The 20 Most Expensive Cities for Americans Living Abroad

A skyline view of Hong Kong and Victoria Harbour.
A skyline view of Hong Kong and Victoria Harbour.
R.M. Nunes, iStock/Getty Images Plus

Each year, human resources consulting firm Mercer releases a report on the cost of living abroad in various cities around the world. Its primary function is to help multinational corporations make decisions about how much to pay employees they’re sending to work abroad, but it also may give you pause if you were thinking of turning your life into a modern-day sequel to An American in Paris called An American in Hong Kong.

As reported by Thrillist, the results of Mercer’s 2019 study are now available. In order to compile its list of 209 cities, which are ranked from most to least expensive for expats, Mercer evaluated more than 200 categories including housing, transportation, food, clothing, and entertainment, comparing them all against the U.S. dollar. Examples, in addition to those in the graphics below, include the cost of men’s blue jeans (which are most expensive in Cape Town, South Africa) as well as a fast food meal for one person (you'll pay a lot for that in Zurich, Switzerland).

Bar graph showing cinema tickets across cities with London as the most expensive

Bar graph showing espresso coffee prices across cities with Hong Kong as most expensive

Overall, Hong Kong and Tokyo are the top two most expensive cities, respectively, for the second year in a row. Singapore, Seoul, Zurich, Shanghai, and Beijing all also held on to spots in the top 10.

If that short summary just prompted a passing thought about how most of those cities are in Asia, you’re not wrong. In fact, eight of the top 10 most expensive cities are in Asia, which is due in large part to “high costs for expatriate consumer goods and a dynamic housing market,” according to Mercer's press release.

Map showing top ten most and least expensive cities across the world

For people who may be looking to move to the U.S. from abroad, the American cities that topped the list were New York (in ninth place), San Francisco (in the 16th spot), and Los Angeles (in 18th place).

Scroll down to see the top 20 most expensive places to live abroad, and check out the full rankings—including the 20 least expensive cities—here.

  1. Hong Kong
  1. Tokyo, Japan
  1. Singapore
  1. Seoul, South Korea
  1. Zurich, Switzerland
  1. Shanghai, China
  1. Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
  1. Beijing, China
  1. New York City
  1. Shenzhen, China
  1. N’Djamena, Chad
  1. Bern, Switzerland
  1. Geneva, Switzerland
  1. Victoria, Seychelles
  1. Tel Aviv, Israel
  1. San Francisco
  1. Guangzhou, China
  1. Los Angeles
  1. Osaka, Japan
  1. Copenhagen, Denmark

[h/t Thrillist]

You Can Now Order—and Donate—Girl Scout Cookies Online

It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts may have temporarily suspended both cookie booths and door-to-door sales to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be deprived of your annual supply of everyone’s favorite boxed baked goods. Instead, you can now order Thin Mints, Tagalongs, and all the other classic cookies online—or donate them to local charities.

When you enter your ZIP code on the “Girl Scouts Cookie Care” page, it’ll take you to a digital order form for the nearest Girl Scouts organization in your area. Then, simply choose your cookies—which cost $5 or $6 per box—and check out with your payment and shipping information. There’s a minimum of four boxes for each order, and shipping fees vary based on quantity.

Below the list of cookies is a “Donate Cookies” option, which doesn’t count toward your own order total and doesn’t cost any extra to ship. You get to choose how many boxes to donate, but the Girl Scouts decide which kinds of cookies to send and where exactly to send them (the charity, organization, or group of people benefiting from your donation is listed on the order form). There’s a pretty wide range of recipients, and some are specific to healthcare workers—especially in regions with particularly large coronavirus outbreaks. The Girl Scouts of Greater New York, for example, are sending donations to NYC Health + Hospitals, while the Girl Scouts of Western Washington have simply listed “COVID-19 Responders” as their recipients.

Taking their cookie business online isn’t the only way the Girl Scouts are adapting to the ‘stay home’ mandates happening across the country. They’ve also launched “Girl Scouts at Home,” a digital platform filled with self-guided activities so Girl Scouts can continue to learn skills and earn badges without venturing farther than their own backyard. Resources are categorized by grade level and include everything from mastering the basics of coding to building a life vest for a Corgi (though the video instructions for that haven’t been posted yet).

“For 108 years, Girl Scouts has been there in times of crisis and turmoil,” Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo said in a press release. “And today we are stepping forward with new initiatives to help girls, their families, and consumers connect, explore, find comfort, and take action.”

You can order cookies here, and explore “Girl Scouts at Home” here.

Can't Find Yeast? Grow Your Own at Home With a Sourdough Starter

Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images
Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images

Baking bread can relieve stress and it requires long stretches of time at home that many of us now have. But shoppers have been panic-buying some surprising items since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to pantry staples like rice and beans, yeast packets are suddenly hard to find in grocery stores. If you got the idea to make homemade bread at the same time as everyone on your Instagram feed, don't let the yeast shortage stop you. As long as you have flour, water, and time, you can grow your own yeast at home.

While many bread recipes call for either instant yeast or dry active yeast, sourdough bread can be made with ingredients you hopefully already have on hand. The key to sourdough's unique, tangy taste lies in its "wild" yeast. Yeast is a single-celled type of fungus that's abundant in nature—it's so abundant, it's floating around your home right now.

To cultivate wild yeast, you need to make a sourdough starter. This can be done by combining one cup of flour (like whole grain, all-purpose, or a mixture of the two) with a half cup of cool water in a bowl made of nonreactive material (such as glass, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic). Cover it with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let it sit in a fairly warm place (70°F to 75°F) for 24 hours.

Your starter must be fed with one cup of flour and a half cup of water every day for five days before it can be used in baking. Sourdough starter is a living thing, so you should notice is start to bubble and grow in size over time (it also makes a great low-maintenance pet if you're looking for company in quarantine). On the fifth day, you can use your starter to make dough for sourdough bread. Here's a recipe from King Arthur Flour that only calls for starter, flour, salt, and water.

If you just want to get the urge to bake out of your system, you can toss your starter once you're done with it. If you plan on making sourdough again, you can use the same starter indefinitely. Starters have been known to live in people's kitchens for decades. But to avoid using up all your flour, you can store yours in the fridge after the first five days and reduce feedings to once a week.