4th July – Putting a price on it

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One of the things we tend to think about when the word ‘value’ comes up is economic value, how much can we get for our money. In Svalbard the answer is usually a lot less than you might hope for and after a while you have to stop being shocked and grumbling because it gets a bit boring. My mum used to have a saying, ‘sometimes you just have to pay up and look rich’, ha, never has it been more applicable! So, just how much are we talking here? Well, I’ve saved up about a months worth of supermarket receipts, so let’s see.


This lot comes to 2267 NOK which is around £225, quite a bit to spend on food for one (vegetarian) person who also ate out a few times as well. Maybe about twice the price as in the already quite expensive UK? Obviously this varies, eating out is comparitively not too bad considering and some things are only slightly more expensive like a can of basic tinned tomatoes (my staple) – 45p. Other, fresh items are more like three times the price: a litre of fresh milk sets you back 34NOK, £3.35, and that’s a subsidised price. Still, perhaps this is good value for money given the logistics, distances and resources it takes to get it here. I know I feel the need for fresh things after a while- what price is health or feeling healthy?

The twist comes when you learn some Scandanavians actually come here to do some serious shopping then…it’s all about the tax. Here there is no VAT: I’ve seen a few trolleys full of alcohol and cigarettes taking advantage of this. Not that it is super cheap, more like UK prices, just not normal Scandavian prices. When you look how much it costs to go on tourist trips as well you realise the flight out here is peanuts, what you do when you get here is where the real costs are. Still, seeing things from the other side: how much equipment, maintenance, staff costs etc are involved and hoping that guides can earn enough to feed and house themselves at these crazy prices, joining up the dots and connecting the circuits of value in flow here, these prices maybe aren’t so outrageous after all…

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