Europe: The most affordable of expensive expat destinations?

Published 2019-07-08 15:26

Western Europe is not exactly known as the cheapest destination for expats. However, European cities have lost a few places on the Mercer’s ranking of most expensive cities. takes a closer look at the ranking.

Several major European capitals have taken a step back in Mercer's ranking. Milan (45th), Paris (47th), Oslo (61st) and Madrid (82nd) ​​dropped by 12, 13, 14 and 18 respectively. They are far behind Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore, the top three cities in the rankings. This year, eight of the ten most expensive cities for expatriates are Asian. The only European city that is in the top ten is Zurich, in 5th place.

However, we must not believe that the cost of living is falling in Europe, it actually is the opposite. "Despite a moderate rise in prices in most European cities, local currencies have weakened against the US dollar, which has pushed back the majority of these cities in the charts," said in a statement, Yvonne Traber, global mobility solutions expert at Mercer. In addition, other factors such as recent security issues and the worrisome economic outlook have impacted the region,” she adds.

In fact, in March 2019, the date on which the survey on which these data was carried out, the value of one euro fluctuated between 1,119 USD and 1,144 USD. The US dollar is the currency on which is based of the Mercer ranking on cost of living. Furthermore several European countries have been hit by terrorist attacks in 2018 and 2019. The United Kingdom and France are examples of this.

Is it Brexit?

Brexit does not seem to be at the origin of the small decline experienced in particular British cities like London and Birmingham. "The findings indicate that the United Kingdom remains an attractive destination for companies seeking to relocate their staff to international business and financial centers, despite Brexit," explained Kate Fitzpatrick, head of international mobility professional services at Mercer for the UK and Ireland area.

Caroline Guigou who has been living in London for a year now thinks so too.This young Frenchwoman, who found a job in the British capital a few months after her arrival, does not think that Brexit has scared employers. "There are so many jobs in London, I do not think that will change much," she says.

However, according to real estate consulting firm Savills, Brexit does have an impact on the London real estate market: after several years of decline, rents in the capital are expected to increase by an average of + 11.5% over the next few years. five years and + 12.6% in the main suburbs. Currently, for a two-bedroom unit, rents range from £ 1,000 to £ 3,250 - between € 1,116 and € 3,628 - according to the London City Hall interactive rent map.


Although it has lost four places, London is still the 23rd most expensive city for expatriates. Of the 209 cities in the rankings, it offers the most expensive movie ticket: nearly $ 25 for one person!


Located at 47th place in the Mercer ranking, Paris remains affordable compared to some major Asian, American and even European cities. Is this enough to put give some perspective to Parisians who keep complaining about the cost of living? Well no, because it should be noted that in 2018, Paris became the most expensive European city for real estate beating London’s real estate prices for the first time in a while.


Unlike Zurich, which ranks 5th in this ranking on the cost of living, Geneva is "only" at the 13th place. It is also ranked 9th in the Mercer quality of life ranking, based on 39 criteria, including safety, the environment, transportation and medical care.


Berlin is in 81st place in the cost of living survey, just before Madrid, but after two other major German cities: Munich (67th place) and Frankfurt (74th place). However, the cosmopolitan German capital is not immune to soaring property prices affecting Europe. Between 2016 and 2017 alone, rental prices jumped 20.5 percent, according to a study by British consulting firm Knight Fox. Thus, as recently as last April, thousands of Berliners went out into the streets to denounce real estate speculation. However, Berlin remains a more affordable city than Paris, London or Geneva.


Madrid is at the 82nd place of this ranking on cost of living, the Spanish capital is also very popular with expatriates. Indeed, living in Madrid costs less than living in another popular European capital like Paris, London, Geneva or Dublin. For example, eating out can be as cheap as 12 euros. In addition, it has accessible and quality infrastructure, particularly in terms of health and transport.