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5 most expensive expat countries in 2022

Updated 23 Jul 2021

It’s no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge effect on economies across the world. Even two years later, some continue to feel the pinch caused by currency fluctuations and the scarcity of goods.

As the world moves on, some economies have fared better than others. Here are five of the most expensive cities for expats in 2022, according to Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

2022 ranking: Hong Kong – 1st
2021 ranking: Hong Kong – 2nd

Hong Kong has long been considered one of the world’s most expensive expat cities, and has taken the top spot in Mercer’s survey several times. In 2021, Ashgabat in Turkmenistan overtook the city-state, but in 2022, Hong Kong regained the title of world’s most expensive city for expats.

The good news is that while Hong Kong has a high cost of living, it offers an excellent quality of life to match. Expats considering moving to Hong Kong should ideally do so with a job in hand, and should make sure that their salary will be able to comfortably cover their expenses.

Learn more about moving to this vibrant island-state in our expat guide to Hong Kong.



2022 ranking: Singapore – 8th
2021 ranking: Singapore – 8th

Singapore has a lot in common with Hong Kong – both are economically robust Asian city-states with excellent infrastructure, both offer great opportunities for career progression, and command a high cost of living.

Before it was outranked by Hong Kong in recent years, Singapore frequently topped the Mercer Cost of Living Survey, but its rank has been slowly dropping year by year, which is good news for prospective expats. It’s yet to fall out of the top 10, though, so adequate salaries and careful budgeting are essential.

Interested in exploring this exciting city-state? Read more in our expat guide to Singapore.



2022 ranking: Zurich (2nd), Geneva (3rd), Basel (4th), Bern (5th)
2021 ranking: Zurich (5th), Geneva (8th), Bern (10th)

Outdone only by Hong Kong, which took 2022's top spot, Switzerland dominates the top five in this year's Cost of Living Survey. Switzerland is notable as the only European country to appear in the top 10 of Mercer’s survey. Zurich, Geneva and Bern have all jumped to a higher ranking compared to last year, while Basel appears for the first time at 5th place.

Jobs in Switzerland pay well and are highly desirable, but are also scarce. Still, expats who manage to find work here will enjoy a comfortable lifestyle.

Want to know more? Read our expat guide to Switzerland.



2022 rankings: Shanghai (12h), Beijing (10th), Shenzen (13th), Guangzhou (18th), Qingdao (22nd), Nanjing (26th), Shenyang (40th), Chengdu (44th), Chongqing (56th), Xian (63rd), Suzhou (69th), Wuhan (73rd)
2021 rankings: Shanghai (6th), Beijing (9th), Shenzen (12th), Guangzhou (17th)

China is thoroughly represented in Mercer’s survey with eight cities appearing in the top 50, including Beijing (10th), Shanghai (12th), Shenzen (13th) and Guangzhou (18th). The economy of this gargantuan country has managed to bounce back fairly quickly from the pandemic, partly thanks to its strong currency.

Jobs for foreigners aren’t especially hard to find in China, but the pay can vary widely between industries and depends a great deal on what an expat can offer in terms of special skills and experience.

To find out more about this vast country, check out our expat guide to China.



2022 rankings: Tokyo (9th), Osaka (37th), Yokohama (50th), Nagoya (51st)
2021 rankings: Tokyo (4th), Osaka (23rd), Nagoya (35th)

Another Asian economic giant, Japan is represented by four cities in Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey for 2022. Tokyo takes 9th place, dropping several spots from last year, while Osaka (37th), Yokohama (50th) and Nagoya (51st) are lower down in the rankings but still far from cheap.

Japan’s economy has done well in weathering the pandemic, and recovery continues steadily. The country has been able to keep supply and demand consistent, and the currency rate has remained stable.

Learn more about this fascinating country in our expat guide to Japan.

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