Tokyo Tops Most Expensive Cities For Expats

Tokyo is the most expensive city in the world for expats, a new living survey has found – despite having cheaper rent and groceries than 12 months ago.

Human-resources consulting firm Mercer conducted its annual cost-of-living survey, and found that the powerful Japanese yen was making Tokyo an increasingly pricey destination for expatriates.

The Japanese capital was top in 2010 as well, but lost its spot in 2011 to the the Angolan capital of Luanda. In 2012’s list, Japan was well-represented – Osaka and Nagoya also placed in the top 10.

Mercer’s data is based on “the relative strength of the relevant currency” against the U.S. dollar in the 12 months between rankings. New York is used as a benchmark in a survey that covers 214 cities over five continents.

‘Japan is hella expensive’ isn’t really new news, either. Tokyo has been top of Mercer’s list 12 times in the previous 18 years. And when it hasn’t been top, it’s been there or thereabouts: in the top three every year since 1994, except in 2007, when it came fourth.

It’s not just Tokyo property that hurts the wallet; even smaller items can be pricey. Mercer observed that $8.29 will buy you two cups of coffee in New York, but only one in Tokyo. And Tokyo is the most costly place to catch a movie – the average price of admission is a whopping $22.97, or about $3 more than in Sydney, the next most expensive city to catch a film.

Karachi was the cheapest place to live – for expatriates, living in the Pakistani city costs less than a third of what Tokyo does.