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The most expensive cities for expats, revealed

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Susan Devaney
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Thinking of making a big move? Then make sure you read this survey of the most expensive expat cities before jetting off…

A lot of us dream of the grass being greener on the other side. And, with so many cities to choose from, making a move halfway across the world definitely requires a lot of research, determination and consideration. Possibly too much for any one person to do, which is why we’re so glad that Mercer’s annual Cost of Living survey has done all the hard work for us.

By looking closely at 209 cities across the map, the report has ranked them in terms of their general costliness. Spread out over five continents, the survey compared the comparative cost of more than 200 items in each location, including food, clothing, household goods, housing, transportation and entertainment.

As it turns out, Hong Kong is now the most expensive city to live in the world as an expat. However, closer to home, Birmingham (128) has risen 19 places, and Aberdeen (134) has climbed 12 places, too.

“UK cities’ rise in this year’s ranking is mainly due to a strengthening of the pound against the US dollar,” said Kate Fitzpatrick, Mercer’s global mobility practice leader for the UK and Ireland. “A drop in rental accommodation prices in London held back London’s increase while rental increases in Birmingham and Belfast contributed to the ranking increase of these cities.”

Hong Kong is the most expensive city to live as an expat

London has jumped from 10 places in the last 12 months, from 29 to 19, making it one of the world’s most expensive cities for expats. And the trend has been experienced across Western Europe as most cities have become more costly due to strong local currencies against the US dollar and the rising costs of goods and services. 

Indeed, cities in Germany experienced some of this year’s biggest surges in the ranking, with Frankfurt (68) and Berlin (71) jumping 49 spots while Munich (57) climbed 41 places.

London has jumped from 10 places in the last 12 months, from 29 to 19, making it one of the world’s most expensive cities for expats     

Asia is proving to a rather expensive continent to live – with four out of five Asian cities ranking in the top five. Tokyo and Zurich rank as second and third respectively, while Singapore (4) and Seoul (5) round out the top five.

In the Middle East, Tel Aviv (16) continues to be the most expensive city in the Middle East for expatriates, followed by Dubai (26), Abu Dhabi (40), and Riyadh (45). In comparison, Cairo (188) remains the least expensive city in the region. 

Tel Aviv continues to be the most expensive city in the Middle East for expats

Across America, well-loved cities have also ranked higher than previous years. New York dropped four places to rank 13, the highest-ranked city in the region. San Francisco (28) and Los Angeles (35) dropped seven and 12 places, respectively, from last year, while Chicago (51) dropped 20 places. Portland (130) and Winston Salem. North Carolina (161) remain the least expensive US cities surveyed for expatriates.

New York dropped four places to rank 13, the highest-ranked city in the America 

São Paolo (58) ranked as the costliest city in South America despite dropping 32 places from 2017. Santiago (69) followed as the second most expensive location. On the whole, cities across the continent fell in the ranking despite price increases on goods and services in countries such as Brazil and Argentina.

Here are the top 10 most expensive cities to live as an expat in 2018:

1. Hong Kong, HKSAR

2. Tokyo, Japan

3. Zurich, Switzerland

4. Singapore, Singapore

5. Seoul, South Korea

6. Luanda, Angola

7. Shanghai, China

8. N’Djamena, Chad

9. Beijing, China

10. Bern, Switzerland

If you’re looking for some inspiration for your next move then these are the best countries to work and live abroad today.

Images: Unsplash 

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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for Stylist.co.uk, writing about fashion, beauty, travel, feminism, and everything else in-between.

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