Helsinki is expensive.
Like really, really, crazy expensive.
Last night, as a special treat for the kids (okay, who am I kidding, it was a treat for us too!), we went to Pizza Hut.
We ordered two medium pizzas (1 cheese, 1 veggie), an order of bread sticks (half price for "happy hour") and a pitcher of soda. The bill came to $71.50. This does not include tip as one does not typically tip in Finland--just for extraordinary or outstanding service.
Yeah, that's what I said "It cost what?"
Eating out is prohibitively expensive for our family of 5. We have found a Chinese Restaurant in our neighborhood where we can get dinner for about $40 (and have leftovers!). But other than that, we don't eat out too much.
For example, a hamburger, fries and a drink (this was our lunch at the ski hill recently) is about 9 Euros ($12) per person.
A latte at a local coffee shop might cost you about 3.50 Euros ($4.50). Not too different from Starbucks at home, but here, the size is quite small.
A box of American cake and canned frosting would run you about $12 - $15. I never used those at home, but since my baking efforts have not been too successful here, I may have to shell out the dough if we ever need a cake for a special event.
Beer at a restaurant or bar is about $8 for a pint. If you buy a can at the grocery store, you'll shell out about $4.50 (the cans are a wee bit bigger than at home). My beer-loving husband has seriously cut down his pale ale consumption. Good thing we celebrated his birthday before we left Chicago with a good old fashioned beer tasting party.
A cab ride for 8 blocks recently cost us $13. So we don't take a cab...AT ALL--unless we are late for a party ; )
We take the bus, or the tram, wherever we need to go. A tram ride only costs us $1.75 per ride and Lily goes free. Sam and Joey ride at reduced rates. A ride on the bus will set us back $2.40. And women with a stroller get to go free! So, if I take a trip downtown a round trip ride is $5.00. If I go out two times in one day, I can spend almost $10! (If you have an i.d. number, you can ride even cheaper.)
If you don't eat out, groceries are only a bit more expensive than at home:
a loaf of bread (smaller than at home) costs $2.00
a pound of ground beef--$5.30 (not bad!)
1 individual sized yogurt--$1
1.5 liters (less than 1/2 gallon) of milk costs $1.80
10 eggs are $2.15 and
a kilo of bananas (about 6) is around $2.15
Fruit is often on sale and not too expensive. We buy and eat A LOT of fruit.
However, a small carton of Ben and Jerry's ice cream is almost NEVER on sale and will set you back $8.
I thought, being in Finland and all, we'd find salmon for a steal! I haven't even bought any yet, because it is so outrageously expensive! I think it will get cheaper in the summer. Anyway, I'd prefer to eat my salmon all cooked and prepared for me in the big bowl of fish soup you can get at the market for just 8 Euros ($11).
We do live right in the heart of the city, so of course things are slightly more expensive here.
For example, Rob recently had a haircut and paid $32.50! Hah! He doesn't even have any hair! I, by the way, am scared to have my hair cut. I have yet to see any Finns with curly, frizzy hair!
We live in a one bedroom apartment (750 square feet) and we pay $2,000/month rent. That's A LOT more than our mortgage at home!
I'm not complaining, really I'm not (we'll maybe just a bit). We knew that Finland was expensive before we came here.
But, without getting too political and opinionated here, there is something to be said for paying more when things are made in your own country, employing your own people (I rarely see any "made in China" tags.)
And the prices you pay help to knit together this security net for the people of Finland and in our experience, they are grateful for that security net. Education is free--even university, kids get a free, hot and healthy lunch at school, new moms and dads have excellent benefits (in fact, there are so many benefits for new mom/dads/babies that it deserves its own post), and excellent health care.