Dateline: Jakarta, Indonesia
For years, The Economist has published the “Big Mac Index”, a study based on the assumption that a widely-available good like the Big Mac can indicate inaccurate valuations in foreign currencies. As such, many argue that it is also a great indicator of the cost of living and purchasing power parity in countries throughout the world.
While the survey highlights some of the world’s most expensive countries for eating at McDonald’s, it is also a good indicator of how much you will be spending on food and other goods in general in any given country — whether you’re a burger-loving expat or not.
While the average price of a Big Mac in the United States is all of $4.68, that very same sandwich will cost you a lot more after currency adjustments in the five most expensive countries for fast food.[Note: Due to the lack of reliable data and an inconsistent policy on ranking high inflation countries, we chose to remove Venezuela from this list; the Big Mac Index claims its sandwich comes in at $7.15.]
The five most expensive countries on the Big Mac Index
5. Brazil – $5.28
While critics of the Big Mac Index point out how Argentina’s insane president cooks the books on her country’s double-digit inflation, Brazil is officially the most expensive country in South America for buying a Big Mac. As of a recent survey, Brazilians pay a little more than 10 Brazilian reales for each individual sandwich. As one of the most expensive countries in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s no surprise that Brazil makes the list.
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4. Denmark – $5.37
The Big Mac Index places socialist Denmark as the fourth most expensive hamburger in the world — almost a full $1 more expensive than the same sandwich in The Land of the Free. While Denmark has been ranked one of the most economically free European countries, it also imposes stringent regulations on businesses. Taxes don’t help, either; Denmark has raised its value added tax (VAT) from the low single digits a few decades ago, to its current 25% level. Income taxes are as high as 59%. And if you eat too many Big Macs, you might get hit by Denmark’s “fat tax”.
3. Sweden – $6.16
Sweden’s position on the Big Mac Index shows, according to the survey, that its kroner currency is overvalued by 35.1%. An average price of 41.6 kroner for one of McDonalds’ classic sandwiches makes Sweden the third most expensive country for buying one, which should come as no surprise to those who understand Sweden’s obsession with social and income equality (despite proof it hasn’t really worked).
2. Switzerland – $6.72
McDonald’s combo meals in Switzerland can cost as much as $15 thanks to the country’s Swiss franc and its status as one of the most expensive countries in the world. However, such prices may seem tame when you consider that a decent dinner in Zurich can easily cost $60 without alcohol, and a decent hotel room in Geneva can easily top $200. At those prices, you may be rushing to McDonald’s to chow down on the world’s second most expensive Big Mac. Everything else is so darn expensive. According to The Economist’s data, the Swiss franc is overvalued by a whopping 47.5%. Hmmm…
1. Norway – $7.51
It’s hard to find inexpensive food in Norway. The country’s high VAT tax on restaurant dining makes it hard to eat out on a budget, for a number of reasons. That is reflected in Norway’s position on the Big Mac Index. Norway, one of the most expensive countries in the world, is also home to the priciest McDonald’s combo meal, at around $23. Norway prides itself on healthy and organic living, which may explain the lack of uproar over expensive fast food.
Of course, many expats prefer to eat GMO-free foods and avoid McDonald’s. If you live in one of these places, it’s just all the more reason to do so.
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