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Old 01.02.2006, 09:17
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City Rankings: Cost and Quality of Life

The Economist Intelligence Unit's list of world's most expensive cities, which comes out twice a year, has just come out.

Rank (last year)City Index *
1 (3) Oslo, Norway 140
2 (1) Tokyo, Japan 136
3 (8) Osaka/Kobe, Japan 135
4 (2) Reykjavik, Iceland 130
4 (4) Paris, France 130
6 (5) Copenhagen, Denmark 127
7 (7) London, UK 125
8 (6) Zurich, Switzerland 123
9 (8) Geneva, Switzerland 116
10 (10) Helsinki, Finland 115

The number on the right is the index compared to New York which is 100. Therefore London is 25% more expensive than New York.

For the first time Tokyo has been knocked off the number 1 spot since 1991. Zurich has also slid two spots down the table, which is a good thing I suppose...

It's interesting how these statistics are compiled. It's obviously a composite of many things, including accomodation. When I was in Tokyo 2 years ago I found most things to be much cheaper than Zurich (public transport, food, taxi, restaurant, hotel). The exceptions were that fruit (which is considered a luxury item) was very expensive, but it was awesome. Rented accomodation was also astronomical, with square meterage being displayed to two decimal places - e.g. 20.02 m2! That is something that is definitely cheaper in Zurich!

I guess a weaker Swiss franc also changes how we compare things when we travel as well.

So has anyone else had any surprises when they've travelled somewhere else and found it cheaper or more expensive than they expected it to be?

Mark
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Old 03.02.2006, 16:21
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Re: World's most expensive cities

"It's interesting how these statistics are compiled. It's obviously a composite of many things, including accomodation"

I cant find the source material at the mom, but read the orther day that most of the data for this table was connected to executive pay. Since most exec relocations include a housing allowance, this data did NOT include accom costs. For this reason if accom costs HAD been included London would have shot up to 3rd place.
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Old 03.02.2006, 17:17
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Re: World's most expensive cities

I did some digging, but couldn't get to the bottom of it. Most of the content of the articles is subscribers only (I am a subscriber) so I didn't want to copy and paste it for copyright reasons. I did however copy this:
Quote:
Notes To Editors:
  1. There are two major reasons why a city's cost of living index will change over time: exchange rate movement and price movement. Since a common currency is required in making a comparative calculation all local prices are converted into dollars, which emphasises the role of currency movement. If, for example, a currency strengthens or inflation pushes the price of goods up, so the relative cost of living in that country will also rise.
  2. Worldwide Cost of Living, the bi–annual Economist Intelligence Unit survey, compares prices and products in over 130 cities around the world. Its purpose is to provide companies with an unbiased and independent guide from which allowances can be calculated for executives and their families being sent overseas. The Economist Intelligence Unit can calculate indices based on any one of the cities. The data quoted here used New York as a base index of 100 for comparisons.
So you may in fact be right. However, if accomodation was NOT included, then I really can't fathom how Toyko stayed on the top. I spent 10 days in Tokyo and found most things (hotel, food, taxis, public transport) to be cheaper than Zurich. For example, 4 of us ate at a really nice Thai restaurant in the middle of Tokyo, and we ate extremely well, for 20-25 francs per head. The only thing I found outrageous in Tokyo was the cost of accomodation, which was more expensive than London or New York. For this reason I just assumed that it had to have been included, if not, I can't understand the results.
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Old 03.02.2006, 17:32
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Re: World's most expensive cities

Such surveys I find are very misleading. I lived in Amsterdam where accomodation is extremely expensive, but otherwise the cost of living low. I also lived in the states for a while, where most things seemed to be cheaper than in Europe... As with all these things it really depends on your lifestyle. Eating out and drinking in both Zurich and London is deadly, but buying high end electronics can be cheaper than even in the states, mainly coz the VAT is less I guess.....
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Old 03.02.2006, 18:49
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Re: World's most expensive cities

