World-Wide Cost of Living Survey.
July 29, 2002 3:01 AM   Subscribe

World-Wide Cost of Living Survey. Hong Kong has taken over as the world’s most expensive city, Moscow is in second place, followed by Tokyo. The least expensive city is Johannesburg.
posted by Frasermoo (37 comments total)
this was reported as news here in hong kong on july 8.

it is expensive to live here, but there are ways to cut costs. some things are even cheaper.

i love living in hong kong.
posted by bwg at 3:26 AM on July 29, 2002

London being the most expensive in Europe and joint 10th worldwide.
posted by davebushe at 3:45 AM on July 29, 2002

I'm astonished Sydney was ranked so low in terms of expensiveness (#95) - seemed pretty pricey when I lived there. I'm also curious where Seoul ranks...
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:00 AM on July 29, 2002

Why are Moscow and St Petersburg so expensive? How can it be more expensive to live in Moscow than in Tokyo?
posted by pracowity at 4:09 AM on July 29, 2002

Monster's work abroad page, and US State Dept's per diem rates for various overseas posts -- which mainly concerns travel, so it measures different things. The highest rate I found was $471/day for Awashima Japan. Other high places included vacation islands like Bermuda, especially during tourist season, and Rome and (surprisingly?) the Holy See.
posted by dhartung at 4:10 AM on July 29, 2002

Has anyone come up with a uniformity/deviation from norm factor for the various cities? What I mean is that while NYC can be expensive, it can also be a lot cheaper if you luck out on a rent-stabilized apartment and/or don't live in Manhattan and/or don't shop at Food Emporium, etc. Not sure if that's as true in all places.
posted by ParisParamus at 4:17 AM on July 29, 2002

The question is "Who pays taxes in Hong Kong and if so at what rate?" I remember from living there that maximum taxation was 15%, with a tiny percent of the population actually paying so much.

On the other hand, living in Hong Kong without some sort of expat package is pretty nasty, I suppose. The whole point of living there is to make a killing. Otherwise, you might as well move to Bangkok, or if you want to go dirt-cheap, Vientiane.
posted by magullo at 4:29 AM on July 29, 2002

Quality of life, though a valiant attempt to measure it is made, is notoriously subjective. Comparisons assume that it is theoretically possible to have the same quality of life in all these cities and that only the price required to obtain it varies. This takes no account of such factors as the friendliness of the people; climate; the quality of the food; the cultural attitudes; the natural and architectural beauty of the country; level of personal security; freedom of expression et caetera. Not to mention other important imponderables such as individual personality and compatibility with the place and capacity for adaptation, ingenuity and luck. I.e. almost everything that matters when trying to talk about the quality of life.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:06 AM on July 29, 2002

Perhaps a more telling way of measuring the quality of life in relation to its cost - essentially value for money - would obtain from asking "What do you get in cities X, Y and Z for $10K a month?" You could then add all the things that are, in money terms, "free". And subtract all the valuable things you don't get, no matter how much you pay.

An important factor is how well most of the other people live. In cities where poverty, in all its corruptions and forms, is the mean (where you're "surrounded" by it, in the selfish, bourgeois meaning), it's very difficult to feel adjusted and, well, minimally happy.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:20 AM on July 29, 2002

I didn't see the complete list on the linked article, but I found it here.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:40 AM on July 29, 2002

It is easy to be surprised at the positions of Russian cities in these charts, but economically, it makes sense.

Resource-wise, Russia is one of the richest countries in the world. It has extremely fertile farmland, and many mineral deposits.

Unlike the USA, however, it has lived with a closed-off and tightly controlled economy for decades.

Economics students learn that private greed can often work for the good of others. For example, if you live in an open economy, and one area of the country is hit by a storm/flood, etc, and they are short of food.. many people will rush to that area to sell the people food at inflated prices (because they really need it).

In an economy where it is 'illegal' to price food above a certain level, no-one will run to that area, but instead the locals will have to die/starve until slow government and other aid resources arrive.

This is why Russia is proving to be so expensive these days. Russia has the resources, but Russia's political and economic climate does not encourage anyone to be 'greedy' enough to take these resources and to supply them to the Russian populace.

