More often than not, any Filipino you ask will know someone who lives or works abroad. You’ll often hear of family relatives moving to “the States” or a parent who’s an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Canada or Hong Kong, the top destinations of land-based OFWs according to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.
The reason for going abroad may differ from person to person, but to find better opportunities for work or to live a more comfortable life financial-wise are not uncommon answers, especially for those with families to support. And, based on Mercer’s list of most expensive and cheapest cities for expats, it matters where exactly "abroad" is.
According to the global consulting firm’s annual Cost of Living Survey, the top of the list for the most expensive city for expats goes to our neighboring Asian city of Hong Kong. The cheapest city, at the bottom of the list, is the capital city of the Republic of Namibia, Windhoek.
Other neighboring Asian cities in the list include: Singapore, Tokyo in Japan, and Shanghai and Beijing in China – all of which belong in the top 10 most expensive.
The survey ranked 209 cities around the world based on their scores when compared to New York, US. The aim was to “help multinational companies and governments determine compensation allowances for their expatriate employees.”
Here’s a rundown of the top 5 most expensive and bottom 5 cheapest. Plus, a little background on the countries they reside in:
Top 5 1. Hong Kong
Where in the world: People’s Republic of China; Asia Exchange rate: P6.03 (as of writing)
Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China, which means they are still part of the country but have a great deal of autonomy including responsibilities for most areas of government. Hong Kong is ranked among the fastest-growing economies in the world. Renting a two-bedroom apartment here can cost you more than P300,000 a month.
Where in the world: Angola; Africa Exchange rate: P0.28 (as of writing)
Luanda is the capital and largest city in Angola. The country is Africa’s second largest oil producer but, due to a destructive and violent decades-spanning civil war, almost everything in Luanda has to be imported. Most of Angolan capital’s population lives in poverty.
Where in the world: Switzerland; Europe Exchange rate: P47.62 (as of writing)
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland. It’s also ranked among the most expensive cities to live in by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) 2016 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey. It’s the higher ranked of the two cities in Switzerland included in the top 10.
Where in the world: Singapore; Asia Exchange rate: P34.75 (as of writing)
Singapore is the world’s only island city-state; it is both country and capital. It is a thriving global financial hub and described as one of Asia’s economic “tigers.” On the EIU Worldwide Cost of Living Survey, it’s the world’s most expensive city to live in.
Where in the world: Japan; Asia Exchange rate: P0.44 (as of writing)
Tokyo isn’t just the world’s biggest city – it’s the biggest city in the history of the world. It’s the capital of Japan, the world’s third-largest economy. The country achieved remarkable growth in the second half of the 20th century after the Second World War, according to the BBC.
Where in the world: South Africa; Africa Exchange rate: P3.26
Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa, the cheapest country to live or retire based on research by GoBankingRates for 2016. South Africa is the world's largest producer of platinum, gold and chromium resulting in a high local purchasing power.
Where in the world: Malawi; Africa Exchange rate: P0.066
Blantyre is Malawi’s center of finance and commerce. The city supports an expat population of around 25,000 mainly from the UK, Europe and South Africa. The rest of the country is largely agricultural whose struggle lies in overcoming decades of underdevelopment, corruption and HIV-Aids.
Where in the world: Kyrgyzstan; Central Asia Exchange rate: P0.70 (as of writing)
Bishkek is the capital and largest city of Kyrgyzstan. Though located in one of Asia’s poorest countries, Bishkek is a dynamic and constantly evolving city being Kyrgyzstan’s financial and political center.
208. Cape Town
Where in the world: South Africa; Africa Exchange rate: P3.26 (as of writing)
South Africa is one of the most popular countries for UK expats (with over 200,00 calling it home), and the city they most like to reside in is Cape Town and Johannesburg. What draws expats to Cape Town is the laid-back atmosphere against the backdrop of a beautiful scenery.
Where in the world: Namibia, Africa Exchange rate: P3.26 (as of writing)
Windhoek is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Namibia. It is the country’s economic, political and cultural center. Namibia is sparsely populated with a population of just over 2.3 million but has remained a relatively stable country after gaining its independence in 1990.