Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Little Things: Cost of Living

As part of our pre-move decision-making process I checked a few websites to compare the cost of living in San Francisco with that in Hamburg. In general, Hamburg came out at about 40% less. Yahoo!

Turns out the ouch factor wasn’t in the living in Hamburg, it was in the move to get here and get settled.

Vet visits and passport paperwork, stocking up on weather-appropriate gear, the exchange rate, residency and work fees, transportation, shipping, buying those household things you need for daily living (e.g., ceiling lights, transformers, phone plans, Internet sticks, etc.) all add up. Quickly. And the Germans’ allergy to credit cards meant we used our cash reserves to fund most of it.

Many people relocating to Hamburg left their stuff in storage and rented furnished apartments or bought stuff here. That certainly would have saved money in the short term, but probably not for (what we hope will be) a longer haul. Besides, as homebodies, we felt having our familiar things in unfamiliar surroundings was important.

Those upfront costs and the fact that we would only have one income meant things would be a little tight for a while, but a little budgeting never hurt anyone. J

photo of one- and two-Euro coins
 Cash is king—keep your change!
This handful of coins will get you
30 small packages of bacon or
20 large loaves of bread or
10-12 nice bottles of wine.
Still, in the beginning I was a bit concerned. Downtown Hamburg shopping is a mix of LA’s Rodeo Drive and strip mall boutiques (with several H&M stores thrown in for the mortals). Restaurant meals rival the costs of those in San Francisco, and if you want certain items that are standard fare in the U.S. you pay a premium. (I’ll say more about shopping in an upcoming post.)

But in short order I discovered the great thing about living in a port town is that everything that comes in by ship is inexpensive. You may have to make some small compromises, but day-to-day normal living is affordable.

Groceries aside, movie tickets are about the same as the U.S., but the seats are reserved and the theater is nicer than your standard U.S. theater. We’ve yet to see any performing arts, but museums and other attractions are a bargain. Utilities are near par with an average month in San Francisco but are only checked and adjusted once a year. So on average, that 40% figure is about right.

There is one commonly lamented expense: housing. Every neighborhood description in the Hamburg Welcome magazine expounded on rent prices, and we’ve heard many stories about the competitive market.

I guess that’s one good thing about being numbed by the San Francisco market. Our place here, though more expensive than the typical Hamburg rental, is 10% larger and 50% cheaper than our SF rental!

There are the little things that add up in any new situation, and it hasn’t all been easy. But with five months behind me it’s much easier to see this as an investment in adventure. And as I meet more people and continue to explore, I’m finding even more ways to enjoy living here.

As one of those old MasterCard ads might say:

Moving to Hamburg: costly. Living in Hamburg: priceless.

1 comment :

  1. So fun to read your posts! Bachelor Paul moved into a tiny furnished studio Karlsruhe via 2 suitcases. I'm trying to recall if he bought any clothes in Germany during his year there, lordy it's expensive. He liked the cheap wine & Turkish food.