Prices in America may leave you scratching your heads sometimes, but they often pale in comparison to some of the odd prices found in other parts of the world. Consider these extremes:
- Gasoline – Gas prices around the world range from Venezuela, where gas is government-subsidized and costs around four cents per gallon, to Norway where gas runs $9.69 a gallon. Norwegians probably do not take a relaxing Sunday drive to see the fjords in a Big Block Ford Hemi.
- Fitness Clubs – Are you moving to Angola and planning to join a local fitness club? The average monthly fee there for one person is $150 per month, according to Numbeo. Meanwhile, Cuba comes in at the lowest end with $9 monthly fees. Expect attention if you spend too much time in the pools there practicing long-distance swimming.
- Movies – How about a movie after your workout? Once again, Cuba is your best bet, with an average cost of $0.10 per seat in the movie theater. Saudi Arabia has the highest price by far at $26.66 per seat. Perhaps it’s the air conditioning.
- Dogs – Would you pay 2 million dollars for a dog? According to the Qianjiang Evening News via CNBC, a property developer in China approached that figure in March 2014, paying $1.95 million for a top-of-the-line Tibetan Mastiff puppy. The pricey canine was 31 inches tall and weighed almost 200 pounds. We expect that food costs will take up the remaining $0.05 million.
- Fruit– Japan is well known for disproportionate fruit prices, as high-end fruits are commonly presented as gifts for formal events such as weddings and at the middle and end of the year (gifts known as Ochugen and Oseibo, respectively). For example, a bunch of 30 Ruby Roman grapes, considered good luck in Japan, was sold to a wedding hall operator at an auction for $5,400.
Sembikiya, a well-known high-end fruit boutique business in Japan, sells immaculate and unusual fruit like square watermelons for over $200. Specialized cantaloupe that are grown one per plant, specially handled, and protected from excess sun, can fetch hundreds of dollars.
- Beer – If you enjoy quaffing suds, according to David Adelman at FinancesOnline.com, the Middle East is not the place for you. The three highest average prices for a half-liter bottle of beer were located there – Iran at $7.71, Kuwait at $7.09, and the United Arab Emirates at $6.20. If you drink in the Middle East, head to Saudi Arabia, the fourth cheapest at $0.70. Vietnam and Ukraine were tied for the cheapest at $0.59, although we’ll guess that beer is at a premium in Ukraine right now.
Despite being fun and frivolous, unusual price comparisons can turn into tools for serious economic analysis. Consider the “Big Mac” Index.
The Economist came up with this humorous tool to compare the costs of a Big Mac across the globe (or the closest thing to a Big Mac available) to draw inferences on currency overvaluation and undervaluation. It has now become somewhat of a standard, available on The Economist’s website with a color-coded map, a choice of base currencies, and GDP-adjusted values.
The 2014 Big Mac index gives Norway the prize for the most expensive at $7.76, and Ukraine came in the least expensive at $1.63.
We have seen both countries at their respective high in other categories above, which brings up an interesting point – sometimes things are unusually expensive in certain countries because their currency is out of whack and the cost of importing goods is therefore quite high.
Of course, that does not explain Japanese specialty fruit or $2 million dogs – but economics does not always follow logic.