Next time you're walking around WAL*Mart, remember that those cheap prices are the results of someone else's greed and that that is a good thing because open economies encourage one's greed to benefit the entire population.
posted by wackybrit at 7:49 AM on July 29, 2002

Russia's political and economic climate does not encourage anyone to be 'greedy' enough

And here I thought Moscow and and St. Petersburg were expensive because organized crime controlled all the distribution mechanisms. I guess they just need to be more greedy? That will fix it.
posted by plaino at 7:59 AM on July 29, 2002

My experience suggests that the ranking is mistaken. As a sometime resident of both Montreal and Ottawa, the former is significantly, demonstrably less expensive than the Nation's Capital. Food, rent and entertainment costs are much lower.

And what's the deal with Copenhagen? I had read in a Travel Guide that the city was really cheap by European standards, a "great place for students". Has anyone here visited?

As I'm considering moving to Europe some time soon - preferably a city that speaks French or English, predominantly - does anyone have any recommendations for affordable, comfortable, culturally vibrant living?
posted by Marquis at 8:08 AM on July 29, 2002

"great place for students".

..but students don't pay 50% income tax.
posted by Frasermoo at 8:55 AM on July 29, 2002

(good find MRMoonPie!)
posted by Frasermoo at 8:57 AM on July 29, 2002

"Chicago in 20th place (83.7) and San Francisco at position 21 (83.6)"

Personal experience tells me that these two data points indicate a substantial flaw in their methodology.
posted by dglynn at 9:05 AM on July 29, 2002

"Chicago in 20th place (83.7) and San Francisco at position 21 (83.6)"

Thusly, the survey was a big sham, and many people died...
posted by Kodel at 9:35 AM on July 29, 2002

I'm vaguely familiar with their survey methodology, and they focused heavily on ex-pat expenses.

Solely from that perspective, it would be easy for Chicago to equal or exceed San Francisco in expenses. Corporate apartments and hotels are no cheaper in Chicago, nor are restaurants, car leases, movies, groceries and dry-cleaners (at least downtown), insurance, etc.

Long-term housing is just about the only thing where Chicago has it cheaper than SF, and that's one thing which simply doesn't factor into these surveys.
posted by MattD at 9:42 AM on July 29, 2002

Marquis: 'Affordable' may put you into France over the UK unless you head for Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Manchester or possibly Leeds. Any weather preferences?! That might negate all of the above ;-)

More data required...
posted by i_cola at 10:26 AM on July 29, 2002

Marquis: Forgot Dublin altho' it's getting pricier. And there's always my hometown of Brighton ;-)
posted by i_cola at 10:30 AM on July 29, 2002

Another data point: the Big Mac index, which actually isn't a cost-of-living measurement per se, but a sanity check of sorts on the currency markets.
posted by dhartung at 11:04 AM on July 29, 2002

As I'm considering moving to Europe some time soon - preferably a city that speaks French or English, predominantly

Might wanna miss France. The French are really funny about 'weird' French accents, and it sounds like you're a French-Canadian. Just remember to use 'moi' and 'toi' over the quirky Canadian alternatives ;-) and all of those 'franglaised' verbs you have.
posted by wackybrit at 11:56 AM on July 29, 2002

My experience of holidaying in San Francisco suggests it is far more expensive than London and New York. That was a couple of years ago though, before the recession. Would that make a difference? Dunno.
posted by Summer at 12:11 PM on July 29, 2002

Marquis: Lisbon*, Oporto, Seville, Jerez, Madrid, Barcelona, Arles, Lyon, Paris*, Bologna, Rome*, Naples, Palermo in the South; Berlin, Oxford*, Brighton, Manchester, Edinburgh*, Rekyavik in the North are all wonderful European cities where life is good and, considering the existential benefits, relatively cheap. (I asterisked the cities where inexpensive accommodation is hard to find). The better the climate, the cheaper and merrier. Everyone loves someone who can speak English and French, except the French, as wackybrit says. And probably the English. Dublin, Florence and Copenhagen are too expensive, though wonderful. That's about it - and forget Amsterdam! ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:17 PM on July 29, 2002

*Applause* A bevy of responses - I thank you!

As a Scottish-born Canadian, there is true appeal to residency in Glasgow, although I'm not sure whether my lust for foreign environs might push me elsewhere. I'm not convinced that my melancholia would be well suited to the warmer, "merrier" climates of Spain or Portugal, although I do intend to visit.

Are the realms outside of Britain and France truly accessible to the non-Italian/Spanish/Icelandic/Portuguese speaker? I would imagine the language-barrier to be a near-insurmountable obstacle, at least with regard to employment. Unless, I suppose, I want to clean stables.

As an Anglo, my French accent is the child of its instructors, and on the Montreal metro, I was mistaken for a European. On the other hand, I'm sure a Parisian or Lyonnaise would make no such mistake, and you're right that I might be thoroughly derided as a fur-trading colonial.

