Posted by: patenttranslator | September 27, 2019

A Personal Comparison of the Cost of Living in Hampton Roads, Virginia and Ceske Budejovice, Southern Bohemia

Now that I have been living here in Czech Republic for almost a year, I feel that I have sufficient experience and enough facts on which to base such a personal comparison.

In some respects it will not be a good match between the two places mostly because when I moved after living in Northern California, first in San Francisco and then Santa Rosa, since 1982 until 2001, to Chesapeake, which is a city of about 100,000, I was married, which meant that I had a wife, two small children, three dogs and an Australian reptile, and as a sole provider in a family of four, I had different needs and requirements than now that I am a recently divorced pensioner.

My housing cost is much smaller now because I moved from a large house of some 3,800 square feet (about 350 square meters, with 8 rooms and 4 bathrooms), which I owned with my ex-wife in Chesapeake, Virginia, to a much smaller apartment, which I am renting here in the city of Ceske Budejovice, also about 100,000 people, a little over 2 hours by car, bus or train, south of Prague, not far (about 10 miles) from my hometown of Cesky Krumlov, or from the Austrian border.

Instead of having to pay the mortgage on our house in Chesapeake, which was $1,200, plus taxes of about $400 (each month!) and the home owners association fee of $75, not to forget home insurance and flood insurance (we were a few hundred yards from the Elisabeth River and not too far from the Chesapeake Bay and the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean), for a total housing cost of about $1,600 before utilities, or well over $2,000 with utilities.

I now pay 8,500 Czech crowns, or about 370 US dollars, to rent a much smaller apartment of 60 meters, or about 650 square feet, which is also quite comfortable for me now that I am single again. The utilities on my apartment are about 150 US dollars, while the utilities on our house in Virginia were more than 3 times that much.

I do miss a little bit our spacious, very comfortable American house in beautiful Virginia, but not too much. Just like in Virginia, I have stunning views of trees, woods, hills with blue skies with big birds hunting smaller animals and birds from every room in my apartment (the living room, the kitchen and the bedroom), partly because I now live on the fifth floor on a street with small buildings and only 2 relatively tall houses of 6 floors, one of them being the one where I live now. As I write another silly post of mine, I see a hot air balloon from which sightseers are admiring the the rolling, green South Bohemian landscape. Right now they seem to be aiming toward the picturesque Hluboka castle, perfect rendering of a fairytale castle in the wedding cake style architecture, situated about 10 miles east of here.

When I still lived in Virginia, I made an estimate of the kind of costs I was expecting to have here in Bohemia.

Here it is:

Basic Expenses in Czech Republic Estimated from US

A Housing (Crowns / $) Monthly in Crowns In US$
1 Rent 15,000 ($650)
2 Utilities 3,000 ($130)
3 Water + garbage 1,000 ($45)
4 Phones + Internet 4,000 ($170
5 Food + restaurants 8,000 ($350)
6 Books, taxes, travel. 6,000 ($250)
7 Total expenses 37,000 crowns $1,600

It turns out that my actual expenses in Czech Republic were very close to my original estimate a year ago, done still in US.

 A Housing Monthly, $ / Crowns Partial subtotals and the total
1 Rent $370 / (8,500) 8,500 ($370)
2 Utilities ($150) $150 / (3,500) 12,000 ($520)
3 Water, garbage Included in utilities Included in utilities
4 Phones, Internet) 4,000 $180 / (4,200) 16,000 ($700)
5 Food + restaurants $600 / (13,000) 27,000 ($1,200)
6 Books, taxis, travel $200 / (4,500) 32,000 ($1,400)
7 Total basic expenses 35,000 ($1,520) 35,000 ($1,520)

The main difference between my estimated and actual costs is that I overestimated how much I would need to spend on rent and underestimated how much I would need to spend on food and restaurants. I could (and everybody tells me that I should) save on food and restaurants, but that would mean that I would need to start cooking, and at this point in my life I don’t feel like I need to learn more than how to slap together two pieces of bread with some more or less edible stuff like cheese and salami in between them.

For 34 years, up until the fall of last year, I was married to a Japanese chef who saw it as her sacred duty to prepare two meals a day for me …. Well, she would have to cook them for herself anyway, right? So, it was not really that difficult for her to manage that particular sacred duty, to basically just double the amount of food that she would need to cook without me. Plus, when we were fighting, which happened at least once every two months, she went on strike, i.e. she would cook only for herself for a day or two to show me who’s the boss here. So, I never learned how to cook and probably never will (and it’s her damn fault too).

What I did not know until coming here was that there are many companies here in Czech Republic providing inexpensive meals to customers, mostly senior citizens who like me are too lazy to cook for themselves. The meals, consisting of a passable soup and a fairly good main meal delivered right to my door Monday through Friday at the cost of about US$20 per week, are most of what I need to feed myself during the week and on the weekends I go to an inexpensive restaurant, where a “main menu meal” with a good Czech beer costs under 150 Czech crowns, or about US$ 6.50, including the tip. In US it would be at least twice that much.

