x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Christmas costs, home and away

Comparison shopping by reporters from The National shows that a parcel of holiday staples is cheaper in Dubai than in Sydney but more costly than in London. Staying home for the holiday may make economic sense for many in the expatriate community.

Pankaj Shirodkar, right, with his daughter Nicole and wife Panna, hits the Lulu Hypermarket in Al Barsha for Christmas essentials yesterday.
Pankaj Shirodkar, right, with his daughter Nicole and wife Panna, hits the Lulu Hypermarket in Al Barsha for Christmas essentials yesterday.

Comparison shopping by reporters from The National shows that a parcel of holiday staples is cheaper in Dubai than in Sydney but more costly than in London. Staying home for the holiday may make economic sense for many in the expatriate community. DUBAI // With Christmas Day less than a week away, expatriates are hitting the malls and supermarkets in force, scouring the shelves for last-minute gifts and those all-important Christmas staples, such as trees, puddings and turkeys. Many expatriates and others spending the festive season away from their loved ones are finding it makes economic sense to stay here to celebrate. A comparison conducted by The National on the price of some traditional Christmas buys in Dubai, London and Sydney, suggests the cost of an average family Christmas in the UAE is marginally lower than it would be in Australia but higher than in the UK.

And that does not take into account the significant expense of expatriates buying airline tickets back to the UK or Australia. In a bid to evaluate how much a typical Christmas shopping list could cost consumers this year, The National compiled a list of basic items and then visited shops and supermarkets in Dubai, London and Sydney to see how they differed in cost. On the list were seasonal staples including a tree, crackers, turkey, Christmas pudding and tinsel; along with two gift items - a best-selling DVD and a book.

The results saw the Dubai list cost almost twice as much, in dirhams, as the UK version Dh806 (£136) compared with London's Dh442. But Dubai came out Dh350 cheaper than Sydney's Dh1,156 (AUS$354). Given the cost of importing, it was no surprise that the most expensive festive item on the list in Dubai was a real Christmas tree, at Dh420 for a 2.1m specimen. But there were also 1.2m trees available for Dh149 at Spinneys.

Crackers were also significantly more expensive in the UAE, costing Dh120, compared with just Dh10 in Australia and Dh30 in the UK. A Christmas pudding cost almost double the price for half the size in Dubai, compared with Sydney. Devorn Vanhoff, a Sri Lankan father and husband spending Christmas in Dubai with his family, believes that when expats take into account the quality of the items here, plus the average salaries and the cost of importing items such as Christmas trees, staying here makes good financial sense.

"I don't send presents home unless I'm returning with them and so Christmas actually costs much more if I go home, perhaps Dh10,000," said Mr Vanhoff, who has been in Dubai for 17 years and has spent most Christmas holidays in Sri Lanka. "Staying here with my wife and daughter, it costs perhaps half that." Artificial trees were at their most costly in Dubai where a 1.8m Christmas tree from Spinneys cost Dh340. A 1.5m "Aspen" tree from an Argos store in the UK was about Dh120, and in Australia a 1.8m artificial tree cost about Dh212.

However, the price of a frozen turkey was almost identical in Dubai and the UK. A frozen 5.4kg Butterball Premium bird cost Dh86.13 here from Spinneys supermarket and a Bernard Matthews basted medium turkey cost about Dh90 in Britain from the supermarket chain Sainsbury's. For some people, however, the decision to shop outside Dubai for Christmas items is about convenience, not finances. Mieke Quarrie, 34, a Dutch expatriate and mother of two, is travelling to the UK for Christmas with her husband and children.

She shops online for gifts because there is simply more choice. "I also do it for birthdays if the item I am looking for is not in stock here," she said. loatway@thenational.ae

We rounded up stocking-stuffers and some holiday staples for three countries and compared prices

Real tree (2.1m) $65 (Dh212) Artificial tree (1.8m) $199 (Dh650) Crackers (box of 12) $3 (Dh10) for the standard; luxury crackers, $9 (Dh29) Frozen turkey $28.80 (Dh94) for a 4.8kg bird or $42.70 (Dh139) for 7kg Christmas pudding $8 (Dh26) for 800g or a four-pack box of mini puddings (440g in total), $8 (Dh26) Mince pies (box of 6) $3.48 (Dh11) Tinsel (5m) $3 (Dh10) Book (hardcover) Going Rogue, by Sarah Palin, $43.99 (Dh144) DVD The Proposal, $29.98 (Dh98)

Real tree (2.1m) Dh420, Spinneys, Mercato Mall Artificial tree (1.8m) Dh340, Spinneys, Al Wasl Road Crackers (box of 12) Dh120, Spinneys Frozen turkey (5.4kg) Butterball Premium, Dh86.13 Christmas pudding (400g) Dh49, Waitrose Mince pies (box of six) Dh14, Spinneys Tinsel Dh15-25, Spinneys Book Fierce, Kelly Osbourne, Dh97, Virgin Megastore (Going Rogue not available) DVD The Proposal, Dh85, Waitrose

Real tree (1.5m Nordman) £40 (Dh237), market florist Artificial tree (1.5m Aspen) £19.99 (Dh118), Argos Crackers (box of 12) £5.00 (Dh30), Tesco Frozen turkey (5.4kg) Bernard Matthews basted, £15 (Dh89) Sainsbury's Christmas pudding (4.54kg) £4.50 (Dh27), Tesco Lattice mince pies (box of 6) £1.19 (Dh7), Marks and Spencer Luxury red tinsel (2m) 99p (Dh6), Sainsbury's Book Going Rogue, £9.99 (Dh59) Waterstones DVD The Proposal, £17.99 (Dh177)