It seems I was mistaken about Copenhagen. Northern England/Southern Scotland, and south-western Europe seem the best bets... Thanks for the food for thought.
posted by Marquis at 12:39 PM on July 29, 2002

Oh, and I'll be sure to give you all a ring when I swing by your neighbourhoods, in search of a free lunch. :)
posted by Marquis at 12:40 PM on July 29, 2002

Although I can't speak for the other cities, Marquis, Reykjavik is thoroughly Anglicized... and a great city, to boot.
posted by silusGROK at 2:18 PM on July 29, 2002

Reykjavik has astounding appeal to me... though mostly the work of Sigur Ros and my imagination, to be honest... I do wonder if (and hope that) my travels bring me there one day. I can't imagine there's much to do besides listen to music, get drunk and stare into the wilderness, mind you. Sounds great for writing. :)

Do you live there now?
posted by Marquis at 3:18 PM on July 29, 2002

Miguel: I am surprised to see Brighton on your list, and especially not to see it marked as being an expensive city. Brighton is not particularly expensive in most areas except for accomodation. Brighton is mildly infamous for having the most overvalued rents of almost any town in the country (save London, but that's understandable).

Interesting to see Arles on your list. I have not been there, but I have heard many good things about it. From what I could gather, however, it is quite a small town. I would also like to add Aix-en-Provence, Reims, and almost anywhere in Normandy to your list.
posted by wackybrit at 3:42 PM on July 29, 2002

Taipei is number 15? It seems this is a list of how expensive it is to create a Western Lifestyle(tm) with the materials at hand. Sounds like a bad Reality TV show idea.
posted by Poagao at 7:52 PM on July 29, 2002

Marquis: If you do pop over to the UK & wanna take up some of Miguel's advice, I'm in Oxford and have a comfy crash-corner for you to occupy for a night or two :) Plus, I'm much friendlier in RL (",)
posted by dash_slot- at 8:33 PM on July 29, 2002

Terrif'! Thanks dash. I may look you up in a couple years. :)
posted by Marquis at 8:37 PM on July 29, 2002

Marquis :"Personal experience tells me that these two data points indicate a substantial flaw in their methodology."

MattD : "I'm vaguely familiar with their survey methodology, and they focused heavily on ex-pat expenses. "

Personal experience would indicate to me also that there are flaws here. I lived in Sydney until last year, and now reside in Seoul, and the cost of living is very similar. The FinFacts tables rank Seoul at #10 and Sydney at #95.

This is very wrong.

I suspect that if a big part of their survey methodology is indeed expat expenses, then the reason they've come up with this ridiculously high ranking for Seoul is because they haven't done their research. The two English language newspapers here have a smattering of ads for long- and short-term accommodation catering to foreigners, and without fail the rent is astronomical.

Renting a nice new apartment through a domestic agency (which, granted, was well-nigh impossible even a couple of years ago, without native-speaker assistance, and is still a challenge) would drop the monthly outlay for an expat (like myself) to perhaps 1/3 or 1/4 what it would be going through these sucker-born-every-minute expat rental agencies.

If this is indeed the case, and the research didn't take this into account (which is the only way I could possibly see that Seoul would come in so high in the rankings), then like Marquis and dglynn and Poagao, I wouldn't trust these tables.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:44 PM on July 29, 2002

I've never travelled outside of Australia (by choice), and I've watched things get progressively worse here, particularly over the last decade. But to read that the cost of living here is still very low while the quality of life is still very high...
posted by chrisgregory at 1:19 AM on July 30, 2002

Whatever. Most people (including those who actually have travelled outside their home countries) are aware that Australia, and to a perhaps greater extent New Zealand, can be extremely pleasant places to live.

But my country of citizenship (if not residence), Canada, has been repeatedly chosen by the UN as having the highest standard of living on the planet, and I somehow manage to restrain myself from shouting : "NYAH NYAH SUCKS TO ALL OF YOU!" at people less fortunate. But that's just me.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:31 AM on July 30, 2002

If Canada has the highest standard of living (and it is a really, REALLY pleasant place to be, save Jan-Feb), it's only because it's, well, it's sort of like Fairfield County Connecticut: near the action (the USA), but far enough away not to be paying the price of all the lunacy.

In fact, Ottawa should just be re-named Stamford.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:51 AM on July 30, 2002

Since Canada is America's largest trading partner, I'd say it has a bit to do with your standard of living too.
posted by Bearman at 6:49 PM on July 30, 2002

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