These are the world's most expensive, and happiest, places to live

These are the world's most expensive, and happiest, places to live

Move over Singapore – the world's most expensive city has two new rivals.

After topping the Economist Intelligence Unit's Worldwide Cost of Living Survey for five years, Asia's Lion City has been joined by Paris and Hong Kong in a tie at the top of the table.

Zurich and Geneva rounded out the top five, while New York and Los Angeles reclaimed spots in the top 10 – ranking in seventh and 10th respectively.

The survey is designed to help companies calculate cost-of-living allowances and build compensation packages for expatriates and business travellers.

The trio of cities sharing the top spot are 7 percent more expensive to live in than New York, according to the EIU, which compiles its list from a survey of 160 products and services across 93 countries.

"Weaker local currencies have pushed all five Australian and two New Zealand cities surveyed down in the ranking," the EIU said, accounting for Sydney's absence after it scraped into 10th position in last year's report.

One of the factors behind Asia's strong showing at the top of the table is that some Asian cities are among the world's priciest locations for general grocery shopping, according to the EIU.

The happiness factor 

But if you're looking for the happiest place to live, set your sails for the Nordic countries.

Finland has topped a global happiness ranking for the second year in a row, followed closely by near-neighbours Denmark, Norway, Iceland and The Netherlands.

Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada and Austria claimed the remaining 10 spot on the happiness scoreboard developed by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, with Australia at 11th place in a ranking of 156 countries.

The report ranks countries on six key variables that support well-being: income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support and generosity.

"The top 10 countries tend to rank high in all six variables, as well as emotional measures of well-being," says report co-editor John Helliwell, a professor emeritus of economics at the University of British Columbia.

"It's true that last year all Finns were happier than rest of the countries' residents, but their immigrants were also happiest immigrants in the world," says Helliwell. "It's not about Finnish DNA. It's the way life is lived in those countries."

They pay high taxes for a social safety net, they trust their government, they live in freedom and they are generous with each other. "They do care about each other," he says. "That's the kind of place people want to live."

However, you can live in one of the world's most expensive cities and enjoy being in one of the globe's happiest country: Copenhagen, Zurich and Geneva made it onto the top ten of both lists.

Bloomberg Pursuits

Bloomberg Pursuits

Bloomberg Pursuits curates the best in cars, food, drinks, travel, watches and more for the modern globally-minded executive, and is republished under licence by Australian Business Traveller.


  • LoveToFly


    25 Mar, 2019 08:15 pm

    I can attest to Singapore at #1. Here for work at the moment and paid 100 SGD for 5 beers. 50 SGD for a salad and drink. What can ya do I guess. Australia doesn’t seem as bad this week.
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  • Trogdor


    26 Mar, 2019 08:59 am

    Yes, alcohol is expensive there, but food? Almost any hawker centre, even flashy ones like Marina Bay, will sell you a good meal for under $10. Go join the locals!
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  • Warrior


    26 Mar, 2019 09:17 am

    Small servings though
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  • Traveller14


    28 Mar, 2019 10:02 pm

    Not my experience. Adequate, and I'm not one who just eats 'pigeon size' meals. Thailand is better value again: a meal for under A$3 outside Bangkok.
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  • Keen Poon


    29 Mar, 2019 03:07 pm

    At $3 SGD for a plate of Nasi Lemak or Fried noodles you can eat 3 plates and it’s utterly more delicious than a salad!
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  • j30max


    26 Mar, 2019 07:32 pm

    There is always Happy hour at Clarke Quay :-)
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  • Mark


    26 Mar, 2019 11:53 am

    I fortunately/unfortunately live in Singapore and can vouch for the high cost of living. For expat families, school fees, rent, children activities and car expenses are the major culprits. I actually find food and alcohol to be reasonable as long as you know where to look.
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20 Jul, 2019 01:52 pm


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