Chart of the Day: The Big Mac Index

Today’s chart comes from The Economist, highlighting their “Big Mac Index”:

…is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity: in the long run, exchange rates should adjust to equal the price of a basket of goods and services in different countries. This particular basket holds a McDonald’s Big Mac, whose price around the world we compared with its American average of $4.20.

No surprise that Switzerland is the most expensive, 62% overvalued, I was shocked last time I was there and had to buy a quick meal, costing almost 15 Swiss Francs (CHF) (nearly $16AUD). Maybe its a good way of enticing the locals not to eat the unhealthy food, because other eateries and restaurants weren’t that expensive, especially compared to the choices on offer Down Under.


  1. A friend who lives in Buenos Aires told me the Big Mac is priced below similar burgers at the “request” of the Government precisely for the purposes of this list.

    • Get you a chicken burger and chips in Canberra for that. Multiply that by two (wife and I) and it’s $32 for two burgers. That’s why we rarely eat at the pub. Rather go an Asian noodle house and get a jumbo luksa for $14. Not much cheaper but way more filling and way more tastier. Sick of being ripped off, we’re finding alot of value for money eats around Canberra and pubs generally don’t make the list.

    • I knew there was an upside somewhere…

      I’m ashamed to admit I had a Macca’s meal whilst in Switzerland – the Princess was crook and I hadn’t eaten dinner, so quickly popped out at around midnight to get something, only thing open…

      Still tastes like crap, wherever you eat it. Although the service was better, as usual (although I found the Swiss to be the worst, relatively, at restaurant service compared to the French and Italians. Still rates a “Excellent” compared to Australian service)

      • They have a great double paddy angus burger in Colombia.
        The only time “THE GODDESS” let’s me eat McDonald’s is when we go back to visit her family.

        And none of it’s cheap, the burger and “THE GODDESS” 🙂

      • Although the service was better, as usual (although I found the Swiss to be the worst, relatively, at restaurant service compared to the French and Italians. Still rates a “Excellent” compared to Australian service)

        I’d love to know where all this poor service in Australia is. Admittedly I don’t eat out (in Brisbane) all that often these days, but I can’t even remember the last time I left disappointed in the service I’d gotten (prices, yes, but that’s a different issue).

        Maybe y’all need to avoid those posh expensive restaurants and go somewhere a bit more cheap & cheerful. 😛

        I lived in Zurich for a couple of years (2007-2009) and found the service no better (or worse) in Switzerland than in Australia. A bit more reserved, but that’s just how the (German, at least) Swiss are in general, so no surprise there. The prices at the time I considered on the high side (compared to Sydney – but then again it’s easy to eat well and relatively cheaply in Sydney) – with the exception of Sushi, which was astronomical – but now would consider to be similar.

        It’s actually interesting to think about the cost of living change in Australia. When I negotiated with my employer to relocate to Zurich (it was an intra-company transfer), I received a 25% salary boost to cover the higher cost of living, with the expectation it wouldn’t entirely make up the difference. Nowadays, I doubt I’d be able to justify asking for any extra at all (though admittedly it’s a good 18 months since I was last in Switzerland, but the prices didn’t seem to have changed hugely then).

      • I find service in Australia shocking. And I dont mind it, because it’s mostly kids who do this thing once a week for a few months until they finish school or Uni or find a better job somewhere. Very rarely you will find a person who is a career burger flipper or check out chick or call centre operator etc because people usually opt for better options. I think of this as a good thing because in other countries which I’ve lived in, they dont. And they hold on to those crappy jobs for decades, and inevitably become good at them.

        Also it’s the cost of labour in Australia which is high (another good thing in my book), so businesses generally get you to do their work for them to save on wages. I was in Greece recently, at the service station there were 4 people outside working, pumping your petrol, cleaning your windshield, checking your tyres, taking your money and giving you change. they looked 40 year olds. You walk into a shop and there’s usually 2-3 assistants available for questions, none of this Bunnings crap where some days there is 1 employee per square kilometre and you have to read every single label to work out which glue you need to buy. Also there was no self service restaurants and no take outs, all pizza and souvlaki joints were happy to deliver free of charge, and the delivery guy was happy to pick up your smokes from the milk bar on his way over. Sometimes a young guy, sometimes another 40 year old.

