Seoul is Asia's costliest city for expatriates, while the weaker yen has made Japanese cities more affordable, a survey released yesterday said.
The latest twice-yearly survey by human resources firm ECA International showed the South Korean capital jump one notch higher to rank seventh globally in a list of the most expensive places for expatriates over the last 12 months.
Tokyo retained its place as the second most expensive Asian city but globally, the Japanese capital dropped out of the top 10 list for the first time because of the weaker yen.
"Depreciation of the yen against most other currencies, coupled with low inflation, has significantly reduced living costs for foreigners in Tokyo, Yokohama and Kobe in recent years," ECA International said.
Yokohama placed third, followed by Kobe, Hong Kong, Taipei, Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore, with the Chinese city of Guangzhou taking the 10th spot, the survey said.
There were 15 Chinese cities featured in the list of 39 Asian cities surveyed.
Higher food prices, along with the strengthening Chinese currency, have seen expatriates' living costs in Chinese cities go up, narrowing the gap with other more developed East Asian cities such as Hong Kong and Taipei.
"In China, soaring food, oil and grain product prices along with the strengthening yuan against the US dollar have meant that locations throughout China have pushed up through the ranking during this period," ECA International said.
Jakarta was the 11th most expensive place, Bangkok was in 18th place and Manila was in 19th place. Hanoi, in 32nd place, was judged as more expensive than Kuala Lumpur which was in 33rd place, just a notch above the Laotian capital Vientianne.
Islamabad was the least expensive among the Asian cities surveyed at number 39.
Globally, Angola's capital city Luanda was the most expensive for expatriates.
It was followed by Oslo, Moscow, Norway's seaport town of Stavanger, Copenhagen, Kinshasa, Seoul, Gabon's capital of Libreville and Geneva. Central London was in 10th spot.
"Some people may be surprised to see African locations in the top ten," said Lee Quane, ECA's Hong Kong-based general manager.
He said ECA's survey included items bought by expatriates that were not readily available locally which meant they were more expensive.
"In addition, the commodity boom in recent years has led to considerable currency appreciations in commodity-exporting markets, such as Angola, making it an increasingly expensive location for expatriates," Quane said.
ECA's twice-yearly survey compares a basket of 128 consumer items purchased by expatriates in over 300 locations globally.