17 August 2009

What Do We Do When It's Time to Shop?

WE DO WHAT the French do...we go to Germany.

One of the first things the 'locals' told us when we moved to Strasbourg for the summer was to do all our shopping across the border in Germany. C'est moins cher! And it's true. Prices just across the border in the town of Kehl are (sometimes, not always) up to 30% cheaper than in France. And that goes for just about any kind of product you can think of: clothes, food, household goods, ice cream cones, shoes. One particular store that the French love is called DM (yes, just DM -- but it actually stands for Drogerie Markt) and it specializes in 'personal' items such as hair products, perfumes, soaps, make-up; but it also has a wide selection of organic products like cereals, coffee and juices. At DM you can find these kinds of products at 1/2 the price in France.

But normal food is cheaper as well. I'll give you an example of what I'm talking about. This afternoon Julia and I strolled into Aldi's (a store we can find in France) and filled our cart with 45 items -- standard items like tomatoes, red peppers, fruit, juice, canned foods, bread, milk, eggs, cheeses, chips -- and proceeded to the checkout area. Not a huge shopping trip, but stocking-up on some of the essentials. As the lady was scanning our food I was trying to guess what the total would be (come on, you do it too!) and was preparing for a bill around 50 or 60 Euros -- not too bad for what we were buying. But the total came it quite a bit under my estimate: €34.60. Now, I don't do math very often, but a quick bit of figuring tells me that we averaged about 0.75 per item. And I'm telling you, I was buying 'regular' stuff and we had four very full bags when we left. A close look at my receipt revealed that the most expensive item I purchased was some French cheese for €1.99.

I'm trying to figure out why a store in Strasbourg (France) and the same store across the Rhine in Kehl (Germany) can have such a variance in price. Some of it is surely the product itself (I was buying German butter not French butter; Germany potato chips not French potato chips, etc.) but there must be more to it -- something more, shall we say, institutional. I'll have to get to the bottom of it. Perhaps some of you know.

Meanwhile, we find ourselves wishing the South of France was a little closer to Germany.

Oh, and by the way, the people in front of us and behind us in the checkout line?: French.


Dianne is for Paris said...

Try Italy because you'll find the same thing applies.

Isabelle said...

One guess: VAT is very high in France and manpower costs a lot to employers.

Aldi is considered a discount store (like ED or Leader Price), so every item is cheaper there, because most of them aren't brand names.
What would be interesting is for you to compare the prices of an Aldi in France to the one you went shopping to in Germany.

Harold of Scaggsville said...

Looks like universally French = More expensive.

French for a While said...

Actually Isabelle, that's what I was trying to convey. the Aldi in Germany was cheaper than the typical Aldi in France.

bhshrode said...

You have to pay for free health care somehow.

Anonymous said...

At least you cold consider the poor Swiss who cross the border to eat at cheaper French restaurants