20th In the World? Prices Stay the Same?

For all the fears about rising pork prices and price gouging ahead of the Olympics, Beijing has remained in the same position as last year in Mercer's Cost of Living Survey, ranked as the 20th most expensive city in the world. For our friends to the south, Shanghai has gotten a little more expensive, moving up from 26th to 24th. The top 5 are Moscow, London, Tokyo, Oslo, and Seoul, while Hong Kong just missed out, dropping one spot to 6th.

According to the articles, Mercer "takes New York as the base measure for prices, comparing over 200 items, including housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment, in 143 cities across the globe." On Mercer's own site, they state "our semi-annual surveys are conducted by professional researchers simultaneously in each of the 250 locations we cover. Carefully chosen vendors reflect only those outlets where your expatriates can buy goods and services of international quality."

I can understand how Beijing can be expensive for some, but 20th most expensive in the world? How does this happen? Granted, drinks at Sanlitun might run you almost $8 each and there are places that charge more than that, but a subway ride costs about a quarter and a bus costs less than a penny. Then again, I'm guessing these bigtime expats aren't taking public transportation and instead its talking about buying a car, which will cost you more here. Just like, while at Zara prices are pretty much the same between the US and China, at Gucci you're paying a lot more in China, due to import and luxury taxes. Housing, though? I'd imagine housing would make up a large amount of an expat's monthly expenditures and in China its downright cheap. For US$1,000 or more, what it would cost for something a little bigger than a closet in Manhattan, you can get incredibly nice, multi-bedroom apartments in Beijing.

I'd love to see how much Mercer thinks it costs for many of these everyday goods in Beijing, though I'm not going to pay to get the full survey. When all is said and done, an expat can have a very plush lifestyle here for far less than it would cost in Europe or the US, it's hard to understand how Beijing ends up so high, but then again, if it didn't it would leave me with nothing to talk about.

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