        So 2 main contributors for crap service in australia: high labour costs and low unemployment (hence options). Personally I’ll take those two and the crap service, thanks.

      • Oh yes and I shouldn’t forget nannies in Greece. A friend has a nanny for his newborn, a Fillipino immigrant going through various stages between legal and illegal, who was actually boarding with them. 24/7 childcare, she only took Sundays off. $20k pa. He would actually call friends over and she would look after all their kids.

        It was disgusting.

      • Yes I think it’s simply the inevitable result of workers being on relatively high hourly wages (extra for Sundays) and thus being inattentive to customers doesn’t really matter – they’re not earning tips.

      • When I did half the “Tour du Mont Blanc” – – the food in the first (French) hut was great, the food in the two Swiss hotels was poor to ok, and food in the last (Italian) hut was fantastic. This was inversely proportional to the ease of access, with the Swiss hotels/auberges on roads, the French hut at the top of a cable car, and the Italian hut only accessible on foot(or perhaps by helicopter).

    • Well given that the nutritional value of a cheeseburger is nil (and double-nil is still nil), and that those sugar and fat calories are going to take you about an hour of rigorous exercise to work off (unless you WANT to have that hey-it-looks-like-Im-pregnant Aussie bloke figure), you would have got better value if you had just thrown the $2 into the gutter.

      Or donated it to a charity that helps the roughly 5 billion people who live in places that don’t have a McDonalds nearby and couldn’t afford it even if there was one.

  2. The best Pizzas are in Rome and New York. Italian pizzas use true mozzarella unlike our pretend mozzarella in Australia. You will notice it is almost white, ours is light yellow. Our parmessan is nice, but it’s still fake – time to take a cue from the wine industry.

    Hot dogs in the USA are FAR superior and cheaper than ours. And the street vendors sing or perform little acts when they serve you.

    Sausages in germany are incredibly good – Neurenberg was the best that I tasted.

    Big macs in Hong Kong just taste different – it’s the cheese that they use. It always come back to cheese.

    Did I miss any junk food? My diet starts tomorrow.

    I enjoy the big mac index, it generally gives some idea of true values, although in asian countries products like cheese have to be imported, so really the imbalance is probably slightly more in that area of the world. (I’m not really cheese obsessed, but I am an officianado being an ex dairy food distributor)

    • Was recently in Rome and the pizzas were awful. Sparce toppings, thin bases, watery cheese that has little taste (only way I can describe it)… out of the 5 or so places I had pizza only 1 had chicken as a topping, I ordered it and it came out with about 6 small pieces of chicken on it, around 1 piece per two slices, not that they cut it up for you there… I would rate Dominos above any pizza I had in Rome.

      • wow, you must have gone to the worst places BB….or the most touristy – walk down a few more sidestreets and don’t get it from the main storefronts looking over the touristy bits. I always thought the family owned trattoria’s were the best, usually only had one signature dish or a very simple menu.

        Pizza is not supposed to be the doughy cr#p you get from Dominoes etal filled to the brim with toppings. A thin base, a few choice toppings and usually one cheese. Usually for under 7 Euros.

        A single pizza and a couple of beers for lunch, less than 10 Euros for two people was a staple for us in our travels.

      • We did try some out of the way family restaurants off the beaten path and didn’t find them any better.

        I guess it just comes down to personal taste/preference.

        Dominos was just used an example of how bad I considered the pizza there to be, personally I avoid Dominos as well. Give me some local gourmet pizzas any day of the week over Rome’s offering!

      • I think perhaps you have become used to cardboard bases BB, 20 mm layers of oily cheese, and some very dodgy toppings in Australia, and think that is the way it should be.

        Eat only Margarita’s for 6 months and then start again. Simple and pure is the true way for Pizza – minimalism is good.

      • Agree Peter.

        Give me a proper traditional pizza – thin crust, conservative on the toppings with natural ingredients and WOOD BAKED!!


      • I concur Peter.

        e.g I’ve gone to only drinking espresso coffee – ditching all instant and anything else (in fact its the only drink I have now apart from water and wine) has made the taste superior and also you appreciate the “smallness” of it, compared to say a massive McDonalds cup of “coffee”.

        Same with alcohol, drink small quantities of the best quality and savour the taste, aroma, different textures.