Quote:
Such surveys I find are very misleading. I lived in Amsterdam where accomodation is extremely expensive, but otherwise the cost of living low. I also lived in the states for a while, where most things seemed to be cheaper than in Europe... As with all these things it really depends on your lifestyle. Eating out and drinking in both Zurich and London is deadly, but buying high end electronics can be cheaper than even in the states, mainly coz the VAT is less I guess.....
Yeah people see things differently because they do different things. If beer forms a big part of your budget, then any country where it is cheap would probably seem cheap

I know what you mean about these surveys, but at least this one is fixed to a constant basket of goods and services (except that we don't know what is in the basket) and it is based purely on numbers. Something like the Mercer survey rates Zurich as the best city in the world to live in, and this is a high subjective thing to rate between cities!! Personally I think the Mercer survey is a load of rubbish, but then again there are many expats who think it is true - but they only compare where they used to live to Zurich, and if Zurich is better then they automatically conclude that it is the best in the world. A pretty small world, but anyway... But it's like the beer example above - it depends what you like doing when you live in a city...

So despite the failings - I say bring on the surveys - it gives us more chance to shoot them down and generally bicker amongst ourselves

Mark
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Old 04.03.2006, 10:05
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Re: World's most expensive cities

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The number on the right is the index compared to New York which is 100. Therefore London is 25% more expensive than New York.
This is slightly misleading because of the amount of slum-level real estate in NY that when averaged in, make NY look cheap. In reality...we looked for an apartment in Manhattan back in 96-7 and the prices were shocking compared to Zürich. Back then, a very simple 1 bedroom apartment with no caché was about 3000-4000 chf/month. We saw a nice one-bedroom for 10,000 chf/month. If you want a relatively safe neighborhood... you pay, and if you are willing to live in the slums you can live for 300 a month.
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Old 09.11.2006, 17:20
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Re: World's most expensive/liveable cities

Quote:
I say bring on the surveys - it gives us more chance to shoot them down and generally bicker amongst ourselves
I cant find reference to the Mercer quality of living survey, so I though I'd jump in on this thread. I always feel the Mercer survey is biased as it's aimed to index the quality of life for expat executives. Generally a well heeled bunch, so the cost of accomodation, food etc is not so important, but pollution, recreation, public safety and public transport are very important (ie the things your wallet cant change). I think the UN Index is much better as it seems to show the quality of life for the average person in the country. Interesting to see some of the variations between the the two lists.

Mercer Quality of Living Survey
UN Human Development Index
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Old 09.11.2006, 20:50
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Re: World's most expensive cities

Quote:

So has anyone else had any surprises when they've travelled somewhere else and found it cheaper or more expensive than they expected it to be?

Mark
Ever been to Hong Kong. Here things are outrageous. Accomodation under US $10K per month is probably in the ghetto and alcohol is too expensive to be consumed... This is the country/city/island/whatever you want to call it with the most open show of obscene wealth to be seen anywhere. Even going in the car park of a supermarket is like visiting the best car dealerships
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Old 09.11.2006, 21:40
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Re: World's most expensive cities

Quote:
Ever been to Hong Kong. Here things are outrageous. Accomodation under US $10K per month is probably in the ghetto and alcohol is too expensive to be consumed... This is the country/city/island/whatever you want to call it with the most open show of obscene wealth to be seen anywhere. Even going in the car park of a supermarket is like visiting the best car dealerships
Hong Kong is totally outrageous and so full of contrasts. I remeber after arriving in my hotel room looking out of the window onto what cn only be described as high rise slums. The contrast between the cheap markets and expensive designer shops is also very marked. Definatley a city of haves and have-nots.
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Old 09.11.2006, 23:54
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Re: World's most expensive cities

I find this whole post hypothetically irrelevent after having read one of the headlines on Tagi's website tonight, which I also thinks makes just about no coherent sense (by this I mean that it is not realistic).

http://www.tagesanzeiger.ch/dyn/news...ft/685930.html

It is in German and claims that Americans earn twice as much (on average) as Europeans -- including the Swiss... If that is *actually* true how can one make New York be the equivalent of 100. And, as an American from this region, I *sort of* feel that this is false. It is all too complicated to discuss in this post (would require a visit to the neutral section). All of this aside, how is this survey even valid if this true?
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Old 10.11.2006, 07:48
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Re: World's most expensive cities

