World's priciest city to be an expat is...?

Story highlights

  • Oslo is world's most expensive city in 2013 ECA International survey
  • Norway's high cost of production, labor and high taxes pushed Oslo to top
  • Tokyo, number one in 2012, fell to number six this year due to weaker yen
  • Quane: Asia city rankings stable, good sign of economic recovery after 2008 global crisis

Oslo, Norway ranks as the world's most expensive city for expatriates, according to a new survey by ECA International, a global human resources consultancy firm. In the top 10, seven of the planet's priciest cities lie in Europe, two are found in Africa, while just one rests in Asia.

The rise of Norway's capital to the top spot knocks Tokyo, Japan off the position it has claimed since 2010. This year, Japan's capital ranks as the world's sixth priciest city for overseas workers.

"Prices in Oslo tend to be more expensive compared to other parts of the world (because of) the cost of production and labor," says Lee Quane, Regional Director, Asia for ECA International. "Services include dry cleaning, shoe repair, hair dressing - items which are more labor intensive - meals eaten out at restaurants as well. We also see the impact of taxes. For example alcohol and tobacco is relatively expensive."

According to ECA International data for Oslo, a movie ticket costs the equivalent of $18.76, a beer at a bar costs $14.10, while a soda will set you back $3.43.

Tokyo's fall from the top of the charts follows weakness in Japan's currency over the past several months, adds Quane.

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The yen has fallen by as much as 20% since Shinzo Abe became prime minister in December 2012. Abe has laid out a plan for a return to inflation -- with an official 2% target -- after two decades of deflation, a stagnating economy and Japan's exporters like Sony and Panasonic recording billions of dollars in annual losses.

A weaker yen gives more buying power to foreigners visiting and exchanging their money.

Still Tokyo remains the most expensive city in Asia for expats, in the survey by ECA International, beating Seoul, Beijing, Singapore and Hong Kong.

A ticket to a Tokyo movie will take $19.09 out of your wallet, a soft drink is a more affordable $1.61 compared to Oslo, while a kilo of rice costs $10.00 -- the highest price in the entire ECA International survey.

Overall, Asia's city rankings have recently seen "a lot of stability," adds Quane. The global position rankings of Hong Kong and Singapore have only "moved one or two points", which he considers "a good thing" and a signal towards a longer-term economic recovery after the 2008 global financial crisis.

One surprise, says Quane, is the Philippine capital of Manila which jumped 19 points since the 2012 survey.

"The main reason was due to the strength of the currency. What we have seen is that the Philippines has been one of the strongest economies in Asia in the last 12 months as we've seen more foreign direct investment go there. Because of that, we've seen the currency strengthen and that pushed the Philippines up in ranking."

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