So that is how I replaced my private, in-house Japanese chef, whom I originally and for a very long time thought of as quite irreplaceable, but who turned out to be quite easily replaceable, at least as far as cooking is concerned. I never liked sushi too much anyway, although of course I never dared to tell her that.

Another major change was that I don’t have a car anymore. In US, at one time I had to pay for 4 cars when my kids were teenagers, and for several cell phones as well, which of course they kept breaking and loosing too, for instance when they were “surfing” above the crowd of other teenagers at rock concerts. At this point in my life, I don’t know if I will ever get a car again because although I still have a valid US driver’s license, I would need to get a Czech one, and it would be a major hassle.

But unlike in US, public transport here is very good and since the distances are much smaller in such a small country, I can get just about anywhere using public transportation that is very cheep or free for senior citizens. I have two cards for public transport, meaning buses, trams and metro, one for Prague and for Ceske Budejovice, where I can now go anywhere with these two cards for free. When I travel by bus or train, as a senior citizen I get 75% off the cost of the ticket, the rest of the cost is reimbursed to the transport companies by the state (I personally heard from several cheeky teenagers that the state is just wasting money in this manner on idle seniors, although they don’t seem to mind that children have the same privilege here, up until the age of 18 if I am not mistaken).

For example, the bus or train ride from Ceske Budejovice to Prague, about 100 miles from here, which takes 2 hours and 10 minutes, costs me the grand total of about one or two dollars, depending on which bus or train company I use. Taxis are also cheap – here I use a taxi service called Liftago, basically the same thing as Lyft, which I used in Virginia. I use Liftago mostly at night when the bus intervals are up to 20 minutes, and it costs me to travel just about anywhere in the city of Ceske Budejovice about US$5.

So, there you have it. I still might move back to the states again to be closer to my kids because I miss them something terrible. But if I did that, I would either have to start working very hard again, or live very modestly off my Social Security pension. So I will probably just visit them once a year or so and hope that they will visit me here too sometime.

Living here, I don’t have to work (even though I still have to do one translation today), because my pension covers my expenses very comfortably. Most importantly, I don’t have to worry about how am I going to pay bills. I could even save quite a bit of money by trying not to exceed the basic expenses too much on a month to month basis … or I could waste most of my income by spending it on things that are enjoyable, although perhaps not really necessary.

I plan to do the latter.

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Responses

  1. Yeah, the good life in CZ. Only the “main menu meal” for 250 CZK seems to be a bit on the high side. For that amount, I would get an excellent main course in lovely Château Dobříš, near Prague. Or should this be 150 CZK? Because you give it at $6.50, and 250 CZK would be closer to $12.00. But, on the whole, for people on a “Western” income, CZ is a good place to be. Glad you are enjoying it, Steve.

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  2. Thanks for reminding me, Volkmar, that was actually a typo, it should be 150 crowns. The dollar amount was correct and I already fixed it.

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  3. Good post as usually. The only number I see as low on US side is the $1200 monthly for mortgage for 3800 sf house in Chesapeake. I presume you bought the house long time ago and you put some serious money down to lower your monthly payments. Zillow says: The median home value in Chesapeake is $267,200. Chesapeake home values have gone up 2.9% over the past year and Zillow predicts they will rise 1.8% within the next year. The median list price per square foot in Chesapeake is $148, which is higher than the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News Metro average of $147.
    So please check the numbers and let us know.

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  4. Thanks for your comment. Yes, since we bought the house in 2001, just before 9/11, the mortgage was still low in 2019 when we sold it, although the value of the house did not go up nearly as much as on our much smaller starter house in California.

    So the mortgage was not bad, but then there are taxes, insurance, utilities … It just costs a lot of money to “have a house” and you don’t really own it even when the mortgage is paid off. The taxes and various fees are so high that the City Hall owns it, not you.

    I’m glad we finally got to sell it.

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  5. You have to pay separately for garbage collection? That’s a new concept to me.

    (BTW, your old house is about 3 times as big as the one we’re hoping to move to!)

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  6. Yes, the house was way too big for us once the children grew up and moved out. They did that about 10 years ago, but we waited until this year to sell it.

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    • Dear Steve, I hope you also cancelled the payments for your Medicare part B, as you don’t need it when you are outside of US for long period. You can always enroll back without penalty, if you decided to come back for prolonged period of time. It takes 2 months and you have to fill a special form.

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  7. Yes, I canceled Medicare last year. But I understand there is a penalty (unless the penalty was canceled in the meantime). Specifically, if I come back to live in US again, I would be charged a higher fee to enroll in Medicare depending on how many years I lived abroad. I might come back to the States one day, although I don’t foresee it now, but why would I continue paying medicare premium now if medicare works only in US? That would be a perfect definition of paying for nothing.

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    • Question, you cancelled whole medicare, or only part B. Part A is free for us, so cancellation of that is pointless. I cancelled the part B only and it will take effect from November. I asked about the penalty and the penalty is issued only if you do not have any other health insurance, as as you do in Czech Republic, you are fine, and there will be no penalty.

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  8. Oh, that’s good news, thanks. So there would be no penalty for me since I have Czech insurance here. I still have part A, so if I moved back to US, I could get Medicare part B without the penalty.

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