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).


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.


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]