Some people on this fair forum want more Pie in the states, or so is my impression, and to be fair, who can blame them. Which got me a-thinkin’ maybe the pendulum swings both ways and some want to move themselves the other way. There may be some glib out there, somewhere, wanting to immigrate to good ol’ Bucharest. And said glib may want to know a thing or two about the cost of living, before jumping in. Well this is the post for that glib, and whomever else may have the curiosity.
So let’s, shall we? To start, in order to buy stuff, you need money, cash, dough. In our particular case we are talking of the mighty Leu (lion to you). Although the Leu often loses its roar in bouts of inflation (one of them legendary in the 90s), it is still our good ol’ currency. Although now we are talking about the new Leu (RON) versus the old Leu (ROL) after 4 zeroes were chopped off.
Back in the day, the day being 1850s, it was based on the Dutch thaler , which had a lion engraved on one side – an animal which was not a heraldic symbol in our country (we were more along the lines of eagles and aurochs), hence the name. The Bulgarian currency lev also means lion. In that particular time, the Romanian leu was 5 grams of 83.5% silver. Now the same silver cost 8.5 RON – after several times when zeros were taken from the end, that is.
I will, in general, try to express prices in dollars, so you understand better. I will enact the labour of currency conversion, if you will. I will not enact the labour of unit conversion so, sorry, you get grams and liters and such.
So we need Lei, yes we do. How much does an honest day’s work pay? Hard to say, Romanians always think in terms of monthly after tax salary. This is due to the fact that all the taxes are payed by the employer, and as such you only get to see your after tax. In general people negotiate their after tax salary on job interviews, called net salary round here. The average take home pay in Bucharest is 3200 RON or 850 of your inferior American dollars. A qualified engineer or programmer usually can get 2000-2500 dollars per month, and more for very good or highly specialized people. I mention this because engineers/programmers are among the best paying jobs in Romania. OK now, how far will all this get you?
Usually salary means you pay for the fabulous government healthcare and government pension, although if you actually get sick you need some money for bribes. But I will not give healthcare costs or pension fund costs. They are not relevant in the context.
As I know Americans to be drivers, I will start with the cost of regular gas, which is around 5.5 dollars per gallon. For non-drivers, a bus ticket is about 30 cents, a 10 trip subway pass about 5 dollars. Uber or taxi is usually 40-50 cents per kilometer.
A three bedroom apartment, 1000 square foot or so, in a good area can cost 800-900 dollars a month, in an average area 400 to 500 and in a bad area 350. These are apartment in those concrete communist era brutalist apartment buildings, in new developments the prices can be 30% to 50% higher. Now that you have your apartment, let’s talk utilities. For gas the price is given, strangely, per kW-hour – not a unit of volume, and it is 30 cents. Electricity is 13 cents per kW hour. Internet for a gigabit connection, standard home connection non-guaranteed, of course, but it is usually very fast, costs 10 dollars per month. A decent cellphone package can go to 12-15 dollars a month – unlimited talk/sms and 3 to 5 GB of data. Netflix costs 15 a month for the top package, but not everything available in the US is available here.
Now a man/woman/otherkin must eat (I would ask the moderators to catbutt any vampire jokes at this point.) For food, I will reference the supermarket chain I do most of my shopping at. It is not the cheapest, but it is not particularly expensive either. I would add that, in a un-libertarian way I assume, I do not eat in the most cost effective fashion. This is because I do not have pantry staples and do not buy in bulk. If I did, I could go to cheaper large stores and save money, but then again I might throw away a lot more and lose some money that way. I usually buy just what I plan to cook/eat in the next day or two, so I go to a supermarket on my way from work home. I also dislike using frozen meat, so I buy all my meat fresh, which is pricier.
So what does food cost? Depends, I assume, on what you buy. Standard eggs are 4 dollars for 30, while the cage free organic can be 3 dollars for 10. Milk is 1 dollar 30 cents per liter and 200 grams of unsalted 82% butter is two fifty, same price as 350 grams of plain cheese. Romanians eat a lot of cold cuts, which are locally called mezeluri (I assume from the Middle Eastern meze or mezze). These can range from very cheap in a “don’t ask what’s in it” way to quite pricy. Two and a half dollars can buy you 400 grams of cheap salami (42% pork meat according to the label), 4 dollars buys 70% meat salami in the same quantity, and 6 dollars buy you 300 grams of the good stuff. There is also parizer (which is meant as an equivalent to what you may know as mortadella / Bologna), which has the same things in it like the cheapest hot dogs, pink slime like substances I would think, which is a dollar for 500 grams – never touch the stuff myself. Pork hot dogs are a dollar fifty per 300 grams. And cheap yellow mustard can be had for 3 dollar 350 grams. Whole chicken is 4 dollars per kilogram; average cut of pork is the same, not too fancy cut of beef can be 8 to 12 dollars per kilogram. Bread can be between 20 cents and 2 dollars a loaf.
I think this is enough food prices, off course there are many more items, but this is to give a rough idea. Now let’s get boozing. Basic local beer can be had between 50 cents and one dollar per 500 ml can. The craft stuff it 2 to 4 dollars per 500 ml bottle. Wine starts at 2 dollars and can get to 50 and beyond. Smirnoff Red vodka is about 15 per 700 ml, Jack Daniel’s 23 per 700 ml. I don’t touch the stuff, but coca cola and similar sugary crap sodas are generally 2.5-3 dollars per a six-pack of 330 ml cans.
What else? I am beginning to think this is enough for a general idea and the post can get too long. A good meal in a good restaurant, not cheap no too fancy, is between 20 and 30 dollars per person, including wine and service (in Romania tips are 10%), depending on one’s appetite. In a bar a beer will set you 2 to 4 dollars, a cocktail (keep in mind it is very hard to get a decent cocktail in Romania) is 4 to 6 dollars. A movie ticket is 5 to 7 dollars at a good multiplex, where the concession stand costs way too much. I think this about covers it for now and I hope this convinced you to immigrate to Romania, had you any lingering doubts.