Hong Kong most expensive city for expats

Jun 22, 2016, 9:21 AM EDT
Hong Kong's skyline.
(Source: Hendrik van Zwol/flickr)

The mud fight between the Democrats, with Hillary Clinton as their presumptive presidential nominee, and the Republicans, nowhere near as united behind Donald Trump, has a number of Americans weighing an alternative choice. No, not the Libertarians’ Gary Johnson or any other potential third-party candidate. They’re considering a much more personal change – of scenery.

In an era when unspeakable violence and government instability have made “refugee” a watchword to much of the outside world, Americans who can afford to flee a candidate whom they morally can’t endorse or who have the option of chasing career or educational opportunities in faraway places with strange-sounding names may find themselves asking just one question: Is this the right fit at the right time?

And if cost of living is a concern, a new compilation of the world’s priciest cities for expats should help narrow the field.

According to Mercer, the consulting firm behind the annual rankings, Hong Kong tops the list, outpricing Luanda, the capital of Angola, where a recent currency collapse has essentially negated a lucrative oil industry. An expat settling down in the Chinese territory will find rents reaching five figures a month and a cup of coffee nearly $8 in U.S. currency (though, at $5, a burger is a relative bargain).

Zurich, Singapore and Tokyo, respectively, round out the top five, and half of the top 10 are in Asia, which continues to attract businesses looking to invest in emerging markets.

The inclusion of two other African capitals -- Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at No. 6 and Chad’s N’Djamena, known as Fort-Lamy during the French colonial occupation, at No. 9 -- may indicate similar investment in growing economies despite the jihadist threat increasingly stalking Central Africa. It should be noted, though, that the continent includes two cities -- Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, and South Africa’s Cape Town -- listed as among the least expensive for expats.

London, traditionally pricey for Brits and non-Brits alike, fell five spots to No. 17, setting up the cognitive dissonance of the United Kingdom’s most populous and celebrated city being more affordable than Luanda, a former Portuguese colonial stronghold.

At any rate, any American would-be expat who finds many of the listed locales tempting but too expensive to seriously consider might do well to heed the siren call of Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, which has extended a welcome to any of its southern neighbors in the event of a Trump electoral victory. Those willing to give small-island life a try won’t find the glamour of Hong Kong there but just might find a home, for it’s one of the least expensive places in Canada to buy a house.