£20 cucumbers and 20 pence sandwiches. The weird and wonderful costs of expat life

I’ve been in Santiago, Chile for a fortnight now. It seems like most of that time I’ve spent in supermarkets. Who knew a one year old could eat so many bananas?

Santiago is not a cheap city. Mind you, today a fantastic manicure and pedicure cost me just £25. Avocados and watermelon are as good as free compared to the U.K. Then again, a couple of packs of washing detergent cost us £20.

Some tourists mistakenly believe that all of Latin America is a bargain, but Santiago is certainly an exception to any rule. Still, by London standards, rent is not too bad. £2,000 will get you a large three or four bedroom apartment in great part of the city. It’s certainly an improvement on the £8,000 we spent in monthly rent in Luanda, Angola.

Luanda was once rated the most expensive city in the world for expats and it was a steep learning curve. A Venezuelan friend recounted how she did her first grocery shop in (unbeknownst to her) the most expensive store in the city. One basket later she’d racked up over $1000 on her credit card. Dining out could also get very pricey, even for me, a lady who isn’t adverse to splurging on the occasional Michelin star treat. A simple lunch on the beach for four cost well into the four figures. Thank goodness we didn’t go for dessert.

It’s ridiculous to waste money on goods that would cost next to nothing back home. But then again, sometimes, when we’ve had a bad day, when we’re missing home or when we get a crazing, our demand will exceed any local supply. £20 for a cucumber? £20 for a punnet of strawberries? You’re having a laugh. Apart from that day when I really, really needed a Pimms cocktail.

Over in Syria my weekly post study falafel sandwich would set me back just 20 pence. Imported branded cereal, meanwhile, would cost around £5. For £5 I could enjoy a slap up meal in a good local restaurant. It felt a little wrong, but I still bought cereal.

Here in Chile, it’s less extreme. We’ll be adapting our lifestyle to make the most of life here. Avocado on toast is our daily staple. My nails are looking good. But fear not, I’ll still be splurging on washing powder.

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