Quote:
I find this whole post hypothetically irrelevent after having read one of the headlines on Tagi's website tonight, which I also thinks makes just about no coherent sense (by this I mean that it is not realistic).

http://www.tagesanzeiger.ch/dyn/news...ft/685930.html
It looks like the English version of this PWC report (PDF Key Trends in human capital A global perspective – 2006) can be found at
http://www.pwc.ch/user_content/edito..._capital_e.pdf

After a quick glance, my initial suspicion is that it's (ab)using "average"...
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Old 11.11.2006, 05:15
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Re: World's most expensive cities

At first glance (I couldn't find a currency exchange rate key) it seems that most of the difference between US and European remuneration differences could be explained by the choosing the 'wrong' forex rate between the USD and Euro . If anything, the results here suggest that the USD is seriously undervalued agains th Euro. This echoes my thinking and is why I am long the USD
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Old 07.01.2007, 21:39
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Re: World's most expensive cities

I find cost of living or price index maps are always based on averages. And averages are inacurate.

However, usually it's relative. Salary is relative to cost of living. However, that is changing rapidly in the Western forum.

I found Vienna much more expensive than I expected. However. Berlin was much cheaper and a delight to buy tickets for concerts, ballet, the Opera etc... So cheap in comparison to the UK.

New York is incredibly cheap for department store purchase, but, living in the US, which I have on and off on three year contracts is so deceptive. Utility bills there are outrageous in comparison to the UK. And it depends on which part of the States you are.

London rents are outlandish. But so is the emoluments of the well paid. A city trader was paid 50 million GBP as a bonus for last years dealing. And there were many who got well over a million.

It has become as crazy as the US on this front. Which means the pie slice gets narrower and narrower for the average joe. It's obscene I think.

The French revolution was fought on this issue. When the balance is disturbed to this degree it usually festers and turns ugly.
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Old 08.01.2007, 00:03
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Re: World's most expensive cities

a good guide to cost of living is the Economist Big Mac Guide which is updated daily on Oanda.com reflecting currency movements

as you can see Switzerland comes out the most expensive place to buy a BigMac @ US$5.10 compared to $3.10 in the USA and $3.74 in UK

http://www.oanda.com/products/bigmac/bigmac.shtml
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Old 23.01.2007, 19:24
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Re: World's most expensive cities

These sort of surveys dont proove much. If you live of cigarettes and alcohol Zurich is probally one of the cheapest cities in Europe but if you spend all you money on groceries, I would think London would have been cheaper.
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Old 23.01.2007, 19:45
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Re: World's most expensive cities

Given that most of the major currencies have moved 10% plus against each other, (e.g the Yen /GBP rate has moved between 206 and 241 in the past twelve months) in most periods, and the Cable (USD/GBP) rate has moved 40% in the past three years, the table are a complete NONSENSE! ( all in my humble opinion, natch!)
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Old 24.01.2007, 07:08
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Re: World's most expensive cities

but Felix, in those cities, costs are the same or greater and salaries are the same or have increased slightly. Don't confuse monetary and real costs
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Old 03.04.2007, 10:26
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Re: World's most expensive cities

http://www.mercerhr.com/knowledgecen...ontent/1128060

No change at the top then
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Old 03.04.2007, 11:32
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Re: World's most expensive cities

A good disclaimer at the bottom of the webpage:

------------
Quality of Living vs. the quality of life

The Quality of Living index is based on several criteria used to judge whether an expatriate is entitled to a hardship allowance. A city with a high Quality of Living index is a safe and stable one, but it may be lacking the dynamic je ne sais quoi that makes people want to live in world-renowned cities such as Paris, Tokyo, London or New York. Sometimes you need a little spice to make a city exciting. But that "spice" may also give a city a lower ranking.




---------------

Sums it up quite nicely, I'd say.
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Old 03.04.2007, 11:41
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Re: World's most expensive cities

That "spice" element is one that only people earning a certain amount appreciate (rough 'hoods with good clubs, louche people hanging around, the vibrancy of the poor working classes...) as they can bugger off back to their safe area of town once they had their dose of "spice"...
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