Australia: the expensive country

BEN GROUNDWATER
Last updated 05:00 29/03/2013
Expensive_Landscape
Arsineh Houspian

$10 for a beer? A trip overseas makes you realise how expensive everything is in Australia.

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I'm really trying hard. I don't want to be that guy. But I have a feeling I'm starting to crack.

Everything's so expensive! Everything in Australia, that is. It's crippingly, shockingly expensive.

And that's the thing you notice when you get back from a long trip overseas. It's not that your friends all have more children than they used to, or that the Labor Party is more of a shambles than it used to be, it's that everything in this country seems far more expensive than anywhere else in the world.

No one likes that guy, the one who whinges about how much cheaper everything was when they were overseas. They don't want to listen to you bang on about the 50-cent beers and the two-dollar dinners. So you have to try to keep the outrage to yourself.

But come on! I went to a bar in Melbourne the other day and ordered a schooner of beer. Normal old beer. "That's A$10 thanks," the bartender said.

I looked up. "But I'm only having the beer."

"Oh, sorry," she said, punching a few buttons on the register. "That's A$8."

Eight dollars! For a beer? What I wanted to do, of course, was turn around to my friend and have a whinge, to tell him about the €1.20 beers I was drinking in Seville (they weren't the full schooner, but they were still pretty darn cheap). I wanted to tell him about the £4 pints in so-called "expensive" London.

But instead I just reached into my wallet, eased out a lobster and prepared to take the pain.

It's not just booze that hits you though. I'm back from a long stint away, so I'm catching up with a lot of friends, and it's all started to add up.

Brunch is expensive. A great concept, obviously - but expensive. When you're used to paying a dollar or so for a meal in Iran, or slightly more for dinner in Burma, getting stung A$18 for some eggs and bacon first thing in the morning can be a bit hard to get your head around.

Do you know what it's like buying breakfast in Spain, you want to ask people? You can go to a bar and get a toasted roll with tomato, olive oil and jamon iberico, plus a coffee with milk, for €3. Three euros! You'd be lucky to get the roll for that much here.

Getting around is expensive. I had to pay A$6 in Melbourne just to buy a Myki card. Not to get anywhere - just to have the pleasure of using the system. I could have talked someone into driving me clear across Iran for $6. I could have ridden trains in Berlin all day.

Oh, and then there's rent. I'm looking for a flat at the moment, and it's sometimes hard to work out whether the advertised rates are per week or per month.

But hang on, I'm thinking. I was paying €300 a month in Seville. My friend in Phnom Penh pays A$200 a month. And here I'm staring down the barrel of A$300 a week for anything that's got a roof.

This is one of those traps. You can't start thinking that costs in Australia should be the same as they are overseas. It's ridiculous to believe we should be paying South-East Asian prices every day (although it's galling to know how cheap things are in the UK and Western Europe compared to here).

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You have to try to put out of your mind the fact that everything was so much cheaper a few weeks ago, or it'll drive you crazy.

And no one here wants to hear about it. No one wants to know about the cheap beers and the lovely breakfasts and the nice accommodation that cost next to nothing. No one feels sorry for the guy who just got back from a long trip overseas.

You can't complain; you don't want to be that guy. Just open your wallet, pull out a few more lobsters, and try to smile.

Are you shocked at how expensive Australia has become? Do you like to whinge about it?

- Sydney Morning Herald

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