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How does the cost of food in Germany compare to other countries?

The cost of everyday products has been rocketing upwards due to inflation. Here's how prices in Germany compare to other European countries.

A selection of grocery products at a supermarket in Leipzig.
A selection of grocery products at a supermarket in Leipzig. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hendrik Schmidt

The cost of living has been rising in Germany, with food prices going up at an above-average rate of 12.7 percent in June. 

But how do the prices compare to other European destinations?

Germany’s Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) looked at the price of food and drink in Germany and several other European countries for the month of April 2022. And they found a very mixed picture.

READ ALSO: Consumers in Germany face further food price hikes 

Highest costs in Switzerland, Norway and Iceland

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Germany’s wealthy neighbour is where groceries (not including alcoholic drinks) cost the most. 

“Among all selected European holiday countries, the corresponding price level was highest in Switzerland, and was 54 percent higher than in Germany,” said Destatis. 

In the northern European nations of Norway (+42 percent) and Iceland (+40 percent), grocery products were also significantly more expensive than in Germany.

A customer looks at fruit at a weekly market in Oldenburg.

A customer looks at fruit at a weekly market in Oldenburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich

In the neighbouring countries of France (+1  percent) and Austria (+2 percent), consumers had to pay only slightly more for food than in Germany.

Meanwhile, shopping for food and drink products is particularly cheap in Poland, where prices stand at around -30 percent compared to Germany, and around -17 percent in Hungary.

Meat cheaper in southern European countries

Consumers in Germany have been facing major price hikes for meat in the first half of this year

But among all selected European holiday countries in the study, the price level for meat in Switzerland was twice as high as in Germany (+101 percent). In Norway meat was 25 percent more expensive, and in Luxembourg 17 percent.

The price level was slightly higher for Fleisch products in France (+4 percent) and Austria (+1 percent) than in Germany.

In Greece, however, buying meat is about 21 percent cheaper than in Germany. Consumers also paid less in Spain (-24 percent) and Portugal (-23 percent), which are popular EU holiday destinations. Buying meat is even cheaper in Croatia (-30 percent compared to Germany).

The below chart by Statista shows the price levels compared to Germany for meat in selected countries in April 2022, with Switzerland at the top. 

Source: Federal Statistical Office

What else do we know about the cost of food and drink products?

Fish was significantly cheaper in Germany than in many of the countries studied. However, in the Netherlands and Poland the price level was the lowest compared to Germany, at -29 percent. In Italy and Croatia, fish was also 20 percent cheaper than in Germany.

For fruit and vegetables, the price level was highest in Norway – consumers there have to pay 34 percent more for fruit and vegetables than in Germany. In Poland, these foods were the cheapest (-33 percent compared to Germany).

READ ALSO: Why are people in Germany clearing out supermarket shelves?

When it comes to alcoholic drinks, they were only slightly cheaper in Austria (-2 percent) and Hungary (-5 percent) compared to Germany. Alcoholic drinks were most expensive in the north of Europe: in Iceland they were 257 percent pricier than in Germany, in Norway 217 percent. In the Netherlands, the price level was 17 percent above Germany, and in France 16 percent higher.

What does all this mean?

It’s worth keeping in mind that each country has a different economy, wage and tax contribution rates. But it’s good to know how costs compare to Germany so you can consider your next trip or think about how you should budget when going on holiday or travelling.

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Germany’s Scholz pledges more relief for lowest earners

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has (SPD) promised to support low and medium-income households as he warned of a difficult autumn and winter amid the energy crisis.

Germany's Scholz pledges more relief for lowest earners

With the cost of living spiralling, the government is working on a new package of energy relief measures that will include tax breaks for low- and middle-income earners, Scholz said during the summer press conference in Berlin on Thursday.

“The government is determined to do this,” he added. “We will do everything to help citizens get through these difficult times.”

Asked whether his focus was primarily on lower or higher earners, Scholz said he was focussed on the people “who have very little”, citing the six million workers on minimum wage in Germany, and middle-income households who have been squeezed in the current crisis.

The measures will target multiple sections of the population “so that no one is left alone, no one is faced with unsolvable problems and no one has to shoulder the challenges associated with the increased prices alone,” Scholz said.

The news comes after Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) unveiled a series of tax relief proposals designed to help households cope with the high cost of the living.

Lindner’s plans include measures to ensure that people who get an inflation-linked pay rise don’t see their wage increase eaten up by higher tax – a phenomenon known as “cold progression”. He has also proposed a hike in child benefit and the tax-free allowance for lower earners.

READ ALSO: Who benefits most under Germany’s tax relief plans?

But the plans have been criticised for disproportionately benefiting higher earners: according to experts, people earning €60,000 per annum will gain €471 a year under the new plans, while those on €20,000 a year will get just €115. 

Batting away criticism, Scholz described the Finance Minister’s tax relief plans as a “good proposal”, adding: “I find that very, very helpful, because we have to put together an overall package that includes all population groups.”

Additional measures are yet to be announced but will likely include adjusting housing benefit in line with the current energy prices. 

The Chancellor also revealed that discussions about imposing an oil price cap to limit Russia’s revenues and relieve consumers were still ongoing.

“We’re discussing the possibility of an oil price cap,” he said. “Due to the high technical complexity, it takes a lot of time, but it’s something we’re working on intensively.”

Limiting the price of oil products is “not something you can do unilaterally”, Scholz said. “It has to be done in close cooperation with partners.”

‘Big failures’

Throughout the press conference, Scholz fielded questions on Germany’s prior energy policy, which saw the country develop an ever greater dependence on Russian gas. 

In February, when Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Germany was still importing 55 percent of its gas from Moscow – though this has since been slashed to around 35 percent.

For me it’s very clear that we should have reached the decision earlier than we did to change our energy policies and diversify,” Scholz said. “If we’d done that sooner, we’d only have the problem of high prices but we wouldn’t have the problem of energy security.”

The SPD politician, who was Finance Minister under Angela Merkel in the former conservative-led coalition, said there had been “big failures” in energy policy in the past. He said there had been joint decisions in the past on phasing out coal-fired power generation and nuclear energy, but no decisions that had sped up the pace of modernisation in Germany. 

READ ALSO: Energy crisis to labour shortage: Five challenges facing Germany right now

Chancellor Olaf Scholz

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) admits “failures” in Germany’s Russian energy policy at a press conference in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

This now needs to be corrected, he said.

However, he defended the EU’s decision to avoid sanctions on Kremlin-linked energy giants, citing the heavy dependence on Russian gas in eastern European countries, as well as in Germany.

Germany is in the process of trying to replenish its gas reserves for the cooler months amid fears that Russia will cut off the energy supply in retaliation for Europe’s support of Ukraine.

The scarcity of gas, which is currently flowing through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline from Russia at just 20 percent of its full capacity, has led to soaring prices on the energy market. 

Asked whether he thought there could be riots due to rising energy prices, Scholz replied: “No, I don’t think there will be unrest in this country in the form outlined. And that is because Germany is a welfare state.”