “mega” (though small by U.S. standards); most aren’t any bigger than a normal store here. Lidl is cheap, but at severely compromised quality.

My theory about warehouse or discount stores not coming here or being denied licenses has to do with the red tape involved (which you’ve read about), corruption, profiteering, excessive taxation, severe delays in import/export process, strikes, laws protecting businesses, the difficulty in being paid by vendors, permits, parking is an issue, etc. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. An established Greek company would likely need to step in, as Marinopoulos did with Starbucks; and the fact it coincided with Athens 2004 didn’t hurt.

  A wrote @ November 11th, 2008 at 02:31

Yeah, I wondered about those factors and I bet labor cost doesn’t fit their model either. I think costco and sams have branches in the UK, and I think they once had partner relationships with other EU companies (to try and meet the ownership requirements). But I assumed that price controls in the various countries also came into play. I wonder whether the “membership” feature played a role as well; I wonder if that form of club shopping works with access laws in Europe. I would bet that in some countries, there must be a prejudice against this sort of thing, for fear that it will destroy the mom and pop shop, and also, I bet that walmart’s business plan doesn’t square with a consumption tax base.

I have a friend who deals with the Walmart process (Sam’s Club is the walmart wholesale club but we have about 6 membership wholesale buying clubs in most of the US), and he describes it as degrading – every year another cut, every year an endeavor to shave the production cost, because Walmart’s rule is basically a profit share on every unit. When people think they are selling a porsche, this doesn’t work (although a few years ago, Costco was the number one dealer for Ford cars). He’s had to move his production from the balkans to south america to china to meet the unit cost ceiling. But by selling to Walmart he keeps the lights on and the bills paid for his other products.

But the thing is – Costco and Sams have an incredible record in some areas of sourcing local, because it literally creates their sales volume by giving them customers. So its like having a captive audience that takes all of your product, if you are willing to cut your profit margin. For the vendor, this is a riskless transaction and that is why so many companies make the Arkansas rounds. Now that we are in a full recession here, Walmart is one of the only stores to post YOY gains. The last figure for same store sales was something like up 9%.

I saw a survey last week of the cheapest grocery stores – of something like 70 items, on about 55, Costco was the cheapest. Its sad that everyone can’t have access to wholesale pricing in that way.

Kat Reply:

A – It’s too bad we don’t have access to a lot of things here! ;)

  rositta wrote @ November 11th, 2008 at 02:47

You’ve been busy…I found Lidl to be good for staples but not for meat and veggies. I also found prices incredibly high compared to both Canada and northern Germany. That together with the low (comparatively) wages makes me wonder how most people can survive…ciao

Kat Reply:

R – True, Lidl’s vegetables and meat often look like they’re rotting, but even staples can be of poor quality. It sounds like you looked them over and found some good stuff. We cut costs by taking advantage of in-season items, buy when there’s a real “doro” (gift) on a product we already use and get fresh meat from an uncle in the village who is a butcher and fresh eggs from the family’s chickens. We do not economize by buying cheap items because…

  Phillip wrote @ November 11th, 2008 at 08:02

good grief, this is just sickening. and the monthly minimum wage in greece is something like 660. the only way i can make good money is by having three jobs, and i’m under a lot of stress over responsibilities that i have work wise. i just don’t understand how stores can get away with charging so much. or, i don’t understand how companies can pay their employees so poorly. such a strange reality here. where is this going? everyone’s complaining about how expensive it is, but i don’t see anything happening.

i don’t buy greek milk anymore, i buy german milk or wherever it’s from. the quality’s not as good, but if you can buy it for 89 cents vs. 1.40 for greek milk. if you buy things cheaper here, the quality is like not even usable. so you can’t fight the prices by bargain shopping. because the bargains are trash. anyway, i’ll keep my three jobs, because that’s the only way i know to fight against the cost of living.

Kat Reply:

P – As you rightly say, the cheap items are of incredibly poor quality. I really feel for you working three jobs! I know a few people who have two jobs, but I also know the opposite case of people who don’t work and live off property and money given to them by their parents. Must be nice!

  maria wrote @ November 11th, 2008 at 10:30

1.49 for milk? we can pay much less in crete for good quality milk, and I’m only talking about fresh milk in the fridge, not UHT or canned.

