I came across this map the other day and it started to explain something I had been wondering ever since we started visiting Thomas's parents both in Denmark and then latterly in Italy...
I know Danes earn much more than we do so it was never a great surprise that the Danish supermarkets felt a bit pricey on my meagre UK income. But we have all known since the 80s and early 90s that Italy was a great cheap destination for Brits and Danes alike. I still remember lira notes that were worth less than 50p when I lived in Perugia in the 80s. So finding this helped me finally understand that although Italy might feel like a delight to my Danish relatives, to us poor UK earners it is no longer the financial paradise of my youth!
I am always amazed how expensive I feel visiting Tuscany is. The petrol is dearer, the food shopping feels extortionate. I rarely find a full trolley in Tesco, Silverburn costs me more than £120, whereas Coop in Bibbiena can easily fit £200 + in a smaller trolley. But if you look at the price level indices above, it can be explained in several ways. Italy's average is 111, but of course Tuscany is one of Italy's most affluent areas, so to reach a national average of 111, I guess Tuscany must be well in excess of that, at least in the 120-140 bracket. The UK's average is 104, but London is our affluent area and is drastically more expensive than Glasgow so for the UK as a whole to be 104, Glasgow must be in the 80-100 bracket or even lower.
On top of that we, as a family have two other major issues. Given there are seven of us, we rarely shop for our main items in Tesco or ASDA, we bulk buy our meat, cheese, stock, coffee, butter, rice, pasta, mayonnaise etc in Makro, so get them all at trade prices. In Italy we can't bulk buy anything as we don't have the storage facilities to do so, so things cost almost double in real terms.
Finally, and perhaps sadly most significantly, we are self-employed, and that means we have no paid holidays. So where most people relax with their feet up earning their annual, well-deserved break, we see every day of every holiday (here or abroad) as a huge financial loss which is unfortunately not offset by a decrease in mortgage, and other living costs during this period. In the old days, freelance staff could command a salary of 20% more to offset this, but those days are now gone. We're more likely to be given a paycut as an incentive to get work than a pay increase. With little visibility too, a holiday can only be booked at the last minute, making it almost impossible to coordinate. If things don't improve, I find it hard to imagine our kids seeing much of the world, or even the Scottish coast. It is hard to believe that just eight years ago flying to New York for a long weekend was a normal thing for me to do!
Having checked out the map above, it looks to me like we are going to have to beg all our family and friends abroad to consider annual meet-ups in the likes of Poland in future unless something happens to improve either our earnings, or our unpaid holiday status.