The Consumer Price Index Basket of Goods - the CPI basket - is a means by which a country measure inflation for consumers, bringing together the ever-changing price of hundreds of goods and services that reflect how real world spending is changing. But what's in that basket in different countries?
The basket changes every year, kicking out items that no longer represent the heart of the consumer; goodbye pork pies, ATM charges and digital cameras, hello quiche, gym leggings and GoPro cameras.
In short, the ever-evolving CPI basket is a unique insight into British culture. However, we seldom see what this basket of goods looks like for other countries, so we decided to catch a glimpse of life across Europe via their respective CPI baskets.
So what exactly represents the spending habits of French, German, Italian and Dutch consumers, and how does it differ when compared to the UK?
... and yes, France includes prostitutes.
Food Products and Non-Alcoholic Beverages
A great deal of our culture is expressed via the food we eat, and this is no exception.
The UK uniquely takes fruit pies and donuts into account, alongside 'oven-ready joints' of meat to speak volumes of our affection for a roast.
'Chilled mash' was a fabulous induction into the school of 2018, while canned fruit and snack pots are unique to the UK basket and represent our grazing habits.
France does nothing to dispel stereotypes, uniquely listing frogs legs and snails alongside an overwhelmingly impressive array of meats including antelope, deer, boar, pheasant, grouse, pigeon and quail (alongside other exotic animals like kangaroo, ostrich and crocodile).
A wider variety of 'offal' is also mentioned - the UK just mentions liver.
Germany's affinity for meat also comes through in earnest, with bratwurst and schnitzel appearing front and centre. Spicy ketchup - iconically German, at least at Christmas markets - and frozen herbs (?!) also made an appearance.
Italy shows off a passion for food by way of a few amusingly unique mentions, including specifically referencing 'edible oils' alongside cooking oil and 'sauce tomatoes' - distinct from cooking tomatoes'.
Combine that with three different pasta classifications - fresh, dry and 'pasta preparations', essentially the specific dry ingredients - alongside packaged AND non-packaged salami, and the recipes write themselves.
The Netherlands uniquely mention raisin bread - something of a delicacy - and also mention 'wine gums' specifically among their sweets. The meat is again a unique insight, as steak tartare appears unique to the Netherlands, alongside 'frickandellen', horse, rabbit, deer and duck meat.
UK: protein powder; stir-fry vegetables; cooking apples and dessert apples separated; oranges and 'small oranges' separated; frozen chips and crisps under vegetables.
France: goat's cheese; herbal teas; seal, walrus and whale offal; gingerbread, waffles and pancakes; crab and caviar.
Germany: Zwieback - biscuit rusk, essentially; 'french fries and potato chips.
Italy: pepperoni listed under vegetables; caught, farmed and freshwater fish listed separately; zucchini and 'fresh cultivated mushrooms'.
Netherlands: 'noodles' specifically mentioned alongside pasta.
Alcoholic Beverages, Tobacco and Narcotics
Most of the interest here comes in the way each country classifies wine - that and the fact cigars still make an appearance for almost every country, despite being somewhat outdated.
The UK focuses on white, red, rose and sparkling wine, alongside 'fortified wine'. Buckfast represent. We also uniquely mention e-cigarette liquid, which may be no surprise based on how often you'll smell butterscotch or strawberry vapour while walking down a British high street.
France, despite its wine culture, doesn't go into more detail than the UK; however, they do specifically include sake, the Japanese rice wine.
Italy really starts showing off here. Who cares about the differences between white and red wine - Italy simply refers to wine as 'table', 'quality', 'sparkling' or 'liquer' (sp). Quite the distinction.
The Netherlands keeps it simply with red, white, rose and prosecco. However, there's a unique mention for 'filter sleeves' and 'rolls' under tobacco, catering to those who roll their own cigarettes beyond just the ever-changing price of tobacco.
Housing, Water, Gas, Electricity and Other Fuels
Naturally, the UK includes council tax here where others don't, but as a rather sweet nod towards our love of terrible, terrible holidays, there's also a mention for 'UK Holiday Accommodation (self-catered)'. Long live the caravan park and Skegness-escape.
Germany specifically includes the price for a chimney sweep - naturally a modern essential.
