Sunday, August 14, 2011

More or Less

As I shop I am always amazed at how so many things are waaaay cheaper here in Cambodia. And then others are soooo much more expensive. I thought you might find it entertaining to read along and guess which are more or less as I share some stories with you.

More or Less? Coconuts
Haha, I had to start off with an easy one! Less of course! These are everywhere. They are the yummy green ones. They can be bought at the market or, more easily, off a cart from someone walking down the street. And if you ask nicely, they’ll cut the peel away while leaving the coconut in tact so that it stays fresh. When it’s time to enjoy, we can just punch a straw through and drink the coconut water, which is really tasty, by the way. Coconuts are about $1.50-$2 each but you get about 4 glasses of juice from one, so not a bad price, I think.

More or Less? Bottled Water
Um, this is both. See, you can’t drink the tap water so they capitalize on that. The local water that has been treated by reverse osmosis is cheaper ($1 or less), while the name brands like Dasani and the very popular Evian are very expensive - $2 to $3 per small bottle and $6 to $7 for large. We use giant 5 liter jugs that are just $1 each, local of course, but treated and wonderfully clean tasting.

More or Less? Avocados
I can’t believe this one. They are so cheap. They average about $0.25. Seriously. They are a bit different than the Hass ones you buy in the US or the California ones even, but they taste great and they aren’t that popular so they are readily available. This is something we buy all the time. I am sure my waistline will soon start to show that. “Good” fat is still fat!

More or Less? Electricity
I’ve talked about this before. Electricity is super expensive here. We were quite worried about it but I’ve given up enough other things so that I can run the A/C units more often than just at night here and still stay in budget. Electricity is something people think about enough that even televisions have “off” switches that turn it all the way off – so that even the remote won’t turn it on until the switch is activated. This is something that’s unheard of in the USA! Here you have to make sure switch on the TV is on before you can turn on with the remote. Same with DVD players and things like that.

More or Less? Water in home
Oh, this is so cheap. For our first month we owed $1.89 for our water bill. So funny how cheap that is! It would probably cost the apartment less to just pay it than to pay for the meters that measure it and the guy who comes to read it!!

More or Less? DVDs
And music. And software. And books…
All cheap. So cheap. Of course, they are all pirated so I feel conflicted about buying them. DVDs are just $1.50 and are available just about 1-2 weeks after the movie comes out in the THEATER in the USA. Harry Potter’s been out for a couple weeks now already. I haven’t bought it, but I’ve seen it in the market. And if we want to rent a movie or buy a movie, there aren’t legitimate stores to go to. It’s not like I have to choose whether to buy a legal DVD for $20 at one store or a pirated one for $1.50 at the market. Nope. Not an option. The market’s all there is. Tough choices. But they have everything. EVERYthing.

More or Less? Grapes and Strawberries
Well, we can get fresh mangoes for just a quarter each, apples and oranges for less than that, pineapple for a quarter or already cut up for $0.40, watermelons for $0.50 each, and all sorts of cheap Cambodian fruits, but these two are not cheap at all. Strawberries are only for sale in the big grocery store and cost about $4.50 for 6-7 strawberries. Now, I love strawberries, but that’s a bit too much. I don’t think so. And grapes are about $4 for a small bunch. Obviously they don’t have those types of farms here in Cambodia. I miss eating those because I refuse to buy them at that price no matter how much the kids beg.

More or Less? Kitchen small appliances (toaster, blender, coffee maker…)
These are very expensive. A blender is about $80. A toaster is almost as much. It’s crazy. I got lucky and got a few things from another IJM family who moved away as we moved in, but buying new is just ridiculously expensive. An iron, though, that’s only like $20. Supply and demand, I guess!

More or Less? Paper goods – paper towels, napkins, toilet paper
More, I’d say. I mean, about the same as you’d pay for name brands in the USA, but the quality is very poor and the quantity is lower per roll. Same quality issue with diapers and baby wipes. It’s very sad. I miss good diapers!

More or Less? Toiletries
This one depends… If I can read the words on the container, and especially if it’s a brand I recognize, then it’s way more expensive than I ever paid in the States. But if it’s in Khmer or Chinese or some other Asian font with a picture of a panda or something, it’s definitely affordable. Lots of trial and error on these products to save money. For example: I bought the kids some bath wash – the Asian kind was $1.20 and a good size container. The Johnson and Johnson one – in a teeny container – was $7.50. It’s crazy!

More or Less? Clothes and Shoes
I don’t know why I filled up 8 suitcases to move here. We could have come naked – ok, not naked because the FAA wouldn’t have let us on the plane – but with just what we were wearing, and we’d have been fine. Clothes are everywhere, and many are the same ones you wear in the USA. Go ahead – check your tags – I’ll bet you have quite a few things that say “made in Cambodia” in your wardrobe. Many of those things make it to the markets here and are sold at great prices (always less than $5 for everyday stuff). Shoes, too, though they don’t wear athletic shoes, so they don’t really sell them.

More or Less? iPhones, iPads, iEverythings…
Less. But these are pirated, too. Or stolen. Who knows. And they come with no warranty. So I haven’t given in to the popular culture of having one yet. Even the Cambodians with very little money seem to have an iPhone.

I could keep going for a while but I’m not sure if this is even entertaining or interesting at all. Take advantage of the comment feature and tell me what you want to hear about. I’d love to share! I have to make a list now so I can go barter at the market a bit!

Oh, and I KNOW something you all want is more photos. Here's a snapshot from the tourist area by the river front. It's the tourist area so it's nice and pretty :)

More later…


  1. I'd love to hear a comparison of touristy vs normal vs your normal....also the cheap or expensive is fun... Do more!!! Sounds like u could live on fruit & avo :) what is meat like or bread?? U typically eat out or in?? Yeaaaa

  2. Thanks for sharing....interesting stuff! I love the pics! Have you already posted pics of where you live?? If so, I need to look back...I like picturing where you are when you tell stories of what y'all do at home! :) Praying for y'all!!

  3. I read this before school this morning! LOVED it! It's so interesting to read. You really are a great writer. I can't believe you ever doubted yourself! I want to know as soon as your try those fried spiders. Blech!!!

  4. @Aly - great ideas! Will do. @Laura - I did post some of the apartment but can't put the outside of the building because of security reasons with Stephen's job. @Jamie - Thank you :) And uh, no, I won't be trying those spiders any time soon. Stephen ate one, though. Said it wasn't good at all. I will try to post more interesting comparison stuff soon. I'll try. Just started homeschooling so we'll see how time goes!

  5. I like the comparisons too, Kim. Thanks for keeping us informed. Have you received support from FBC College Station, yet?

  6. Great analysis! I especially am perturbed about the prices of appliances. Even though you are paying twice as much here, they are much lesser value. So far, my kettle, blender and toaster have all broken, all within less than 6 months.

    Whoever is selling you coconuts is totally ripping you off. You should be paying 2000 Riel for one (50cents). Only in restaurants will you pay $1 or more. I buy on average 4 a day for $2. Honestly, Chris and I are addicted. The coconut man who comes around every day to our house likes us a lot.

  7. Oh no! Jen is right! I don't pay $ 2 for a coconut! I meant I pay $1.50 to $2 when I buy them... and I buy 3-4 at once! Silly me! Yeah, they are super cheap. Thanks for catching that Jen! haha!