|Photo: Beautiful ship in Helsinki's gorgeous harbor. Natural splendor in such abundance, but a ton of money to stay there.
More reindeer than you can count, but none
of them have a red nose...
“When you travel in Scandinavia, bring along a wheelbarrow
full of money”. You’ll hear that advice, or words similar, from nearly
everyone who has visited this part of the world. Heed it, because it’s true. The Scandinavian countries are among the most expensive places in the world, with a high standard of living to go along with the cost.
A patient of mine who was with the world bank told me, years
ago, that the standard for measuring the economic strength and standard of living
of all countries is the cost of a Big Mac, large fries and a large Coke. He said
the reason is that of all things you can think of, there is virtually only
one thing you can purchase anywhere in the world that is exactly the same wherever
you buy it. Only one thing you can use for comparison- the Big Meal at McDonald’s.
When we went to Finland, by his measurement, the price of the
Big Meal in Albania was a smidgen over $2.00; the same meal in Stockholm, Sweden, was $14.25.
The Big Meal was not as expensive in Helsinki as it was in Stockholm, but then
a small pizza at one of the world’s largest pizza chains was $3.00 more expensive
in Helsinki than Stockholm- around $15.00, as I recall.
When I wrote this piece, gasoline was selling at just above $3.00/gallon in the US, so the ratio of gasoline to pizza ($15.00 to $3.00)
was 5 to 1. If you are "math challenged", Pre-recession gasoline was above $4.00/gallon, which would make that small pizza in Helsinki cost about $20.00.
Like they say, "Bring a wheelbarrow full of money."
Of course, the expense is great because taxes are high. If you are a Finnish National, the taxes are returned to you the form of government benefits. Schooling, health care- all those things are free. And it doesn't hurt that Finland does not spend billions on military hardware, either offensive or defensive. If you are not Finnish, however, then it is just very costly.
About the pizza- it was expensive then, it is still expensive now. But we had no trouble eating it!