May 24, 2008

Soaring gas prices and a flailing economy!

One thing I noticed when I was in San Diego was the rising prices of gas! On an average of $3.89- $4.20 a gal., gas prices in California are still much lower than what people pay here in France! The most frequently asked question of my friends to both me and Alex was, "So, how much does gas cost per gallon in France? Is it more expensive than here?" To which I would respond, "Oh, it's about 1 euro 30 per litre so about $8 a gallon!!" People were floored when responded. I think it gave them some source of comfort to know that even though the price of gas keeps going up and up in the U.S., it's still MUCH cheaper than here in France!! People whom I spoke with there were just in shock that gas is sooo expensive here in France. One thing I mentioned is that in France, our public transportation system is so efficient, you don't really NEED a car to get around... In San Diego, you REALLY need a car because everything is so spread out... and public transportation is not very advanced. I will have to say that with the San Diego Trolley, there are many more places San Diegans can get to without driving their cars, so that is one big plus going for the city. I used to take the trolley from Little Italy to the Mexican border in about 30 minutes or so and it cost on $1.55 a few years ago. That's pretty good! Another thing that a lot of Californians have against them is that soooo many of them drive these huge utility vehicles... What a waste! I know they are nice and all, and maybe some large families feel the need to have them... But if you hope on any rode in San Diego you can count MANY more SUVs than smaller vehicles... and those thing EAT up gas!! I don't think there are as many SUVs in France as there are in just LA/San Diego alone!
Another issue people are talking about in California is the flailing economy... I hear that a lot of people are foreclosing on their houses... NOW is a great time to buy, but if you owe a lot of money on your house, you're in trouble! I don't really know how the economy is flailing there because for me, it's still sooo much cheaper there than here in France! I mean, $3.40 for a soy latte at Peets/Starbucks in San Diego really beat out my 4 euro 50 soy latte (Starbucks) in France!! I noticed the prices of things, such as food has gone up a little bit there... but overall, the French pay MUCH higher prices for sooo many things here in France. Plus, we have to content with that lux tax at 19.6% when the sales taxe in San Diego is about 7.something! I know that one this trip, my euro went MUCH further than my US dollar... but I didn't want to use my euros over there because I know I will need them here this summer when I am not working!! So, I just used my money from my U.S. bank account and did a good job of giving a boost to the U.S. economy during my 4 week visit!!! Rest assured... the U.S. economy may be shaky now, but I think people are handling it by curbing their "unnecessary" spending and cutting back on using their car as much. We'll see what's in store for them...

10 comments:

Justin said...

I know when I go back to the US I am going to buy a nice efficient small manual transmission car. I would also love to be able to move to a larger city that has public transportation and just not buy a car. Unfortunately, with my background most jobs for me are offered in smaller cities. My brother for one has not owned a car in like 12 years and doesn't even bother renewing his license (just has an ID card). He always lives downtown in cities, and now lives in Brooklyn so he walks or takes the subway... I would love that!

I will definitely be contributing a large amount to the US economy during my next trip back. Three days in Santa Barbara followed by 12 days in Western NY. ;-)

David said...

Yeah Leesa,

To start my list of things I prefer in the US: cost of life and salaries.
One thing I prefer in France: few SUVs (even if there are more and more) and gas-efficient cars... (a full tank of gas in France will get you much further than a full tank of gas in the US where I felt I had to fill up my tank every two days the few times I drove)

Betty C. said...

I do think Americans would be complaining less if they didn't drive such huge, gas-guzzling vehicles. I know when I left the USA (in 1990) people actually had cars. Now about 3 out of 4 vehicles I see when I go there are trucks, SUVs, etc. I'm sure those people are feeling the pain -- but yet I don't really sympathize with them.

Soulamouse said...

I think it is kind of scary..because it does not seem the situation will change drastically.
The best is when you can have the best of two worlds!!!! Shopping in the US was amazing and saved me a lot of money. On the other hand, who would want to get sick there right? I was also thinking if I would be willing to go into debt by attending university there??!! Probably not unless it was a very lucrative major.
As I say, the best of two worlds is the way to go:)
bye bye
linda

Leesa said...

Hi All,

Thanks for your comments! I hope you have a nice WE...

Justin: I agree- fewer SUVs here!! I do appreciate that one. It seems like such a waste to me to have such a large vehicle... I KNOW they are nice.. I have friends who have them and they are great.. But gas guzzlers and not good for the enviro. en general. I am happy NOT to drive a car here... Public transport. is fine with me and taking public transport doesn't have the same negative image as back in Cali. Like you're poor and can't affort your own car... Also that a lot of low-lifes take the bus!! It's DEFINITELY NOT that same image here!!! I will give you some tips for traveling back with stuff from the U.S. - I'm a pro. now!!!!

