Friday, October 10, 2008

Glamorous Poverty: Wine, Skin Care, Shoes and French Generic

It’s a happy coincidence that the boy that I love shares his first name with a huge fashion designer/major label, because every time I see people wearing shirts with his name splashed across the chest, it’s like he’s winking at me, all the way across the pond.

In additional gushing, the wine is so cheap here it’s ridiculous. You can get a perfectly decent bottle for anywhere from 1-3 €, but I’ve even seen some that are less than a euro! That’s practically free! They’re almost giving it away! They may as well just have wine come out of public fountains, or spray it out onto the streets at people – can you imagine what a party that would be?

It’s such a shame that wine isn’t dirt cheap at home, though – after all, Ontario produces wine, too. It’s also super easy for anyone and everyone to buy alcohol here – a local friend told me that a child of 10 could easily buy wine or beer and no one would bat an eye. That and the fact that kids are exposed to wine at their family dinner tables virtually every day since a very young age is why I suspect that drinking isn’t as huge a deal here as it is in North America.

But I digress. The point is, wine is really, really cheap here, and buying an occasional bottle to sip with friends or to cook with is a great way to amp up your quality of life despite being dirt poor in Europe.

I find that as a general rule, necessities are expensive in Nice, while fun things can run really cheap. For example, food is generally more expensive, especially if you have certain diets. For instance, I eat rice almost every day, and a one kilo bag of mediocre rice is about 2.50 €, while a premium-quality 10kg bag in uptown Toronto is about $15.00 CAD – and that’s after inflation, because they used to cost about $10.00. Personal care products, like shampoo and toothpaste, are also really pricey – only exceptions are French skin care products, which are not cheap but are definitely less costly than at home because here, they are domestic products. For example, I love the brand Avène because I have sensitive skin. An Avène moisture serum (which, by the way, is a phenomenal award-winning product) is $43.00 CAD at Shopper’s Drug Mart in Toronto (since August, anyway), but here, I can buy it for 22 €, which is about $35.00 CAD. Pretty darn good.

Fashion accessories can also be really cheap, but it takes a lot of patient sifting to find something really special, I think, because there’s just so much to choose from. I’m particularly interested in shoes, and I’ve been able to score some great finds here. My flatmate found a store that has a selection of shoes for only 5 €, but I went there, and I don’t really like what’s available. However, I got a pair of cute little cobalt blue patent pumps for only 22 € (that’s about $35 CAD), which is now on sale for about 11 €, and today I bought a pair of supercomfy, casual canvas flats on sale for 6 € (!) and a dressier pair that can totally pass for real leather for just 13 €, all at Moa (on Jean-Médecin). For those of you living in Nice – there’s a huge sale there. I saw a few cute bags that I’d totally go for if I didn’t have the good sense to guilt-trip myself for spending money I shouldn’t spend yet. There are also a lot of great little items (especially trendy pieces and cheap shoes!) at Pimkie, the store right beside it.

Luckily, for all of us poor students living here in France, I find that most generic brand products are very good quality, sort of like President’s Choice in Canada, although I’d say that President’s Choice is steadily becoming a power brand. The other day, I bought a box of Schlecker-brand tissue from Schlecker, this awesome sort of discount store chain in France that reminds me of, say, Pharmaplus or IGA in Canada minus the medications, and I’m very happy with it because it’s thick, durable, and it can almost pass for Kleenex. It wasn’t cheap (because it’s a necessity and it follows my rule, see), but it was cheaper than everything else and it’ll last me because it’s good quality. I’m also pretty happy with Casino-brand food products, which of course, are sold at Casino stores – it’s a supermarket brand that’s sort of halfway in quality between Loblaw’s and No Frills, except with lots of booze.

But my favourite generic food brand by far has to be Leader Price, which is available at Leader Price and Franprix stores. The only Franprix store I’ve been to was very clean and very well-organized, if a little small. Leader Price products are even cheaper than Casino products, but they are very, very good quality. One of my flatmates recommended this mussels & potatoes TV dinner, which costs only 2.14 € and it’s one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten since coming here – as well as a great substitute if you’re craving moules frites and are broke.

So! If you’re low on cash, don’t despair, because there are ways to live well without bankrupting yourself – I call it living in glamorous poverty. ;}


Alexandra said...

Ahhh international shopping, how I miss it!
As a side note, you may want to check in on American/Canadian economic news because I don't think you're necessarily getting the deal you think you're getting unless you exchanged your Canadian dollars for euros before your trip.

How are your classes going?

Xtine said...

You're totally right, and Michelle mentioned the same thing to me too, in an e-mail! I did convert a chunk before I left and right before the big drop, but let's hope the situation will get better because it won't last me forever - or even close!

Classes are ok - I can talk your ear off. I love my translation class, because of these two girls I met, but my grammar course is pretty dry. The teacher is good but she's really intimidating. And the ones held by the co-ordinator...well, they're at night, which sucks. And I have issues with her pedagogic style. But then again, so does everyone else, and irritation directed at a person is a great team unifier - one piece of knowledge I gleaned from Sororityland. :P