Posted by: patenttranslator | November 25, 2018

My Initial Comparison of the Cost of Living in Chesapeake, Virginia, and České Budějovice, Czech Republic

Why did I move back from the green coast of Eastern Virginia to the country where I was born and lived for the first 28 years of my life, after spending 38 years abroad, mostly in the United States? Well, there was a number of reasons for that, not just one, of course.

My adult sons have left our household more than a decade ago, they live thousands of miles away and I would see them perhaps only once or twice a year. They don’t need me anymore, and I will probably still see them once or twice a year even where I live now, at least I hope so.

After 34 years of marriage, we decided to call it quits and my ex-wife will be returning to Japan to be with her elderly mother. I loved living in Japan when I was young but I would not want to do that at this point in my life.

I missed Bohemia a lot when I lived in California and then in Virginia. That was another potent reason for me to move again, this time back to where I came from. But the main reason was of course economic.

I calculated that to be able to stay in United States and continue living the same lifestyle as before also in retirement, I would need to make about 3,000 dollars in addition to my Social Security income, which I started receiving 2 years ago. I can do that relatively easily at the moment and I also have savings that would last me maybe a couple of years if I had to use them. But what if I get sick, for example, what then? Even though I like what I do for a living, there should be a point in my life, just like in everybody’s life, at which I should be able to stop working altogether like most people, n’est-ce pas?

There are many countries in this world where the Yankee dollar goes quite a bit farther than in the US of A, so I decided to join the hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of seniors who moved abroad to be able to live in retirement off a somewhat limited fixed income, often just Social Security.

As a US citizen, I can live anywhere I want to (except for Cuba and North Korea) and continue receiving Social Security payments as I have been paying taxes in the United States for 35 years. Actually, 36 years, because as I am still working, I already paid about a half of what I will owe to Uncle Sam for this year and I will pay the rest of it by March of next year.

There is a whole industry catering to US and other seniors who are looking for a country to move to once they have reached retirement age. Most of them move to countries with warm weather and a low cost of living, such as Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama or Thailand, but some move to pricier European countries, for example Germany, France or Croatia.

The cost of living in Czech Republic is higher than in some Asian and Latin American countries, for example, but quite a bit lower than in the United States. A number of differences in the cost of necessary daily expenditures accounts for this fact.

The cost of real estate and the cost of renting is much lower in Czech Republic than in US, especially when compared to California, as you can see if you click on the introductory Youtube video.

The cost of my mortgage, mortgage insurance, home insurance, home owners association fee and real estate taxes was about $1,800, which is not too bad for Virginia – thanks to the fact that we bought our house a long time ago. Even if the mortgage ($1,200) were paid off (which it isn’t), I would still owe about $600 in other fees related to real estate, more than half of it in real estate taxes which are much higher in US than in other countries. The utilities on my house in Virginia were about $300 to $500 a month a month – higher in the summer, which lasts about half a year in Virginia, because you need air conditioning pretty much non-stop.

I am now renting a small but comfortable and conveniently located apartment, (with a small balcony and a view of the small city and the Black Tower in Downtown from eighth floor, about 44 square meters or 470 square feet, as opposed to 3,800 square feet, or about 350 square meters that were wasted on only two people in our spacious house in Eastern Virginia), in the South Bohemian town of České Budějovice where I am living now. But the rent for my Czech apartment is only about $350, and the utilities are about $100. So the rent here is about nine time less here than in San Francisco where I lived from 1982 to 1992, when it was still possible for normal people to afford living there, and the cost of rent and utilities here in České Budějovice is basically what I paid just for real estate-related taxes and fees up until October in Virginia. And internet and cable TV are included in the cost of utilities, while in Virginia, I paid $220 a month just for for internet and cable TV. And the internet is fast and reliable – so far my wifi was out only once, in early morning hours, probably for maintenance.

So I used the hot spot off my cell phone for my computer, no big deal.

What about the cost of food here?

