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THE LOCAL'S EXPAT SHOPPING BASKET

EUROPE

Surprise! Norway priciest for home comforts

It’s the question on everyone’s lips: Which country in The Local's network offers the best value for wistful expats craving comfort food and drink from home? Well, wonder no more!

Surprise! Norway priciest for home comforts
Shopping photo: Shutterstock

Our mission was this: hit the streets of Vienna, Madrid, Paris, Stockholm, Berlin, Rome, Lausanne and Oslo and fill a basket with 14 items that fill the hearts and clog the arteries of Anglophone foreigners everywhere.

When in Rome, why not sample some stracciatella soup, a plate of succulent osso buco, all topped off with tiramisù? 

Forget about it! Where’s my Jell-O! 

THE SHOPPING LIST IN PICTURES:

14 Shades of Brown: Food and booze expats miss

Photo: Mikey Jones

What then will it cost to get hold of these delicacies in cities across Europe? Scroll over the heat map below to count the cost of foodie homesickness.

How we tracked down the goodies

Please add your own observations here. Tell readers that any goods that you were unable to find have been assigned an average price based on the cost in other countries. [see attached excel sheet for notes].

Example – Norway:

We trekked all over Oslo to hunt down the goodies on the list. Our reward? Sore feet and a predictably enormous bill, far eclipsing the total spent in any of The Local’s other countries.

While notoriously expensive, Oslo was not too far ahead of the pack in our comparison – until we came to the alcohol.

Eyes bled, hair stood on end, and families suddenly contemplated eviction as we coughed up 359.90 kroner (€44) for a 70cl bottle of Famous Grouse whiskey and 197.40 for a six pack of Sam Adams.

“There was a fantastic selection of duty free whiskeys available at Gardermoen airport over Christmas so I can’t imagine ever feeling homesick for Famous Grouse at that price,” says David McClymont, a bio-engineer from Scotland who kindly scoured the shelves on The Local’s behalf.

A lot of the items on the list were hard to find, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been available before or won’t be again.  

“For some reason cans of Irn-Bru are readily available at the moment but I'm aware this will not be a new normal,” says David, referencing a popular Scottish soft drink. 

At the Ultra in the Colloseum shopping centre we got our grubby hands on HP sauce and Heinz baked beans.

In House of Oslo, the Meny supermarket helpfully stocked PG Tips, Santa Maria salsa, Skippy peanut butter and Baxters marmalade.   

Popping over to Arkaden Oslo, we found Kraft mac and cheese and Hershey’s chocolate (15 kr) at Yummy Heaven.

“Norwegian chocolate is absolutely fantastic so it is not a surprise Hershey’s is so cheap to compete. In fact, as an ex-pat, local chocolates such as Kvikk Lunsj really make you start asking serious questions about the quality of Kit-Kats,” says David controversially.

Mercifully, four items were unavailable. In the interests of sparing further Oslo blushes, we pretended Jell-O, Marmite, Vegemite and frozen pork sausages would cost the same in Norway as the average European country.

We all know that’s a lie but at least the children can sleep in their own homes tonight. 

Use the scroll bar on the chart below to see all the prices. 

Incidentally, we're aware that we've navel-gazed somewhat and overlooked a lot of nationalities. Please let us know what you miss from your country in the comments or on social media. Can you give us the ingredients we need for another article?

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SHOPPING

‘Harryhandel’: Is the return of cross-border shopping in Norway really a good thing? 

The pandemic cut-off Norway from its neighbours, putting a temporary end to border shopping. Now ‘harryhandel’ trips are allowed again businesses in the country fear they will lose out as shoppers look abroad for cheaper groceries. 

Pictured is Norway and Sweden's border on the old Svinesund bridge.
Will the return of border shopping have a negative affect on the country? Pictured is Norway and Sweden's border on the old Svinesund bridge. Photo by Petter Bernsten/AFP.

In eastern Norway, particularly along the border with Sweden, cross-border shopping has long been common for residents looking for cheaper groceries and a better selection of products. 

Norway’s Covid-19 rules effectively put a stop to that until this summer. The closed border meant a record year for food and beverage sales in Norway. 

“Due to the fact that there was little action and that people did not travel, we noticed that our sales increased greatly during the entire period,” Øyvind Berg, production manager at Norwegian dairy firm Synnøve Finden, explained to public broadcaster NRK.

Now producers and supermarkets fear the impact of cross-border shopping being up and running again. 

“Our challenge is that we see that more than half of the food and beverage producers, i.e. the industrial companies, fear that they will lose market share because cross-border trade will return in full,” Petter Brubakk, director of food and beverage at the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO), informed NRK. 

The majority of those who go shopping across borders in Norway will do so in Sweden. However, in the north, some will also venture into Finland or Russia.

Further south people will also travel to Germany or Denmark. 

Why do people go to other countries for shopping? 

Overall the main appeal of cross-border shopping is that its much better for consumers than shopping domestically. 

Norway’s EEA agreement with the EU means that most foods, drinks, tobacco products, alcohol and other agricultural products are more expensive than they are within the EU as custom duties are required to import them into Norwegian supermarkets. 

Not just that, but there is a much wider selection of products than in Norway due to laws that protect Norwegian products. For example, cheeses such as Cheddar are more readily available, cheaper and generally of better quality in other countries than those found in Norway. 

READ MORE: What is ‘harryhandel’, and why do Norwegians love it so much?

Is border shopping a bad thing for Norway?

Norwegian businesses argue that crossing the border to shop affects the whole value chain, negatively impacting everyone from Norwegian farms and producers to supermarket employees, not just companies profit margins. 

“My advice is to encourage Norwegians to buy Norwegian food, and help secure Norwegian jobs throughout the value chain,” food and agriculture minister Sandra Borch told NRK. 

In addition, shopping domestically means more tax revenue for the Norwegian system to use to fund its generous welfare state. 

While shopping domestically protects domestic jobs, shopping abroad protects jobs there, which rely on people hopping the border to get their groceries. 

Coronavirus pandemic restrictions left a black hole in some of these economies reliant on shoppers from the Norwegian side of the border. For example, in Strömstad, a Swedish town close to the border where many travel to shop, unemployment rose by around 75 percent after Norway closed its borders with Sweden. 

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