MEVGAL EXEIS GALA KATHE MERA costs 0.98 per litre;
NOYNOY FAMILY costs 2.02 per 1.5L (1.35 per litre).
There are also the ‘luxury’ brands of milk which are sold at a premium: KRIARAS goats milk (Cretan product) at 2.20 a litre, and NOYNOY CALCI milk at 2.02 a litre; clearly if you’re trying to economise without forfeiting quality, you can easily go for the NOYNOY FAMILY brand. I buy both MEVGAL and NOYNOY.

Either you’re being charged too much at AB (which I remember being the most expensive supermarket in Athens in the 1990s when I lived there – there was an outlet close to Egaleo where i used to live), or AB stocks only expensive/luxury brands of milk (as i remember it did concerning other products – for instance, you could buy cadbury chocolate and marmite, products never stocked at the time in other supermarkets).

I;d be interested to find out how you calculated the price of milk in the AB supermarket – it seems far too high for a generic brand

Kat Reply:

M – Alfa Bita has all the normal brands of milk — Mevgal, Delta, Fage, NouNou, etc. We buy Delta or Mevgal, and the price shown is from Delta (and that’s with a, “150 ml” doro, which I suspect is not really a doro); it’s the same brand I used last year. AB does carry the American Farm School’s fresh milk from Thessaloniki in glass bottles, but we don’t buy it because it’s upwards of 2 euros a liter and expires quickly. One can buy generic AB fresh milk for .89 a liter, however it expires in 2-3 days, and we don’t use it. The price shown is for pasteurized in both countries. I’ve never heard of “luxury brands of milk.” Maybe cows in Athens are made of gold, I don’t know.

As I stated, I used Alfa Bita because it’s the only supermarket that even comes close to being on par with American supermarkets, except the latter still have better selection, variety and service. We are not comparing outlets in this survey because an American outlet store would stomp Greece. I did it this way to make it as fair as possible.

Selection and price wholly depend on where the store is located. Our store in the southern suburbs has far less selection and is more expensive than the northern suburbs, and I went north to do this survey because it was used as the location in 2007.

  melusina wrote @ November 13th, 2008 at 00:38

Of course I never think about how much more things cost here until your posts come around! Still, compared to salary, prices in Greece are way too high.

As for the Alfa Bita being the most expensive store issue, here in Thessaloniki it is on par with Carrefour prices (if you are a brand whore like I am) and is actually cheaper than Masoutis. We alternate between AB and Masoutis, and since we buy pretty much the same stuff each time we go shopping, I am always comparing our receipts from the two stores.

I still find it hard to believe that a private doctor’s visit in Manhattan is only 60 euros – I was paying $150 to my rheumatologist in Nashville before I moved!

Kat Reply:

M – It’s good to compare to check for a better deal, but of course some items are available at one store and not at others, so it’s a matter of timing and taste. About the cost of doctor’s appointments, the price shown is not for a specialist, it’s for a general practitioner, and one can do better or worse; I chose the middle of the road for both prices after sampling 10 doctors. I think that’s more than fair.

  KT wrote @ November 13th, 2008 at 02:36

how can anyone afford to live in Greece anymore, ?? oh wait, most of them have massive ammounts of land, or rent….anyway, i thought that AB was the best supermarket when I lived in greece, i always bought AB products because they were cheaper and better, (Yes i did get looks and laughs from the cashier and people infront or behind me because greeks dont like store brand names) i trust the germans over greeks anyday…LIDL was okay but it was too far for me to walk to, and i didn’t want to take a cab. but even when i went, i didn’t see what the big deal was….AB all the way !! The city i lived in was way too expensive, it was less stressful because it was quiet and calm, but there were no jobs and prices were outrageously expensive. for instance, i went to athens to buy a scooter for 799 when in my town they we’re asking for almost 1100 . Kleftes.. i dont know what to say ypomoni, hopefully things will get better….

Kat Reply:

KT – And don’t forget tax dodging, the black market and “everyone having olive trees” as a reader once claimed. ;)

  vaios wrote @ November 13th, 2008 at 02:42

Well, everything is so expensive here and quality sucks. Weren’t you supposed to move to some other country some time ago? Please hurry…

Kat Reply:

V – This may come as a shock, but your personal thoughts have no impact on my life. Passing the extra time with a book is a worthy endeavor, as you seem to have a lot of time on your hands. Besides that, how would anyone but my friends know if I’ve left Greece or not?