Rent is also broken down, rather distinctly, into new/old apartments under/over 70m2 - four separate categories that provide a surprisingly level of detail, but will naturally vary significantly.
Furniture, Household Goods and Household Maintenance
France goes a little bit more in depth than most countries here, referring to 'bathroom furniture' alongside steam cleaning machines, sewing machines, and shampooing and floor polishing machines.
Spick and span or what?
Italy loves coffee, and that is also uniquely evidenced by their inclusion of a coffee machine in household appliances (other countries do mention the coffee pods themselves, intermittently.
The obvious distinction here is that, for the UK, NHS services and private surgery fees are distinct and in elaborate detail.
Other countries naturally break down different kinds of paid for healthcare and insurance.
... that said, the Netherlands specifically references ADHD medication, which hopefully doesn't speak volumes about their especially hyperactive children.
The UK uniquely includes Eurotunnel fares, while France does not. We're not sure what to make of that.
France specifically refers to the price of school bus services and travel agent commissions.
Cars make up the difference categorisation-wise for a lot of the other countries in Europe. The UK and Germany only refers to new or used cars, Italy focuses on diesel and petrol vehicles under/over 4 meters - weirdly specific - while the Netherlands focuses on 'mini class', 'compact class', 'compact middle class', 'mid-range', 'midi-MPVs' and SUVs'. Detail.
Germany also breaks down short and long distance rail fares to put the UK to shame.
The Netherlands also shows of its intense love for bicycles, with electric bikes and hybrid bikes having their prices monitored uniquely alongside mopeds (also present in Italy, naturally).
For a touch of romance, Italy also refers to transport by 'inland waterway'. Long live Venice, and long live monitoring the prices of gondolas.
Not much to say here, apart from the fact that France has gone truly and adorably old-school by including 'local telephone calls from bars/restaurants' and telephone boxes.
Leisure and Culture
As a rather depressing blow to the UK's winter sports, most other countries refer to the price of cable cars and chair lifts in ski resorts.
We also saw 'soft play sessions' added in 2018, while golf green fees are also unique to our great nation. 'Football match admissions' are also only called out only by us and the Netherlands.
They also uniquely mention hockey, which is again, curiously specific.
France specifically states it tracks the price of service fees for lotteries, bingo halls and bookmakers betting machines - which is interesting considering their comparative prominence over here.
... they also include renting clowns.
Italy shows off how appallingly cool its nation is by including 'dancing lessons and disco' in the CPI basket, alongside 'theatre and opera houses' (categorised by most others within 'other cultural events').
Restaurants and Hotels
Here's where we come into our own. Sort of.
The level of detail about takeaways in the UK's CPI basket is staggering. 'Fish and chips', 'burger in a bun', 'chicken and chips' and 'ethnic takeaway' are all included separately, alongside a cheeky kebab.
Italy references 'pizzerias selling sliced pizza' and pizzerias separately, while also referring to 'pastries and ice creams at the bar'. How very continental.
The Netherlands also gives love to specific kinds of takeaway and restaurant cuisine - Chinese, Greek, Italian and Dutch/French delicacies all get a mention - alongside, oddly enough, 'grilled cheese'. Why not chips and mayo, hmm?
Update - one of our team who used to live and work in the Netherlands refers to Dutch grilled cheese as 'tosties', which cost roughly a Euro and can be bought while drunk all over the place. Who knew?
France specifically, and uniquely, includes prostitution; to clarify, that means using the price of a prostitute as an indicator of inflation and pricing for consumers.
It's okay though, because they also cover the cost of bodyguards, private detectives, astrologers, graphologists and marriage councillors.
... probably because of the prostitutes.
The UK's unique mentions here are mildly depressing; 'slimming clubs' and 'dating agency fees' speak volumes about day to day life in our fine country (most countries including reference to 'online dating websites', however).
Germany includes meals on wheels - again, curious that we don't - while Italy obviously includes 'moped insurance' because seemingly everyone owns a moped.
The Netherlands extra oddities include 'dog tax' and labor unions, while they're one of only two countries - including the UK - to discuss the price of a classified ad in a newspaper.
Insight was pulled from every country's data on their CPI basket of goods (using the most recent data where available):