David- I sooo agree with you on this... I made a HEAP of money every month as a high school teacher- equiv. to 3500 euros a month (before taxes)!! I would never even DREAM of making the same salary here as a teacher, or in a similar position. What is that amount of salary equiv. to over here? Even garbage collecters make a ton of money in California!
I rented an "economy" car in San Diego for a month.. and filled up a tank of 10 gals for $45/week. When I left Cali in Aug. '06- I was paying about $35 with my Geo Prism/5-7 days. I don't really think the gas price has gone up sooo much in almost two years! My friend was complaining about the rise in the price of the U.S. postal stamp (domestic) from 40 cents to 42 cents!!! I think every American needs to come to France to see how much MORE things cost over here and then go back home and live their lives in cheap America- problem is... everyone likes to spend over there- misuse/abuse of credit cards- plastic does NOT equal money!! I am guilty of spending but I haven't used a "credit card" in over 13 years!! Just my atm/debit card, which isn't the same. Americans tend to drive EVERYWHERE instead of biking or walking- but this is now changing!! While I was driving on the freeway in San Diego one day I saw one of those big digital panels reminding drivers of Bike Day- and to bike to work... That was cool!

Betty- I soooooooo agree with you and I often wonder if people with those big SUVs are now trading them in for smaller vehicles- hang on a sec... Magic 8 Ball says- "My sources say YES!" Friends told me that Americans are starting to trade in their cars but are also "stuck" with them cuz they can't sell them that easily...

Linda- If you ONLY knew how much money I owe for student loans... I admit that I defaulted on them so it's my fault... I admit that publically as a HUGE mistake I made and one I regret- when I was younger. I am now paying a HIGH price for my lack of responsibily and I advice everyone to either try not to take out a lot of loans or pay them back as soon as they can... I also know that, for example, dentists in California... take out sooo much money in loans for school- that when they complete their schooling and open a practice they make false diagnoses and tell patients they need to do procedures /treatments that are completely unncessary... It's HIGHLY unethical and horrible, but it does happen!!
Also, I found things to be so much LESS expensive in Cali than in France that I didn't even care about dropping so much money... My justification being that I haven't shopped in France for over a year and a half, I can't even find those kind of things in France, if I DO find these things in France they are triple and quadruple the price! I admit I think I actually paid more to bring the stuff back in suitcases than I paid for all the stuff I bought!! YIKKEESS!!!!

David said...

"What is that amount of salary equiv. to over here?"

I'm not exactly sure, but I think high school teachers can make about $2000 max in France (like at the end of their career and such) but it's a wild guess... (and I'm comparing with the "normal" Euro to Dollar rate, that is one to one, even if it hasn't been like this in years and I'm not sure it'll ever go back to that rate).

I think that when comparing salaries in the US and in France for "normal" jobs (I'm not talking burger flipper at McDonald's, neither CEO of a mega-corporation) a person in the US will make about twice what a person in France will make.

Now, as you and Linda mentioned, a American will have student loans to pay, as well as a health insurance and other stuff that French people don't have to worry about... But at the end of the day (or rather the month), an American will have more money in their pocket than a French...

Soulamouse said...

yeah, I cannot imagine...taking a student loan, must have been pretty stressful. When we entered the university, as freshmen, fresh and naive, we always thought the Americans have it so good - their glamorous campuses, wonderful canteens, great gyms...The gym is non existant as well as campuses but I don't care because after I graduate, I won't owe any money. On the other hand, we can take many sports as part of the curriculum.
It is really sad about the practise...I just found a fantastic dentist, she did an Xray, found two cavities, took out a wisdom tooth and did a new ceramic tooth. The ceramic tooth was about $20 and the rest, including Xray ..well, please don't fall from the chair, $1.50:)(that is a fixed fee when you visit the doctor) Obviously later I will pay a lot to the social insurance but I like our system and it seems more fair...even though there is a lot of corruption everywhere...
so anyway...I think you do have the best of two worlds...:) No?
I really wonder why are consumer prices so "low" in the US...I got the contacts there for 300% less. MOST of my Czech friends (most, not some) use notebooks or cameras from the US. I mean, US retailers must make some money so why is here everything so expensive? (I once read some article about this and it had the most stupid reasoning - it is because Europe is so multilingual and so many translations are needed...)I feel a bit guilty because by importing these things, I am not doing much good to the planet...
anyway, great weekend:)

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

It is not just France feeling it...prices in the UK have risen..Cost of buying a house, electricity, gas, food, petrol..house prices are falling but its the cost of getting one and keeping it!!! It is an absolute nightmare...

Soulamouse said...

I remember I was in France and I was complaining to my French friend (I usuall don;t like to complain but this was in a joking way) because I was upset that I got a roll of toilet paper for 3 euros and I was imagining what that would buy me elsewhere and he told me that france towards uk are tiers mondistes...actually i was thinking about writing a ma thesis on british emigration...:)anyway good night :)

Betty C. said...

I'm back again on this one -- there seems to be quite a debate going on!

Yes, salaries do seem much higher in the USA (although the recent exchange rate takes a bite out of that calculation.) Yet people with comparable jobs seem to manage to live comparable lifestyles here in France -- I've never really figured out how this is possible. Maybe we (in France) do make more choices and don't necessarily want to "have it all." For example, in my family here we don't invest in cars at all.

Even private colleges are much cheaper here too, but that only affects those who have college-bound kids...

I agree with the credit issue. In the 18 years I've lived here with my husband, our only debt, other than occasionally paying for an appliance in three installments without interest, has been on our houses.

I have a friend in the USA who always seems to wonder why middle to upper-middle class French people aren't actually poverty-stricken. It's a good question.

That said, I've noticed there is a lot of "family money" floating around in France too.