After only seven weeks, I am still not sure about the differences in the cost of groceries, especially since I don’t buy them much. It’s probably cheaper here, but I am not sure by how much.

But a delicious Czech meal, including a hearty soup and a main course such as Wiener schnitzel and potatoes with a good domestic beer (a typical Czech meal!) costs a little over $6 at a neighborhood family restaurant near my apartment. A similar meal in a restaurant in Chesapeake where I used to live would cost almost three times as much.

Plus there is a service that brings me and other seniors my lunch to my apartment Monday through Friday and the cost of that service is about $3.60 per lunch. I just nuke the main meal in my microwave oven and usually have the soup next morning. I never learned how to do anything more complicated than warming up a sausage or boiling eggs because for the last 34 years I was married to a former chef. So I thought that I would need to finally learn how to cook once I move not to have to spend too much of my budget on food.

But it looks like I will not have to learn how to cook after all, as the cost of restaurants and meal-delivery service is quite reasonable here in České Budějovice, a town with a population of about 100,000. After almost two months, I am getting a little tired of the Czech cuisine that tasted so wonderful at first … although so far I went only once to a Chinese restaurant and twice to a junk food place.

But there are many other restaurants in this town as well, from Italian, Indian, and Mexican, to Japanese and Chinese, Vietnames and Thai restaurants, I’ll just have to find them. I do have to say, though, that the pizza from the two pizza places I tried so far was pretty horrible. The pizza I ate in restaurants in Italy, Germany, or America was much, much better.

The food in junk food restaurants such as KFC, McDonalds, or Burger Kind is a bit cheaper here and it tastes pretty much the same anywhere in the world. But will I ever find a pizza joint here with a pizza that tastes as good as for example the pizza from Papa John’s in Chesapeake? That is the big, unresolved question.

The cost of health insurance for me at this point is $74 a month in Czech Republic, while I paid $173 for part B of Medicare insurance in United States. But there are many things that Medicare does not pay for. For example, I had to pay just under $1,000 for an eye exam and new glasses in Chesapeake last year. So far I have been to a doctor here three times and there has been a copayment that I had to pay every time. But it was only 100 crowns, or a little over 4 dollars. I also bought some medications, even before I had health insurance, but the cost was again only a few dollars, much less than what I would have to pay in United States.

Another interesting point of comparison is the cost of transportation in Chesapeake and České Budějovice. There is basically no public transport in Chesapeake with the exception of a few buses that are extremely inconvenient. So since like everybody else, we needed two cars, that the cost of transportation for the two of us, including insurance and gas, was about $150 a month, which was much less than what most people have to pay given that neither of us had to commute to work.

I don’t need a car here because public transport alternatives here, namely many buses and trolleys,  are everywhere and they run every few minutes. Taxis are reasonable too, it costs under $4 to get from my place to downtown or to the train station, both places only about a mile away.

The cost to me for public transport in the small city where I live is about 40 cents a year.

No, that is not a typo! Seniors of any nationality living in this town just need to bring their ID or passport to one of the Public Transport Authority offices in order to prove that they are old geezers based on their date of birth to buy a yearly coupon for a transport ID that costs 10 Czech crowns, which is at today’s exchange rates 44 cents in US dollars.

The idea is probably to get dangerous older drivers off the roads, which works for me just fine. Another thing is that once you have this senior ID, you can also get other discounts off the cost of the regular fare on trains anywhere in Czech Republic, which I think is fabulous. I have not tried it yet, but I intend to so soon on my next trip to Prague (under 100 miles), which should take about two hours and cost, thanks to the senior discount, under four dollars for a return trip.

I have still a few problems that I have to deal with here as a special case of a new immigrant. For instance, although I have a permanent domicile certificate, I don’t have a Czech ID yet, which seems to require much more documentation than I thought would be needed.

But other than that, I am getting used to my new environment fairly quickly, and of course, this is in no small part also thanks to the considerably lower cost of living here compared to the United States.

It’s so nice not to have to work anymore because everything is comfortably covered by your pension even though you live on a fixed income!

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