Telling the truth is called reporting news and sharing experiences, and it’s done by everyone everywhere — why not tell everyone with a contrary opinion of your perfect country to cease and desist? All countries are imperfect, including Greece. Stalking/monitoring a stranger you don’t know or like through her website is indeed fixating.

I hope you find happiness to replace your misery.

  thundera wrote @ November 14th, 2008 at 12:23

Did anyone saw recently at the News that Carrefour, Carrefour Marinopoulos, Atlantic and another brand i dont remember right now (i believe it was Veropoulos), got really big fines from the Greek government because they were tricking their customers?

… And what i mean by tricking is that they had for the same product other price (or no price) on the shelves, different price at the cashier, and a different third price on the advertising flyers they distribute door to door.

Even before this happened i stopped going to those supermarkets because i compared the prices with Sklavenitis and AB and they were cheaper at least in the things i usually buy. Lidl is also good, the quality is not always the best but they have cheap smoked salmon!

Really good work Kat

P.S. If anyone tries to steal your work again i will curse him! No “κουκου” for 3 years at least! xaxaxaxaxa!

Kat Reply:

T – In the past, AB was also fined for price fixing. I hadn’t heard of the “tricking” scheme you mentioned. We always check the price on the shelf, then see how they’re rung up at the cashier. Once in a blue moon, we have an item we cannot identify on the receipt because it doesn’t match anything we bought.

  Alysia wrote @ November 15th, 2008 at 00:19

This was a wonderful read – I don’t know how you got it done, but it is very interesting. I have been so shocked by the prices here! I agree that I would have guessed DVDs were more expensive here than U.S.

You probably know and wrote somewhere about it already – I remember reading that they could choose to price cheaply or expensive (maybe about IKEA?) – but I wonder who profits from these high prices, or if, with meat, the cost of production is just higher? I am shocked by the price of diapers. I paid here at Atlantic for 60 diapers what I would pay at Costco for 120+, and I noticed the price at Carrefour is 4 Euros more.

Anyway, good job and thank you for taking the time.

Kat Reply:

A – Independent institutions who have done research say that profit margins are higher in Greece than all other EU members, so it’s just good ol’ fashioned profiteering and price gouging, with owners getting rich. The government has promised to control prices by assessing fines, but this never works because the fine isn’t enough to discourage it or the person fined never pays anyway. It’s good you’re paying attention and shared that information on diapers. Thanks for making a comment today. It’s always nice to make the acquaintance of new readers or long-time readers coming out of the shadows to say ‘hello’ again. I’m glad you made it over OK. :)

  KT wrote @ November 15th, 2008 at 23:44

well i feel bad for my friend who makes 1500euro and is a single mother trying to raise her teenage daughter, and 500 euro goes to her apartment every month in athens, but she is also a us citizen, so it annoys me when she complains that greece is so expensive, because i tell her to pack her bags and come to the states for a better future for her and her child, but greeks are known to be complainers , and they are known to abuse and cheat the system, and demand for FREEBIES, so No i do not feel bad for them!

Kat Reply:

KT – In your friend’s and many Greeks’ defense, it’s sometimes not as simple as packing one’s bags and moving to another country, especially when there are children, spouses, family obligations and businesses to consider, and no one in the next country to help bridge the transition, which would mean starting cold. We and many I know aren’t the kind of “complaining” people you describe, and out of all the people above, only Vaios complained and did so sarcastically. Everyone else simply stated what they observed, and all I did was compile and provide the information without commentary.

Your comment is obviously one of a single person in her 20s, and no one likes a self-righteous commentator who was whining and pining louder than anyone else as recently as February. You did not first stay in hotels when you moved countries and you had help from relatives in both places, so please don’t tell me you started from zero. I like you, but you have this tendency to judge or misunderstand others without acknowledging the whole truth about yourself.

  Λύσιππος wrote @ November 16th, 2008 at 07:19

As a Greek living in the US, there is something that falls in the “priceless” category: Nostos – the painful craving for one’s return to Ithaca.

Kat Reply:

L – There’s also this thing called “fabricated nostalgia,” which plagues many Greeks who live abroad and haven’t a clue what it’s really like to work and live in Greece on a Greek salary. It’s easy to idealize a place based on idyllic vacations that have nothing to do with everyday reality. People tend to forget pain and why their ancestors left the patrida to begin with.

