World’s most expensive expat locations revealed

Hong Kong is the most expensive city in the world for expats to live in, according to the 22nd annual Mercer Cost of Living survey.

The survey, which rates over 375 cities worldwide on a range of comparative costs of more than 200 items including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods, and entertainment, saw Hong Kong replace Luanda, Angola at the top of the rankings, with the African city falling to second spot.

The upper echelons of the list are largely dominated by Asian cities, with Singapore in fourth, followed by Tokyo (5th), Shanghai (7th) and Beijing (10th).

Two European cities are among the top 10 list of most expensive cities. At number three in the global ranking, Zurich remains the most expensive European city, followed by Geneva (8), down three spots from last year. The next European city in the ranking is another Swiss one, Bern (13).

The African cities of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (6th) and N’Djamena, Chad (9th) round up the top ten, although another African city, Windhoek, Namibia ranks as the world’s least expensive city.

In terms of emigration locations traditionally popular with Brits, Australian cities have witnessed some of the most dramatic falls in the ranking this year as the local currency has depreciated against the US dollar. Brisbane (96th) and Canberra (98th) dropped 30 and 33 spots, respectively, while Sydney (42), Australia’s most expensive ranked city for expatriates, experienced a relatively moderate drop of 11 places. Melbourne fell 24 spots to rank 71.

Cities in the United States have climbed in the ranking due to the strength of the US dollar against other major currencies, in addition to the significant drop of cities in other regions which resulted in US cities being pushed up the list. New York is up five places to rank 11, the highest-ranked city in the region. San Francisco (26) and Los Angeles (27) climbed 11 and nine places, respectively, from last year while Seattle (83) jumped 23 places. Among other major US cities, Honolulu (37) is up 15 places, Washington, DC (38) is up 12 places, and Boston (47) is up 17 spots. Portland (117) and Winston Salem, North Carolina (147) remain the least expensive US cities surveyed for expatriates.

Canadian cities continued to drop in this year’s ranking mainly due to the weak Canadian dollar. The country’s highest-ranked city, Vancouver (142), fell 23 places. Toronto (143) dropped 17 spots, while Montreal (155) and Calgary (162) fell 15 and 16 spots, respectively.

The two most expensive UK cities, London (17) and Birmingham (96) dropped five and 16 places, respectively.

Top ten most expensive expat locations

  1. Hong Kong, China
  2. Luanda, Angola
  3. Zurich, Switzerland
  4. Singapore, Singapore
  5. Tokyo, Japan
  6. Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
  7. Shanghai, China
  8. Geneva, Switzerland
  9. N’Djamena, Chad
  10. Beijing, China

Article by David Fuller