Three Chinese cities in top 10 most costly places for expats

Aberdeen Harbor is on the south side of Hong Kong Island

Aberdeen Harbor is on the south side of Hong Kong Island

JISHOU, HUNAN — Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing are among the ten most expensive places to live for expats, according to Mercer, a global business consulting firm.

TOP 10
1 Hong Kong
2 Luanda
3 Zurich
4 Singapore
5 Tokyo
6 Kinshasa
7 Shanghai
8 Geneva
9 N’Djamena
10 Beijing

200 Lusaka
201 Gaborone
201 Karachi
203 Tunis
204 Minsk
205 Johannesburg
206 Blantyre
207 Bishkek
208 Cape Town
209 Windhoek

Hong Kong is #1, with Shanghai in seventh place and Beijing in tenth. Other Asian cities in the top ten are Singapore and Tokyo, in fourth and fifth places respectively.

Jishou is not included on the list, but it would be near the bottom, as rents are quite cheap here compared to the larger cities in China.

Citing the Mercer study, the BBC reports that a two-bedroom unfurnished apartment in Hong Kong rents for US$6,800, compared with $5,100 for a comparable apartment in New York. A cup of coffee in HK will set you back about US$8, but a hamburger meal is about $5.

Some of the cities are expensive, because of their fearsome cost of living generally. Many Chinese, for example, have trouble affording housing in the nation’s largest cities. Other cities, such Luanda, Angola (#2) are in countries with weak currencies, which hurts expat pocketbooks.

Mercer says it evaluates expats’ cost of living in some 200-odd cities by taking into account housing, education for children, transport and everything needed to live a “Western life style.” New York is used as the benchmark.

“Governments and major companies use data from this survey to protect the purchasing power of their employees when transferred abroad and to assess local expatriate housing allowances,” the Mercer website states.

As an actual expat, I can offer some advice. Don’t try to live a “Western lifestyle” in a non-Western city. Import tariffs raise costs markedly, and shipping from your hometown will likely double the purchase price of whatever is being sent. Learn to live like a native, and you can save money.

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