£10 for mince pies? The cost of Christmas abroad

Got a spare £500 kicking around? You'll need it if you're an international teacher who wants a Christmas like home

Vicki Rotheram

Teaching overseas: If you're an international teacher, the taste of Christmas like home can be very expensive

I love Christmas. I love it all.

The long preparation and build-up suits me; I love to be organised (some might say I am slightly over the top but I respectfully disagree – there’s nothing wrong with lists, people!).

However, preparation in Thailand is slightly different and in order to have the Christmas of dreams, it requires a lot more planning and thought – and a surprisingly large budget.

You see, for the most part living in Thailand is pretty cheap: a local lunch costs £1 and eating out is often cheaper than cooking. But when it comes to imported goods, the costs rise significantly and non-traditional foods are expensive – and I mean expensive.

What's more, over the past five years we have seen more availability of "home comforts" arriving in the supermarkets. And while this is great (particularly now), it means it can get pricey when you fancy a taste of home.

Why Christmas is expensive for international teachers

And yet, because I am an absolute sucker and most certainly my mother’s child (read: advertiser’s dream customer), here are the top 10 things I will be buying, whatever my bank manager might say.

1. Sprouts

So expensive that they come individually wrapped from the "posh" supermarket. Bad for the planet and bad for post-consumption wind, if you’re not a fan. 

2. Parsnips

Pricier than gold. Often manned by armed guards. 

3. Turkey

Feeding a crowd is impossible unless you’re willing to forgo a mortgage payment. 

4. Wine

The cost of wine? Over £10 for a bottle of cheap wine. Champagne just isn’t happening. Bucks fizz? Out of the question. Have a roadside beer instead. 

5. Cheese

Cheese is one of the main conversations in the staffroom: it’s not lack of availability, it’s the price of good Cheddar, salty feta and some strong blue cheese.

Despite the hair-raising prices, my motto is still: Buy the Cheese.

(Oh, and American cheese doesn't count. Sorry, that's the rules.)

6. Baileys

One small glass a night is all you’re allotted at £40 for the smallest bottle. 

7. Wine

I know, but it never gets easier.

8. Mince pies

They cost a tenner: I repeat, £10!

9. Chocolate

A perennial problem, to be honest – not just at Christmas. But who can resist the call of Cadburys and After Eights? Not me. 

10. Panettone

I've saved the best until last. While panettone is not actually a favourite of mine, I recently saw one for 14,000 baht in our supermarket. When I converted this, I actually did a snort-laugh: £350. For some flour and air.  

Buy everything from this list and you're looking at, ooh, a good £500 for a small, very standard Christmas shop. Gulp. OK, ditch the panettone – but it's still crazy expensive.

Trade-offs

In return for the high cost of these items, we have good weather and (almost) full freedom of movement, so I shan’t miss my glasses steaming up every time I enter a warm house.

But I should probably call the bank as I am definitely going to miss that mortgage payment and will be eating £1 lunches well into the new year. 

Vicki Rotheram is an assistant principal at Shrewsbury International School (Riverside) in Bangkok. She leads the newly established Shrewsbury Institute

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