Last week I met up with my friend who lives in Turkey. While we were chatting, she said something that I’d been thinking for years, – “I can’t believe how cheap everything is in England now”, she said.
The most popular, most read post ever on my blog is one regarding the ‘cost of living’ that I wrote last August. (click here to read that) I received mixed comments in response to the post, some agreed that living in Turkey isn’t cheap, others said it was if you learn to live like villagers, some people made me feel as if I wasn’t entitled to an opinion, because I didn’t work there and lived purely off Berkay’s wages, which obviously means things are tougher.
As mentioned, my friend lives in Turkey. She has for years. She has children in school there, a husband with his own business and a kimlik and full time job herself – they are just a normal family, and on her visit to the UK if she notices how ‘cheap’ things are in the UK in comparison, surely that must mean something?
Like for like, things may be cheaper in Turkey, but compared to wages, they’re not really. Things take up a bigger proportion of a monthly wage which means they’re not really cheaper at all.
One of the things which prompted the discussion was the price of cinema tickets – I know, going to the cinema is a luxury, but just for comparison – an adult cinema ticket in the UK is around £10, an adult cinema ticket in Turkey is around 20tl (around £4.60 at today’s exchange rate). On first glance it seems cheaper, but when you compare wages, it’s not – minimum wage in Turkey (1000tl a month) would buy 50 cinema tickets. Minimum wage in the UK (£910 a month) would buy 91 cinema tickets – a big difference.
The same goes for a lot of everyday things, for example – 1kg chicken breast in Tesco is roughly £6, in Turkey’s Kipa 1kg of chicken breast is around 11tl, this means on minimum wage in the UK you could buy 151kgs of chicken, in Turkey you could buy just 90kg. In Tesco, 1kg of diced beef is £7.50, in Kipa the same beef is 36tl – which means on minimum wage in the UK you could buy 121 kgs of beef, in Turkey just 27 kgs.
In Tesco, their own brand newborn nappies (pack of 58) is £4, whereas in Turkey, Kipa’s own brand of newborn nappies, back of 60 is 20tl – which means in the UK you could buy 227 packs a month, in Turkey just 50. A huge difference.
In Tesco, a mid range 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner is around £3, in Kipa it’s around 9tl, which means you could afford 303 bottles on minimum wage in the UK and just 111 bottles in Turkey. The same prices apply for a mid-range fabric softener. Big differences, again.
In Tesco, a 1lt bottle of own brand olive oil (which is used ALOT in Turkish cuisine) is £3.45, in Kipa, the same own brand 1lt bottle is 23tl. This means you could afford 263 bottles on minimum wage in the UK, and just 43 bottles in Turkey.
My own experience shows white goods, cars, petrol, household items, pet items and baby items are mostly all most expensive in Turkey than the UK.
I could carry on with the comparisons all day, and most of the time the same result would be seen. Day to day items, and luxuries, are all more expensive in Turkey than the UK in comparison with wages, the everyday necessities take up a larger proportion of the monthly wage in turkey, than in the UK.
Of course, there are cheap alternatives for things, but there are too in the UK. Lidl or Aldi instead of Tesco or Sainsburys, Bim and Sok instead of Kipa and Migros… growing your own fruit and veg instead of buying it, eating pulses and cooking from scratch in big batches instead of store bought things and ready meals, no days out and living on the bare minimum – but that’s not ideal, in either country is it? I believe in the UK there is more of a conscious choice to live a certain way, whereas in Turkey you don’t have that option – if you are trying to live off minimum wage you have no choice but to be frugal.
There are things that are cheaper in Turkey, like fruit and vegetables – there were often times when we’d walk around the market for hours frugally trying to find the cheapest deals, even if it meant saving a few kurus or lira, and I still remember the shock on Berkay’s face when he came to the UK and saw one pepper for 45p.
Rent is also undoubtedly cheaper in Turkey, but then I guess it depends where you live, village or city, and whether you have a mortgage or rent. And then there’s the issue of taxes, which are lower in Turkey. Perhaps, with this considered, the cost of living in both countries does even itself out in the end, then?
One thing is for sure, in my eyes, it’s not cheaper to live in Turkey, at all. When people say how cheap all the supermarkets, clothes and shoes are I have to rub my eyes in disbelief and think ‘really?’, and I’m always very pleasantly surprised when I find people who agree with me, especially those who are in a relatively good position in Turkey and still notice this.
Perhaps the cost of living is no cheaper in Turkey, but the quality of life may be higher? Less materialistic and more family orientated, more freedom for children to remain children for longer?
What do you think?