La vie chère

La vie chère

Let me start by apologizing for the lack of updates. I’m not much of a writer and as a computer guy, I’ve been finding myself focusing on the sort of stuff behind the blog rather than the content… sorry about that. I’ve been trying my hand a learning ruby and rails with some online classes from and they’re quite challenging, fun, and time consuming (and free too boot). I’ll try to keep up a better pace of posting content in the future…

La vie chère

La vie chère

Alors… Life is expensive here. When we first moved here I didn’t quite realize the scope of “la vie chère” (the expensive life). The most difficult thing is the price of food. One learns quite quickly to stop converting prices to your native currency or you’ll never buy any food. Even at the market it is pretty typical to end up paying 700 CFP for a kilo of tomatoes or 300 CFP for one bell pepper. We thought maybe local fruits would be less expensive but that’s really not the case either, although they are usually very tasty. A medium sized pineapple may run you 600 CFP. A bunch of bananas can be 500. A big grapefruit is 550. Thinking back to the times of being able to buy $0.20 bananas makes one go a bit crazy. At least the local fruit here is “normal sized” as opposed to some of those monster bananas back in the states that taste like styrofoam…

Fruits and vegetables aren’t the only expensive thing of course. Most of the groceries are on the high side. A lot of that I can understand – we import tons of our food but other stuff is made or grown here locally. The local eggs, for example, will cost you about 550 CFP for a dozen. At least they are high quality and fresh… The milk is all imported UHT stuff (man oh man do we miss fresh milk). A 1L box of milk is about 150 normally. Candy is insane. We really only buy candy from duty free shops or when we’re out of the country because we just cant bring ourselves to pay more than 800 CFP for a bag of M&Ms.

About $9.90 USD or 0.3 Kg

About $9.90 USD for 0.3 Kg

To try to combat la vie chère, the government here has begun to put price controls on lots of products.

<rant> Without getting too political, the government setting controls like this is something that drives my American brain crazy. The main reason things are so expensive is because we live on an island and have to import everything. I think it is counterproductive, however, to impose ridiculous tariffs and difficult trade laws, which make it hard to get inexpensive goods while at the same time mandating what the (low) price of a box of milk should be. For example, most of our food comes from Europe – specifically France, even though Australia and New Zealand are right next door geographically. Because of these laws, France gets to send stuff literally around the entire planet and get it into New Caledonia for a lower cost than for, say, Australia to do the same thing. Instead of setting the price of a can of coke, why not allow a little competition to drive down prices rather than forcing them down? Let us buy stuff from some of the closer countries! Making the milk cost 129 CFP just makes the non-price-controlled things cost a little more. And if we are price fixing stuff, why are coca-cola and tim-tams on the list? Shouldn’t we incentivize vegetables and fruits? </rant>

I mean... tim-tams are ok i guess... but why do they get special treatment?

I mean… tim-tams are ok i guess… but why do they get special treatment?

We’re fortunate enough to have a well paying job, but the price of things still hurts. It’s hard to image how those less fortunate can get by. Maybe the key is to live outside of Nouméa. Some deals are out there if you know where to look. Some stores are cheaper than others for different things. If you’re willing to climb the grapefruit tree in your neighbors yard (with their permission of course), you may be able to save some money at the market…

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