OMG you guys we have finally run out of toilet paper from Jakarta! We thought that Jakarta toilet paper was cheap and good quality, TD and I stuffed the empty spaces in our bookshelves with toilet paper during our pack out! Little did we know that toilet paper in Berlin is even cheaper and better quality!
This is so not fabulous, but I will talk about our crazy urge to shop for toiletries before moving to Berlin. It’s super dorky, but I love hearing from other expat trailing spouses about the prices of toiletries in the city they are living in compared to the city that they come from. So if you are like me, read on!
“What keeps me going are the crowds of homesick, wonderful women I have found wherever I have ended up. Each one is creating her own small version of her homeland around her and wearing it like a protective snail-shell, trying to make the puzzles of everyday a little easier to cope with.”
When we move to a new country, the strangest questions pop into our minds…
- Will beer be cheap? Jakarta NO, Berlin YES
- Will getting a plumber be cheap? Jakarta YES, Berlin NO
- Will pork be cheap? Jakarta NO, Berlin YES 10x
- Will toilet paper be cheap and nice? Jakarta YES, Berlin VERY CHEAP & NICE
*Our point of reference is Manila, so people coming from different cities with different cost of living will inevitably not have the same view point. We all have different perceptions and experiences based on the different choices we make so it is expected that we will have completely different experiences of the same cities, yes? Also these are the prices to the best of my recollection at the point of purchase, if there are any errors please drop me a comment and I will try my best to correct the mistake.
It helps that we aren’t very particular with brands. The private label in Rossman, can be very cheap indeed! Rewind to Jakarta…
TOILETRIES IN JAKARTA
I used to be brand sensitive when we lived in the Philippines (Diba dapat Colgate, Safeguard, Pantene, etc.?) but living in Jakarta we learned to let go. In Jakarta it was funny that it was risky to grab a familiar brand. I would have to double triple check the price, box and where it was made. Sometimes there would be two boxes of Colgate toothpaste but one would be 5-10x more expensive than the other because it was imported (and I would have a mini-heart attack in the cashier if I picked the wrong one). After awhile I gave up and just started buying the cheapest one, Pepsodent (even cheaper than in Manila).
I also figured that if I bought a big bottle of sensational-smelling body milk instead of buying pre-packaged strong-odoured hand soap, it was not only better for my nose, but also my wallet. Brands like Bath & Body works were practically non-existent when we arrived so I would treat myself to a bottle of handwash in Manila and bring it over. This was a definite treat. When they were made available in Jakarta, they were too expensive to buy anyway.
The toiletry brands were limited when we arrived in Jakarta, though there were many improvements as our 4 years progressed. They could be cheap if you compared prices and not just grab your favorite brand off the rack.
We used to love the toilet paper and thought it was pretty great for the price. That’s why we brought oodles and oodles of it to Berlin LOL!
TOILETRIES IN BERLIN
I am no expert, but the Rossman nearby has been pretty amazing. The Quality Control in Germany is naturally pretty fantastic and they are really into using natural ingredients etc. These are just sample comparisons of the stuff that I get in Berlin and in Jakarta. I try to get items that are gentle (and moisturising for soaps) on the skin because I have very sensitive skin, but I get the lowest possible price while trying to get quality.
The same-sized bottle of liquid soap that was USD6/7 in Jakarta, I can get in Rossman in bubble-bath-soap-form (they all work as hand soap to me!) for only €1 during their sale. I think it’s about €2 when they aren’t on sale.
I can get a Rossman brand soap for €0.30 or $.040 here, while in Jakarta our soaps were IDR 6,000 or about $0.52 for Nivea.
If a 8-10 roll bag of 3-ply toilet paper (that feels 2 ply) was about $4.50-6 in Jakarta, it is €2.75 or about $3.75 for 10 rolls that feels like 3-ply.
A friend of mine mentioned that she would bring shampoo from Berlin to the Philippines because it was so darn cheap here. Especially for products that are on sale!
These are just examples of the prices. It can vary widely and change because of the exchange rate and inflation. I am writing this post because I had a hard time find this information when we were moving to Berlin, and I packed things I shouldn’t have bothered packing haha. There are many things that can be more expensive in Berlin, but when it comes to toiletries, there are easy ways to cut costs, like using “house brands” or “private label.”
So my take from this experience is that if you are attached to a particular brand and moving to Berlin, then by all means, hoard a little. But things like tissue paper, shampoo, conditioner, hair styling-products, is cheaper and great quality here compared the Jakarta and Manila provided that you aren’t brand sensitive.
Also it’s so exciting because so many fine products are made in Germany, so be sure to check before bringing something like Persil haha.
I felt completely insane, when I realized these things after bringing my hoarded stash from Jakarta. Because TD, who is more well traveled than I am, was completely traumatised by the most expensive tube of toothpaste that he bought in Paris, that one time. He was really insistent that we bring toiletries! Panic-buying before moving posts is a natural expat impulse for sure.
The one good thing about it is I can learn the German word for “shampoo” and “toothpaste” a little later than I would have needed to. Finding new toiletry brands in the pharmacy/supermarket can take much longer the first few months, because of all the translating you need to do when you don’t know the local language. When our luggage got lost coming in to Berlin, we mistakenly bought savory tasting toothpaste – imagine my face when I put that in my mouth haha! Getting the completely wrong products, when you are new, is totally part and parcel of the expat experience.
I’d love to hear your take on panic/buying pre-move! Is there a particularly memorable or funny hoarding experience you had when moving to a new city? Let’s discuss!
*featured image via