  K wrote @ November 16th, 2008 at 10:58

You cannot really compare prices in USA to those in Greece because there are lots of differences due to taxation.You should compare between Greece and other EU countries where similar rules apply.
The US market also functions quite differently in my opinion.Free enterprise and consumer power are not very popular ideas in Europe.

Kat Reply:

K – Not to state the obvious, but there are also different rates of taxation within the EU, so you’re essentially saying it’s unfair to compare anything and therefore your suggestion is moot. You are free to look at Constantinos link to an informal comparison they did between EU members. I am free to compare whatever I like, and your opinion of what I should and shouldn’t do is irrelevant. Many in the world appreciate this information if only for the Greek prices because it gives them a basis upon which to compare in their own country and/or an idea of what to expect if they decide to move here.

  K wrote @ November 16th, 2008 at 11:30

I am saying you can compare after making the proper adjustments.
Some reasons for high prices in Greece:
1.Bad roads in Balkans which increase transport costs for some products
2.Communication between shops to raise prices mutually.There is no competition in this way
3.Not giving easy licenses to foreigners to open shops.
4.Having to pay a lot of bribes to keep shop going and not get closed.All these expenses are transferred to the consumer
5.Unelastic demand of many products by greek people due to lack of advertisement of other products(some are even refused to be put in shops).

And a lot more.

Kat Reply:

#1 is an excuse (blaming others is part of the mentality here); transportation costs figure prominently in U.S. products, as they are imported by plane, boat, train and truck, but you don’t hear anyone crying about it. #2 is not done any longer since the committee was formed to monitor this; there is clear competition between chains, i.e., Alysia found a 4-euro price difference, as I have for other items. #3 is true (nationalism and xenophobia are part of the mentality here, and people like it this way from recent polls). #4 and #5 are true, but the govt and “greek people” (you say) feed off each other for a lot of reasons. The only way we can get around paying what we do is to boycott everything, grow and manufacture everything ourselves or leave Greece. Therefore, I don’t make these adjustments because they’re part of the reality of living in Greece. Period.

  FMS wrote @ November 16th, 2008 at 18:46

K: your list of possible reasons for higher prices is reasonable (although I doubt the transport costs are correct), but these are explanations of higher prices. They should not be taken into account when making the price comparisons, and Kat is quite right to refuse to entertain the idea. Points 2, 3 and 4 are actually all issues of law-breaking (even by the state) so this tells you something about why Greece is so ****ing expensive.

Point 5, in my opinion, is a mix of traditionalism and Greek nationalism: for example, Bulgarian wines are much much cheaper than Greek wines but of comparable quality. Since it is next door to Greece and an EU member, you might think that we would see a lot of these wines in the shops. But no, they are almost impossible to find. You can find some cheap (good) Spanish tablewine in AB at 2 euros; and in small shops sometimes some good Hungarian wines at 2,40 (bottled in Thessaloniki, to make sure that Greeks raise the price a little). However, the general pattern is that Greeks buy only Greek wines and that is what you find in the shops. The prices are roughly 250% those of Spain and Bulgaria…

  graffic wrote @ November 25th, 2008 at 21:55

Great and incredible job. Thanks! Now, let me join (late) to the discussion.

@K: General products were compared, from rice to the doctor with an ipod in the middle. If the Greek government eat the 19% of taxes is OUR problem to fix that.

The milk I guess it was a bit expensive, unless you compare the same brand. I get 1,5L for 1,60€

@Valos: Kat can leave, I can leave, but you will continue paying expensive things.

I guess I said this before. Companies can put the price they want to a product, but we’re free to choose it or not. When people finally realize that, then we have a “crisis”; and when they forget, we have a “normal economy”.

  Mihalis wrote @ December 11th, 2008 at 05:13

Hi,

I am currently living in Chicago, IL and I have to admit that I have not seen any grocery store with so cheap prices. Moreover, I feel that you only take into account the shelf prices of the products, without considering the tax. In Greece the tax is included in the shelf price, in USA it is not. Finally, the products that you compare in the countryside of Greece are cheaper than Athens. If anything, the meat, the vegetables and the fruits are produced in the country and have to be transported to Athens. Other services, such as haircutting are also cheaper, because of lower rents. I do not know what is the specific question of the survey, but having lived in Greece (both in Athens and the country) and in USA, I have to say that the overall cost of living is much lower in Greece. I believe that the research is incomplete and can lead to misleading results.

