Is Tokyo truly the most expensive world city for expats

Published:  22 Dec at 6 PM
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Tagged: Currency
A new survey has identified Tokyo as the most expensive world city for expats.

Jumping from 12th place to first in the ECA International Survey’s list of most expensive cities for expat life, Tokyo is now joined in the top ten by three other major Japanese cities. The 2016 survey placed Tokyo at the top of the list, which included Yokohama at fifth place, Nagoya at seventh and Osaka at ninth. The four cities are the most popular with expat workers, making the results bad news for long-stay expatriates.

Surprisingly, the survey itself doesn’t include rentals, utility charges or education costs, as ECA only takes into account out-of-pocket expenses due to the fact that expats’ relocation packages usually cover the essentials. The human resources consultancy bases its results on a basket of consumer necessities common to 450 worldwide expat locations, including personal expenses such as petrol, movie tickets, a fast-food meal and a beer in a bar. Surveys of such costs are made bi-annually in March and September, taking into account the value of the local currency and its effect on expats’ cost of living.

One reason for Tokyo’s giant leap into an unflattering first position was that, in the 12 months from September 2015 to the same date in 2016, the yen rose against a basket of currencies by a massive 19 per cent, a shock to expats converting the currency to dollars and pounds. Of course, for those working for Japanese companies and being paid in yen, the city isn’t any more expensive than when it was in 12th place.

Whilst the survey gives a more realistic estimate of daily costs than most others, the cultural aspects of Japan can heavily slew the results. For example, self-driving in the city centre itself can be literally hell on wheels due to traffic congestion, whilst public transport is refreshingly inexpensive compared with petrol and car maintenance as well as reassuringly efficient and comfortable.

Like-to-like comparisons in eating out and food in general are also affected by the Japanese culinary culture, with favourites such as sashimi, sushi and chicken yakitori costing a fraction of the price in most Western home countries, and back-street restaurants known for their chefs often as inexpensive as fast food joints. The secret of living inexpensively in Tokyo, as expressed in an online article at RocketNews24, is to simply live like a local and love it.
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