        There’s too much excess in life, and not just in finance!

      • After being lambasted by an Irate Brazilian friend for putting sugar in my Expresso I have drunk it as is. With a croissant and a piece of fruit it would have to be my favourite way to start the day.

    • Italian mozzarella is made from raw buffalo milk – the common mozzarella in Australia is from (I believe) pasteurised cow milk. You can get buffalo mozzarella here in speciality shops – far superior.

    • Australia (Melb in my exp) is much more varied in terms of cuisine than generally what is available in Europe, which is to be expected given we are a migrant nation, but damn I miss German sausages & bratkartoffeln.

      Germany also does good hot dogs in places. If ever in Berlin, do not pass the opportunity to eat at Mr Miller’s.

      • Quantity does not beat quality! The reason I like eating local when abroad is that the quality of local fare is usually high as the ingredients are local due to long histories pre-globalised supermarkets.

        E.g. Sauerkraut was a way to preserve a cabbage etc…

    • We were in Rome last year (Pigneto) we ordered two pizzas, a bottle of wine and 2 soft drinks all for less than 25 Euro. Our two children ordered a Pizza made with French fries and hot-dogs (yuk) and I asked the waitress have they ever tried Pizza with spaghetti, you should have seen the look I got, it was sacrilege. never mind serving a pizza with chips and hot-dogs.

      • I was just in Spain and picked up the Daily Menu meal depending on the type of establishment from 9 Euro to 16 Euro. It included three courses, bread and wine. In the more expensive ones a homemade liqueur.

        A lot of it was simple local food but it was quite tasty.

    • +1, maybe the index is for a small Big Mac meal? Although it’s been awhile since I’ve bought a Big Mac in Australia I reckon it was $3.75 or so just for the burger…

  3. Hubert Cumberdale

    China holds the record for worst burger I’ve ever eaten (from KFC) and their “chicken leg burger” had the bone sticking out of the bun.

    • I think you have given everyone visiting this thread the munchies! I am about to pick up some afternoon tea! 🙂

    • I think we have identified an opportunity for a Worldwide Bogan Cost Index, why restrict it to just Maccas ?

  4. Anyone know the best source for a up-to-date and comprehensive PPP comparison of different currencies?

  5. I’ll skip the food reviews and just comment that its interesting to see Australia is considerably more expensive than the USA yet our currencies are on a par with one another. Again reinforcing our higher cost of living here.

    • I think it’s interesting to see other 1st world economies that are cheaper than the US such as South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore. It’s interesting how food is always significantly cheaper in Asian countries no matter how advanced their economy is. An exception might be Japan.

      Is this indicative of growing food shortages and increasing cost of food production in western economies due to poor Government policy on food security?

      • Japan is pretty cheap too- provided you shop at supermarkets and not department stores for your fruit!
        Can’t comment on Taiwan and Singapore, but I beleive South Korea and Japan still have high numbers of small farms, rather than industrialised super farms owned by corporations. Hmm, I thought the consolidation of farmland was supposed to make things cheaper?
        I have to wonder whether population numbers make a difference- food producers willing to take a smaller profit per item because they are selling so much more? ditto on the pricing of food in cafes/restaurants.
        Every time I travel overseas I am reminded of what a price gouging place Australia is. I only arrived on these shores 15 years ago, and cannot tell whether this is a long term cultural thing or the consequence of more recent efforts.

      • I think we have to take into account the labour laws and minimum pay wage we have here in Australia. Raw materials are cheap as chips here, hell, I honestly think half the countries listed on the chart probably import beef from Australia. It cost an average of $15aud/hr to hire a teenager to flip burgers for you here, and 4000km away in Singapore, we have 30 year olds doing the exact same thing for $5sgd/hr (~$.375aud/hr). Go figure.

  6. unhealthyskeptic

    This certainly has been a robust thread, perhaps there is an opening for an unconventional-home-economist to join the MB team.
    I will have to ingest an indecent amount of Maccas when I head over to the ditch later this year. Also can some one tell me how beetroot became an antipodean burger staple feature in both the Mac-Oz
    and the Kiwi burger
    Not only does nz do better on Maccas index they get extra ingredients in the so called national burger.

    • It’s actually a hidden stimulus for the carpet cleaning industry in Australa/NZ, someone always drops it onto the carpet.