Moving with the money-Being an expat in an expensive city

There are all sorts of reasons to pack up your bag and head for a new life in a different country. Retirement, the pursuit of adventure, work… they could all be enough to send you off to foreign shores. However, if you’re thinking about moving somewhere to save money then there are some global locations you should probably avoid.

Recent research from the Swiss bank UBS found that Oslo, Tokyo and Zurich were the most expensive cities in the word to live in. High rents, expensive shopping and costly taxes all contribute to this high cost of living but many aren’t put off by these overheads and all three cities have thriving expat communities.

If you’re thinking about joining one of these communities the cost of living is likely to play a big part in your decision. The question has to be, is this extra expense worth it? Will it translate to a better quality of life?

The Essentials

Research is the key to making sure that you’ve chosen the right location to move to and, if you’re going to an expensive city, you’ll have to factor in cost at every stage. Here are some of the things you should concentrate on:

  • Work: You’re going to have to cough up more cash for most things you do in your new city so you need to be realistic about what kind of work you’re going to get when you’re there. Will you be able to earn enough to support your lifestyle? Remember, if you want to make the most of your stay you’ll want to earn enough to cover the basics and then some.
  • Accommodation: This is closely tied to work and is heavily reliant on the financial clout you’re going to have in your new country. Rental costs are likely to be your biggest single expense after a move so take a look and see what’s available to you on your budget. If you find work that has accommodation linked to it that can be helpful but even then, research the area that you’d have to move to – the plushest cities also have less than desirable neighbourhoods.
  • Health: If you get ill or are involved in an accident you want to have the peace of mind that you can get through your problems. Fortunately, you can

Life in the big three

So what can you look forward to if you make the move to one of the three most expensive cities in the world? Here’s a quick insight into what you might expect.

  1. Oslo

Why it’s expensive: High levels of tax push up living costs across the board in the Norwegian capital – your wages will be taxed at a high rate and the goods you buy are more expensive as a result. Accommodation in Oslo has to be robust enough to withstand the Norwegian winters so it can be very expensive.

What you get: All that tax gets put to good use in Norway and the country has one of the best social welfare systems in the world. Education (even at university level) is free and the health care system is excellent. Working conditions are also outstanding and employees are awarded a mandatory five weeks off a year.

What they say: English expat Sarah writes in her blog A New Life in Norway: “Most people know it can be expensive to live in Norway but in return the standard of living is nice, it’s a safe place to live, there is very low unemployment and the healthcare is good.”

  1. Tokyo

Why it’s expensive: Being an island nation, Japan often has to import a lot, which really pushes up prices. In addition to this, space is at a premium in Tokyo making accommodation extremely costly. Utilities are also very pricey, and telephone rates are high – which can especially hit expats.

What you get: Tokyo is one of the most exciting cities in the world and there is always something going on in its streets. It’s also a very safe city, which can offer a great deal of peace of mind to residents. Not to mention that Tokyo is a thriving centre of international finance and commerce and there is a lot of money to be made here.

What they say: British blogger The Expat Wife writes on her website:My time in Japan has encouraged within me the development of a deeper appreciation of the beautiful displays that nature bestows upon us throughout the year. I’ll take these cultural learnings with me.”

  1. Zurich

Why it’s expensive: Switzerland has long been known as an expensive country and due to the Eurozone crisis, a lot of money has been invested in the Swiss Franc, pushing prices up even more. Tax, rent and transport are all high expense considerations for expats in Zurich. It’s a city of tenants so there is a great deal of competition for rental properties – a fact that is reflected in rent costs.

What you get: As well as being famously expensive, Switzerland is also a notoriously clean and environmentally friendly country. Individuals in Switzerland are also afforded the kind of personal freedoms and human rights protection that other countries don’t come close to offering. Also, Zurich is a global powerhouse of finance so wages tend to be high.

What they say: The expat behind Scottish Girl in Zurich blogs: “I love living in Switzerland, there is lots to do and see. Plus you can easily visit many other countries for the weekend!”

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