Thursday , December 1 2022

Surging inflation worries Vietnamese students in Europe

Thu Trang, a Vietnamese student in Spain, began the new semester deeply worried because prices had skyrocketed since the previous semester.

Gasoline prices in Segovia, around an hour from the capital, Madrid, nearly doubled from 0.92 euros per liter at the end of last year to 1.74 euros in August.

“It used to cost me around 40 euros per month for utilities, now I have to pay around 60 euros,” Trang says.

Rising food prices also leave a dent in her wallet.

The price of a kilogram of rice is currently 1.1 euros, up from around one euro in June.

A cup of coffee, which used to cost around 0.70 euros, rose to 1.15 euros in August before dropping to 1.12 euros.

“Though the prices of some items have cooled down a bit, they are still significantly higher than before,” she says, adding she is most concerned about gas and electric bills as winter approaches.

Trang is one of many Vietnamese students abroad struggling to cope with rising prices as inflation pushes up the cost of everything from food to gasoline.

Manh Vu, who lives in Madrid, said while there were many rental options last semester for around 300 euros, “it now costs about 350 euros to rent a room.”

Le Uyen, a student at the University of London in the U.K., says there has been a drastic rise in prices at the supermarket with prices of water bottles, pork and food items imported from Asia going up by nearly 30% from a month ago.

Minh Tuan, a landlord in London, rents out a house to Vietnamese international students at around £900 (US$960) a month including electricity. He has not changed the rent but no longer covers electricity.

“Energy bills have been soaring,” he says. “I’m not sure how much higher it will go.”

According to CNBC news, the euro zone inflation hit a record 9.1% in August, the ninth straight month of record inflation. In July it had been 8.9%.

Nguyen Phan Bao Thuy, president of the Vietnamese Students Association in France, says the prices of many food items at supermarkets have risen by 10-15% from six months ago, most notably cooking oil.

Last year the price of sunflower oil at Carrefour supermarkets was 1.45 euros a liter, rose to almost 1.99 euros in April and is now around 3 euros.

Inflation has yet to cause tuition and rents to rise too much in France, Thuy says.

“But electricity prices have begun to rise.”

Power utilities in France are sending out estimated monthly bills for the next six months to a year, and expect prices to rise by 20-30%.

Thuy says many overseas students she knows have become frugal with their spending.

“Students tell each other to tighten their belts.”

Cooking at home, using public transport, shopping for lower-cost items, sharing a house, and working part-time are among the things Vietnamese students in Europe are doing to save money.

Cao My Quyen, a former Vietnamese student living in Helsinki, Finland, says she limits eating out since eateries have hiked prices by 5-15%. Fortunately for her, her rent has not increased.

Vu says rising prices place a big burden on some Vietnamese students whose families are not wealthy and rely on tuition assistance.

He has been looking hard for a part-time job since coming in Spain in early September, and recently got one at an entertainment center where he works from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. two or three times a week for 500 euros a month.

The money is enough for him to cover his housing and food expenses without asking his family for support, he says.

Trang says she recently started teaching English to earn an income.

“My parents only send me 300 euros a month. So I am very concerned about the future.”

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