Are cost of living surveys any use in deciding on a new country

Are cost of living surveys any use in deciding on a new country

Are cost of living surveys any use in deciding on a new country

Survey after survey is released annually on all aspects of expat life, but the most valuable as regards making a choice as to where to settle is the cost of living survey.

The Economic Intelligence Unit, the ECA and Mercers are the most respected and comprehensive in this sector, but all three take a different stance and invariably show contrasting results. Often, the least expensive cities don’t even make the upscale frame, leaving would-be lifestyle migrants with even more uncertainty.

Mercer’s survey is annual, whilst the other two are released twice yearly, adding to the confusion already caused by the use of three different criteria and even different cities. For example, Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey ranks 214 cities, comparing the costs of 200 items varying from food, clothes, transport and housing to household goods.

Mercers’ is aimed at multinational corporations calculating expat worker salaries and perks, resulting in Luanda topping its 2013 costs list- hardly a destination for the average expat. EIU’s survey doesn’t take housing into account, although it’s probably the most significant living expense, but does include private schooling, domestic help and recreation.

Again, EIU is aimed at business travellers and executive expats, and surveys 140 cities. ECA, on the other hand, surveys 400 cities and doesn’t count school fees, housing or utilities but lists a variety of consumer goods. Figures aren’t available as to the proportion of expat workers overseas as against that of early retirees and expats who just wanted to live somewhere else, but there’s not much help out there for these categories.

HSBC and Lloyds International provide more generalised surveys but, as you’d expect from commercial banks, they’re aimed at finance. Perhaps the best surveys for the decision of a lifetime are found at online local forums in popular expat destinations, provided by expats who’re actually living the dream.

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