World's Most Expensive Cities

World's Most Expensive Cities

By Jessica Stillman

Unemployment remains high, and the climb up the corporate ladder in the U.S. is brutally competitive. So perhaps you were thinking about going abroad to try your luck.

We've recommended that on BNET before. For the adventurous looking to ensure their resume stands out, pulling up stakes and taking off for an assignment in another country certainly has appeal. But a new report suggests that would-be expatriates should do the math first. The cost of living in your destination of choice may be surprisingly high.

Consulting firm Mercer just released its annual list of the world's most expensive cities. Using New York as a benchmark, and weighing the cost in dollars of various expenses in 240 cities around the world, Mercer came up with a definitive list of cities where expatriates are sure to face serious sticker shock. Will the salary you're being offered cover the quality of life you're used to in the destination you're considering? Mercer aims to help you find out.

And you're guaranteed not to be able to guess which city tops the list.

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World's Most Expensive Cities

10 -- Brazil's Booming Financial Capital

10 -- Brazil's Booming Financial Capital

Rising 11 places in the rankings to take the tenth slot this year. Brazil's largest city, Sao Paulo, is the financial heart of the South American country, which unlike the U.S. to the north is booming not stagnating. With a growth rate of 7.5 percent last year, Brazil is bound to offer immense possibilities for business savvy transplants. Plus, sports fans have even more reason to go with the country hosting both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, but before you start brushing up on your Portuguese be warned, living in Sao Paulo will cost you an arm and a leg with a stronger local currency driving up cost of living for expats.

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World's Most Expensive Cities

9 -- How Do You Say Expensive in Cantonese?

9 -- How Do You Say Expensive in Cantonese?

With easy access to an ascendant super power, Hong Kong offers all the dynamism of China's amazing economic rise but with fewer stifling restrictions of the one-party state. And with English as an official language, communication is less of a hassle as you work on your Cantonese, so it makes sense as a base of operations for the ambitious expat. But be warned it doesn't come cheap -- a two-bedroom, unfurnished apartment will run you $5,776.89 and expect to pay $6.90 for a cup of coffee. 

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World's Most Expensive Cities

8 -- Small Space, Many Millionaires

8 -- Small Space, Many Millionaires

Record economic growth last year helped tiny Singapore rise past its Asian rival, Hong Kong, on the list of the world's priciest cities. The country's high proportion of millionaires probably didn't do much to keep costs down either – BusinessWeek reports they make up a whopping 15.5 percent of the population. The result is a hefty $3,289.78 price tag for a two-bedroom apartment. If your pay packet won't put you within shouting distance of them and you're used to living the good life back home, think carefully before making a move.

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World's Most Expensive Cities

7 -- Lakes, Mountains and Sticker Shock

7 -- Lakes, Mountains and Sticker Shock

With its famously low taxes, the Swiss city of Zurich has long been a beacon for financial firms and hedge funds. It is also the site for much research and development. In addition to the rich employment possibilities for those with the right skills, Zurich is also frequently celebrated for its incredible quality of life, being ranked one of the world's most livable cities. But all that will cost you, with high prices landing the lovely city by a lake in the seventh slot on Mercer's list. 

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World's Most Expensive Cities

6 -- The Second Most Expensive Place in Asia

6 -- The Second Most Expensive Place in Asia

Osaka is Japan's second most important city for commerce and home to a number of globally important companies, including Panasonic and Sharp. Should you consider making it home as well be careful to weigh the cost of living, which is the second highest in the entirety of booming Asia.  

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World's Most Expensive Cities

5 -- Low Taxes, High Prices

5 -- Low Taxes, High Prices

Geneva is another lakeside city whose economy benefits from Switzerland's easygoing approach to taxes. McDonald's is one of several firms relocating its European headquarters there to take advantage of the low rates. Should you contemplate a similar move? Not unless you're willing and able to put up with the fifth highest cost of living in the world.

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World's Most Expensive Cities

4 -- Cold Winters, Hot Prices

4 -- Cold Winters, Hot Prices

Moscow takes the crown as most expensive European city on the list with an unfurnished, two-bedroom apartment going for $4,000, a liter of milk for $6.59 and an international newspaper for just a few pennies shy of $10. But the cost of living isn't the only drawback to consider when pondering a move to Moscow. The New York Times recently ran an article on investing in Russia that detailed a long list of challenges faced by those working there, including "corruption, the abuses of the courts, the terribly archaic educational system, the choked up traffic, the lack of investment in infrastructure, the cultural penchant for Hobbesian brute leaders." Rushing off to pack your bags then?  

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World's Most Expensive Cities

3 -- Housing Woes in the Sahara

3 -- Housing Woes in the Sahara

Chad's capital N'Djamena takes the third slot on the Mercer list. Bet you didn't see that one coming. N'Djamena probably isn't high on many business people's lists of likely cities to immigrate too, but for those of you who imagine that the dollar goes far in most African cities, think again. The city scores high in the rankings, due to a lack of quality accommodations. Nathalie Constantin-Métral, senior researcher at Mercer explains: "Finding good and secure accommodation for expatriate employees is a real challenge in most of the African cities on the list and costs can be significant compared to other regions. Accommodation prices are currently at record levels and this is generally the main reason why we find so many African cities high up in the ranking."

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World's Most Expensive Cities

2 -- High Cost, Low Quality Living

2 -- High Cost, Low Quality Living

Japan's largest city retains its second place slot on the survey for a second year thanks to two-bedroom apartments costing $4,842.25 and $21.79 cinema tickets. While Tokyo maintains its position on Mercer's ranking of most expensive cities, the city fared less well in another ranking from the consultancy based on overall quality of life, coming in at number 40 on that list. Think carefully then if the money you're being paid in Tokyo compensates for tiny quarters and the general headaches of life in a sprawling metropolis.

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World's Most Expensive Cities

1 -- An Oil Boom Comes to Africa

1 -- An Oil Boom Comes to Africa

With a 27-year civil war behind it and a less than model government, Angola probably isn't the first country on your list of potential destinations. Not unless you work in oil and gas anyway. With rich reserves of natural resources, Angola has attracted the attention of a variety of international energy companies who have set up shop in the capital Luanda, driving up prices for scarce decent accommodation and other necessities for expatriates. The result is a $7,000 price tag for a two-bedroom apartment and a $20 fast food hamburger meal.

 (Image courtesy of Flickr user oneVillage Initiative, CC 2.0)