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Expatriates, those who live voluntarily and permanently outside their home country, culture and environment. Some do it for politics, others for the sheer adventure of living abroad. Whichever the case, these are the most expensive cities for expats to live in the world.

Living as an expat isn’t always easy. Each person brings their own experiences to the table, mixed feelings and a sense of adventure. Enthusiasm for new career options, the future is filled with hope and high expectations. On the other hand, living outside your comfort zone comes with its own struggles, of integrating into an alien culture, grasping to learn a new language, handicapped communication…

Wondering which cities cost expensive the most?

Mercer’s rankings for 2011 are out, based on the standard cost of living in US dollars. That also means that if the US currency weakens against the local one, the city will become even more expensive in the future, similarly is the US dollar strengthens the city will be more budget-friendly than before.

London is ranked as the 17th most expensive city for foreigners to live, no other UK cities made the list. The study itself was created in reference to New York City and took into consideration the cost of 200+ daily and basic costs, including accommodation.

1. Luanda, Angola

Hugging the Atlantic, Luanda is a dream city with a lot of money. Oil, diamonds and huge supplies of natural resources… Angola is doing pretty good for itself. Expats and foreigners should avoid the slums at all cost. The locals aren’t stupid. They’re put two and two together. Any foreigners living here are well-paid employees of huge international companies so you can bet you’ll be ripped off if you go around in business attire.

2. Tokyo, Japan

There’s one simple reason why Japan, particularly Tokyo is one of the most expensive places to live. There are too many people, on too small of a land-mass, labour is expensive and the country has few natural resources. Everything from food to oil is imported into the country.

3. N’djamena, Chad

The main reason this African city made the list is mostly due to its outrageous hotel prices. The cost of accommodations in general is sky-high, so there’s no reason to complain about London anymore!

4. Moscow, Russia

Rumours have it that average hotels in Moscow can cost as much as £500/night. Russians aren’t the wealthiest people in the world, so why is their capital city so expensive? High inflation along with the sheer lack of budget hotels makes it not only expensive for expats but travellers as well. They can get away with it, after all they have more billionaires per capita than anywhere else in the world.

5. Geneva, Switzerland

As one of the richest countries in the world, expats should take their budget into serious account when relocating to Switzerland.

6. Osaka, Japan

Like Tokyo, Osaka is a pricey place to lay your head down as a foreigner. The surge of the yen recently keeps it up there and it doesn’t look like prices will be coming back down any time soon.

7. Zurich, Switzerland

You can bet that it costs a lot of keep a city like this running like a well-oiled machine. It’s like clock-work, the cities prides itself on its cleanliness and public transportation.

8. Singapore, Singapore

Imported products will cost you a lot, sometimes 4 or 5 times more than you would pay at home but the local produce is very affordable. As far as day to day living goes, basic necessities like health care cost a lot in Singapore since it’s not universal. With some of the most expensive housing in the world, many expats dish out on rent but can save on other things, like local food.

Hong Kong at night

9. Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Like any huge Asian cities, rent is high in Hong Kong. On average a furnished one-bedroom apartment will set you back a whopping £1,200 a month. On the other hand, public transportation is so good and cheap that owning a car is just a nuisance in this city.

10. Sao Paulo, Brazil

Expats have experienced the worse end of the stick, mostly because of how the real has strengthened, both against the US dollar and the British pound. Imported goods cost a lot. Add in the very high taxes and almost absurd profit margins on simple and basic goods and you’ve got yourself the tenth most expensive city in the world.

The cheapest?

According to this study, the cheapest city is Karachi, in Pakistan, ranked at 214th place. In Europe, the Macedonian capital of Skopje is the most affordable city on the Continent although Belfast is the cheapest city in the European Union.

As far as the Middle East goes, Jeddah in Saudi Arabia is the biggest bargain. South America? The pleasure goes to Managua in Nicaragua as the second cheapest city in the world. North Carolina’s Winston-Salem is the cheapest expat city in the USA while New Zealand’s Auckland is the cheapest in Oceania.

Surprised by the results? Which ones caught your attention?

Imgs: Flickr cc.

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4 responses to “World’s most expensive cities for expats

  1. I was a bit surpised that Sao Paulo was in the top 10 but then I suppose the importin reasons makes sense! I think the weather would put you in a better mood about having to pay though 🙂

    1. Hey Paula,

      You’re probably right! The weather would definitely make up the cost of living there. I can imagine it’s not as cheap as you would think once you look at rent prices in central Sao Paulo… pricey for South America!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. N’djamena? Hardly an expat hotspot – more an assignment that NGO workers seem to dread pulling out of the hat!

    Not surprised at Tokyo or any of the others on this list, although I AM surprised Hong Kong is here – I’ve heard that if you live in a regular Chinese neighbourhood rather than one on the waterfront, the rent is more akin to a city in mainland China.

    I just wonder how these results are calculated – not everyone lives in exactly the same manner. Obviously an ESL teacher expat lives a very different lifestyle from a business executive.

    1. Hey Tom, thanks for your comment. If you want to read more about the study, how it was calculated you can check it out here:

      Mercer’s took the cost of 200 items, including that of accommodation, and ranked the cities like that. You’re right though, not everything lives the same but when it all comes down to it, toilet paper, dish soap, fresh milk, coffee, transportation passes, etc. are used by both language teachers and big business dogs! 😉

      As for Hong Kong, I think it’s the price of renting apartments that puts it up there in the top 10. We’re talking more than London prices! Yikes!

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