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There’s a Three-Way Tie for World’s Most Expensive City

A new survey comparing the cost of more than 160 items in each city found that Paris, Singapore and Hong Kong were the priciest

A beautiful, but expensive view (Nikada/iStock)
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There aren’t many things more heavenly than a fresh loaf of bread from a Paris boulangerie, but it might cost you a pretty penny. The City of Love has been named one of the most expensive cities in the world, tying for first place alongside Singapore and Hong Kong in a new survey that compares the cost of more than 160 items in 133 cities around the world—items such as a loaf of bread, a beer bottle and a men's two-piece business suit.

As Tamara Hardingham-Gill reports for CNN, the ranking was compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, part of the sister company of the Economist newspaper. This is the first time in the survey’s 30-year history that three countries have ranked first place on the list. Singapore also ranked No. 1 last year, but Paris and Hong Kong have jumped one and three positions, respectively.

To calculate the globe’s priciest places, researchers surveyed a range of stores, from supermarkets to “higher-priced specialty outlets.” All prices were converted into U.S. dollars, and New York served as the benchmark for the cost-of-living comparisons. The purpose of the survey, according to its authors, is to “help human resources and finance managers calculate cost-of-living allowances and build compensation packages for expatriates and business travelers.”

Most of the ten top-ranking cities of 2019 are located in Europe and Asia: Zurich, Geneva, Osaka, Seoul, and Copenhagen were listed among the world’s most expensive. All but two U.S. cities surveyed by the researchers rose in the rankings—due to “continued strong US economic growth and steady monetary policy tightening by the Federal Reserve”—but only New York and Los Angeles made it into the top ten. They ranked seventh and tenth, respectively.

Los Angeles was tied in tenth place with Tel Aviv, the sole Middle Eastern representative on the list. The cost of living in the Israeli city, which ranked 28th just five years ago, has been driven up by currency appreciation and other factors, most notably the cost of buying and owning a car.

In other high-ranking cities, people were spending top dollar on different things. For instance, groceries were found to be particularly expensive in Asian cities. Report author Roxana Slavcheva tells the BBC that “European cities tend to have the highest costs in the household, personal care, recreation and entertainment categories—with Paris being a good representative in these categories—perhaps reflecting a greater premium on discretionary spending.”

On the other end of the list were cities that have struggled with political strife and economic woes. The Venezuelan capital of Caracas was ranked as the world’s least expensive city, falling below even war-torn Damascus, which ranked second last. Venezuela, the report authors note by way of explanation, is in the midst of an economic crisis, and its inflation neared 1 million percent last year.

So while there are definite downsides to living in a city where the average price of a woman’s haircut is $210 (ahem, New York), cheaper isn’t the only factor to look at when it comes to finding a place to settle down. “Put simply,” the report authors note, “cheaper cities also tend to be less livable.”

About Brigit Katz

Brigit Katz is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including NYmag.com, Flavorwire and Tina Brown Media's Women in the World.

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