Thank you,
Mihalis

Kat Reply:

Your comment is irrelevant for many reasons. First, the comparison is about Athens, Los Angeles and New York because they were on the Mercer survey, with Athens and NYC having similar rankings and therefore nearly equal. Chicago isn’t being compared, so of course you wouldn’t find prices like these; it’s not about Chicago. Please also remember that prices are in euros, not dollars; so you need to multiply the U.S. price by the euro-to-dollar exchange rate as I clearly state in the article.

Second, prices in the countryside are not necessarily cheaper for food or haircuts. And if they are, you should then compare prices to those in the countryside in NY and California. Why? Because comparable neighborhoods were used. You just can’t pick and choose whatever prices suit your argument. These cities were picked specifically because of their ranking on the Mercer survey.

Third, produce and meat in the USA are flown in by plane from other countries, so I don’t see the point of your argument regarding ground transport to Athens.

Fourth, I do say in the article that food items are not taxed in NY and CA. Food items in Greece are taxed 9 percent. That’s how much it costs to buy food. I’m not going to add tax where none exists in the USA, and subtract tax in Greece where it does. That’s the price of food if you want to buy it. Period.

Please pay attention to details and the research protocol before you critique something, or you risk misleading yourself to conclusions that are incomplete.

  Dimitris wrote @ December 13th, 2008 at 14:56

Your article made the SKAI news.

http://www.skai.gr/master_story.php?id=103887

  A. Spyros wrote @ December 13th, 2008 at 16:46

Yes, but what poor journalism by SKAI …
There is no link to the actual article, and not even a link to this website.

BTW, thanks for your excellent blog Kat !

  greg wrote @ December 13th, 2008 at 17:27

all well said and then some. greece is a fricken third world country — poor quality and overpriced. you also forgot clothes; a polo shirt costs 40 bucks in any store in north america and greeks sell it for 120 euros.

u got to be fricken kidding me!

  Demetra wrote @ December 14th, 2008 at 14:39

I don’t kow where you get your US food prices from but lat week when I was in Colorado springs whch by no means is Manhattan, the prices sucked. The 200gr yogurt is 1.25 and not under a dollar as you mention. Fruit and vegetables are up there with brend oil, 33Cents for one tangerine and that is a Military
Exchange whish is at least 30% cheaper than prices on the local economy. Tomatoes italian tomatini which here we use ONLY for sauces not for eating were 1.89 per Pound not kilo. I live there part of the year and I tell you prices are very very much higher than in Greece. Cheese and meat are very expensive also and as for fish the prices are sky high. I do not mean fishsticks I mean fresh or even frozen fish is very expensive. OK cake mixes are cheap and bread and staples like pasta and sugar and flour but when you go away from that your cost mounds up.
Ready made meals are cheap which are expensive here and you can’t get them in most cases but I am talking about shopping for cooking good wholesome meals. Fresh salmon was $10 per pound in a country that is surounded by cold water seas and full of rivers. Sklavenitis imports it and it is Euro8,90 per KILO (2.3 pound to the kilo) anyway, good for you for having this site and I am sure you like living here otherwise you would have gone back where you came from. Have a nice holiday season and happy new year and as we say in the States “love it or leave it”/

Kat Reply:

I’ll indulge you by publishing your comment, but your criticisms contain several irrelevant elements. First, this comparison was done on NY and CA, not Colorado; and the sources are clearly stated. Second, prices were surveyed on June 22, 2008 and again on October 22, 2008 in all three locations, not last week. Third, you keep saying “you” as if I surveyed these prices, but I didn’t; I knew people would accuse me of being biased, so all prices were survey by Greeks in all three locations on the same day. Fourth, there are no ready-made meals on the survey, unless you count the one pizza. I find that women living off their husbands pay no attention to prices in Greece and just spend money. It’s not until they leave Greece and must account for money that they notice what things cost.

Last, as you know nothing about me and read only four posts (about the mall, greek-american citizenship, comments and this one), you haven’t a clue about me or whether I like living here. And btw, what does presenting facts have anything to do with personal feelings? There is no opinion or analysis contained in this post or any other you read, and I doubt you would criticize me if I were a fellow Greek. Thank you for your knee-jerk, passive-aggressive comment, which illustrates clearly why Greek pride is alive and well (for no reason) and philoxenia is dead.

P.S. A kilo is 2.2 pounds.

