No matter where you go in the world, you’re very likely to find a Big Mac. Whether you consider this international infiltration of McDonald’s to be the bane of globalization or simply one of the perks of being an American, The Economist has found another interesting use for the prevalence of the ubiquitous burger: Back in 1986, the magazine created its annual Big Mac Index – a comparison of the price of a Big Mac in countries across the globe.
The incredibly dense weekly publication (I had a subscription once and considered quitting my job so I had time to keep up with it) recently released their index for 2017, once again attempting to serve, as The Economist writes, “as a lighthearted guide to whether currencies are at their ‘correct’ level.” At least “correct” when compared to the US dollar. Simply put (something The Economist doesn’t like to do, regardless of their lightheartedness), the idea is that a Big Mac is a Big Mac no matter where you get it, so looking at the price of the sandwich in different countries should give us a sense of which currencies are over- and undervalued.
Based on that logic, the Big Mac Index 2017 shows just five countries whose currencies are overvalued compared to the dollar. Switzerland tops the list, as it did in 2016, boasting a shockingly pricey Big Mac that’s $6.35 in US dollars, compared to the average price in America which is still a not-particularly-cheap $5.06. Norway, Sweden, Venezuela (which has notably been going through a major currency crisis) and Brazil are the other countries where a Big Mac is pricier abroad (in US dollars) than back here in the States. Meanwhile, if you’re looking to score the world’s cheapest Big Mac, catch a flight to Egypt. The plane ticket might be expensive, but hopefully you can save some cash while living off the country’s $1.46 Big Macs!
Of course, what this index doesn’t take into account is how much more money they’ve got in Switzerland compared to Egypt. Because of this, The Economist also has an “adjusted index” that “addresses the criticism that you would expect average burger prices to be cheaper in poor countries than in rich ones because labour costs are lower.” With that adjustment, suddenly Brazil finds itself at the top of the list – because, seriously, why should a Big Mac cost more in Brazil than in the US? That’s South America. We’re the real America!!
But regardless, one part of the Big Mac Index will always hold true: If you go to any of these countries and buy yourself a Big Mac, you’re wasting your money no matter how strong or weak the local currency is. Go get yourself some authentic street food instead.