  Ναπολέων wrote @ December 14th, 2008 at 14:40

Very good job, Kat {and …cat}.

I ‘ve found you via “Kathimerini”[*] and I ‘ve presented several comparisons in our consumer-orientated open blog: dyityrself.blogspot.com

Some years ago I had “discovered” that in order to have your vacation in a greek island, it was cheaper to go first to …London, pick one of their schemes for vacation in g.i., enjoy your vacation and come back to Athens via London. It was 37€ cheaper and you had as “extra” the trip to London free…

Now it seems that, choosing carefully and buying there a serie of products, someone can have a …free-of-charge trip to N.Y.

Love – Disarmament – Peace
Napoleon Papadopoulos

————-
[*] There is a serious mistake in their presentation of “Beverages”. Tell them to correct it.

Kat Reply:

Unfortunately, Kathimerini (like any publication) cannot correct its error after going to print, and only in rare instances can correct something online.

  YooNoWho wrote @ December 15th, 2008 at 15:22

To reinforce that the prices in USA are generally 50% cheaper than Athens, add my voice. I was in California (returned this week) and shopped for things that I can’t find here in Greece, as well as expensive items here that are cheaper in Los Angeles. On most every occasion, prices at U.S. Supermarkets, retail stores, gasoline, were 50% cheaper. Of course, at some small resort or pricey areas these were a bit more expensive, but still not as bad as Greece.

It’s naive for anyone who has been in the USA (most locations) to think Greek stores can compete with the U.S. Market overall.

Anyone wanting to get a basic price comarison can go to http://www.netgrocer.com or http://www.drugstore.com and see what price Americans pay for things. Even with these websites generally charging a bit more than your local US Grocery store, you’ll still find them cheaper than most any Greek store.

And the final insult. The European car I bought in Athens is double the price of Los Angeles for the same car. Plus in the USA, that European car is standard with a much bigger engine, and superior U.S. Safety specifications.

Greek products (Hatzimihalis Wine, Mythos Beer, Greek Feta Cheese) were also cheaper in Los Angeles than in Athens. Amazing!!!

That has to hurt some consumers here in Athens (including me).

  greg wrote @ December 15th, 2008 at 18:38

here’s a piece of advice from a greek:

there is no reason to compare bandit capitalism greek consumer market with the u.s., which by sheer size and large selection can sell all kinds of consumer products (food items is only one segment) at bulk and very reasonably priced.

the difference between consumer products in america in terms of quality and price and products in greece is the same difference between chicken salad and chicken sh!t. we don’t need an analysis to know that.

you ought to compare with other euromarkets, thats how yiiu are gonna ever draw any useful conclusions; you ought to be asking why a liter of fresh milk costs .86 cents in bon marche (a high-end supermarket in the heart of paris, one of europe’s more expensive cities) and in sklavenitis it’s 1.45? and milk is locally produced; half hr outside athens they’re milking cows.

as for the multis (p&g, unilever etc) there is a very simple reason why they sell in greece 50% more that what they sell in germany or netherlands or anywhere else: because THEY CAN. and its the exact same reason why they don’t sell so expensive in germany: because THEY CANT; (if they could, they would).

why? because the greeks, they pay for it.

(a propos, its not the job of the government to control the prices of maroulia and alevri; prices are market-sensitive whether its axladia produced by gyftos in pyrgos or nuclear tourbine heads produced by boeing in seattle).

filosofia du jour:

(most) greeks pay for it with no complaint because they are a baklava eating, frappe drinking, komboloi playing, karsilama dancing, uneducated, uncivilized n undisciplined, worthless lot.

and if anyone is thinking of coming up against my hard, thought-out conclusion with the good ol’ foreign conspiracy horse sh!t or traitor theory, here’s one coming at u: I AM GREEK CENTO PER CENTO

cheers

Kat Reply:

Greg: Your comment was edited for misspellings in English, Greek and French; excessive capitalization, aka yelling/ranting; and absolutes, such as “always” and “everyone,” which in my opinion make your comment less effective and less truthful. In the future, your comments can be left ‘as is,’ but in doing so may make them ineligible for publication, which would be a shame because I’d like you to keep commenting.

  Tauros wrote @ December 15th, 2008 at 22:38

Hi Kat!

This topic probably has enough comments at this point, but I’ll add my two cents.

I was in SoCal house-sitting for 3 weeks this last Jul. Can’t comment on the transportation, communication or hotel categories, since we didn’t use those. We did for the rest however (medical was limited to Dr’s visits), and there is absolutely nothing in your list that is out of line.

The most important thing I have to say is that you most certainly did give very possible advantage to Greece in this survey (which you clearly state several times). Disregarding WalMart, Costco, etc and using the US chains you used, an absolute minimum of effort is needed to save a substantial amount on groceries. Not only the club cards you mentioned, but coupons and continuous sales (on varying items) that include loss- leaders at tremendously reduced prices can easily cut the grocery bill in half. In fact, I think it would be hard to go to one of these stores on a given day and pay the “list-price” for every grocery/household item on your list even without coupons or a club card.

Regarding Lidl: yes they sell some very cheap (in every sense of the word) items, but they also have some things that are of reasonably good quality and unavailable elsewhere in Greece at anywhere near the cost at Lidl. Additionally, although I agree that the meat at Lidl is generally to be avoided, the quality of the produce seems to be a function of the individual store management. At the Lidl in Anoixi for example, the produce is very good, and the fact that you can often see an employee sorting though and discarding items not of good quality is probably not coincidental.

The only small quibble I might have with the article is that it seems to me that HI is usually ranked as the most expensive state in the US, and depending on factors used, sometimes AK is “ahead” of CA as well.

I sometimes try to rationalize the US-Greece price differences by blaming it on the currency exchange rates. Then up pops some article in the Greek media showing that any number of Greek items produced in Greece are cheaper in other Euro countries than in Greece. There goes that delusion…

Regardless of what people think about it, you were extremely clear on your purpose and methodology. I think you did an admirable job here, and are absolutely correct in your observations for the purpose intended.

Regards,

  Kat wrote @ December 15th, 2008 at 23:00

To the PR departments of Greek companies — I will state again for the record that the higher of two prices was used for the United States on identical items, either from Shop Rite OR from Safeway. Volume/quantity conversions were made to metric and precise calculation from dollars to euros. Claims that we compared the wrong products (which we didn’t); requests that I call you to discuss this matter; and demands that I remove or change my survey will be ignored. I and three educated Greek friends completely disadvantaged the United States and gave every advantage to Greece, and you lost, plain and simple. It’s not a coincidence you came out highest in both 2007 and 2008.

We spent hours of our free time rechecking our prices/products/quantities, and everything is correct to the lepta; plus, the United States has not changed these prices in the 2 months since we did our survey. If you don’t want people to get the “wrong impression” of your company, force your distributors to lower prices instead of trying to blame “the other.”

Please stop leaving repeated messages and requesting I call you to find a “solution.” My Greek friends interpret your solution to be a bribe of free products, and I won’t take them. If you don’t stop bullying me and the Kathimerini, I will go public with your names.

Thank you.

  FMS wrote @ December 16th, 2008 at 05:03

Amazing, your last revelation, Kat. It reminds me of when I first took up (temporary) residence in Greece about 12 years ago, and there had been some incidents of contaminated food. The solution of the producers was to bribe the affected consumers with free products, and try to avoid prosecution. So, when I bought something defective, Greek friends told me: “Oh, don’t complain to the supermarket or the state: threaten the manufacturer and you”ll get a lifetime supply of blah-blah”.

What do we learn from this? My answer is that both Greek companies and Greek consumers are not interested in obeying the law, protecting the society from defective goods, or generally behaving correctly. The companies are out for themselves, and the majority of consumers have the same (but shorter-term) mentality.

Most of Greece’s problems derive from this stupid mentality of refusing to obey logical and well-intentioned rules, with a state that can barely survive to protect itself, let alone its citizens. The problems of overpriced and poor quality consumer goods, alongside systematic breaking of the law, result in benefits for criminals and large companies while ordinary people suffer more and more. Until Greek consumers learn how to consume properly, then this situation will persist.

Kat Reply:

For the time being, I am opting to close comments with your truthful statement. Too often, those in charge respond to disease by treating symptoms, which is a temporary fix, not a real solution. And those being governed resort to apathy because it’s too tiring to fight; or settle for a bribe/freebies, thinking themselves clever when all they’ve done is exacerbate the problem. As I’ve said before, one hand feeds the other.

As Graf said previously, we speak with our choices and our euros. If we don’t like the result, well then we have only ourselves to blame. I’ve made my choice.

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