Tokyo Overtakes Luanda as Most Expensive City For Expats

Earlier this year, we saw a report that Luanda (in Angola) was the most expensive city for expats. However, a new survey has Tokyo topping the list:

The analysis uses New York as a base city and measures the comparative prices of more than 200 items in each location, such as transport, clothing, food, household goods and entertainment. Housing costs, which are also included, are critical in the ranking as they are often the biggest expense for expatriates.

A pair of blue jeans costs $174 in Luanda while expats in Moscow pay about $9.60 for an international newspaper, Mercer said. In Tokyo, a cup of coffee runs about $8.15 and the monthly rent on a luxury two-bedroom unfurnished apartment is $4,766.

I pay $1.61 for a cup of coffee every morning, so compared to a cup that costs $8.15 in Tokyo, I’m happy where I am…

The Quirks of Living Alone

The New York Times profiles the quirks of people who are living by themselves:

What emerges over time, for those who live alone, is an at-home self that is markedly different — in ways big and small — from the self they present to the world. We all have private selves, of course, but people who live alone spend a good deal more time exploring them.

Rod Sherwood’s living-alone indulgences center on his sleep cycle. A music manager and record producer who works from his railroad apartment in Brooklyn, Mr. Sherwood, 40, said he’ll go to bed at 2 a.m. one night, and then retire later and later by increments, “until I go to bed when the sun comes up.”

He mused: “I wondered how many times in a year I repeat that cycle? I’d be interested to chart it.”

Ronni Bennett, who is 70 and writes a blog on aging,, has lived alone for all but 10 or so years of her adult life. She said she has adopted a classic living-alone habit: “I never, ever close the bathroom door.”

Leaving it open “is one of those little habits that makes no difference most of the time,” she said. But when guests visit her two-bedroom apartment outside Portland, Ore., she added: “I have to make huge mental efforts to remind myself to close the door. Sometimes I think, Just put a Post-it note by the bathroom door. Well, wait, I don’t want them to see that.”

Like many, Ms. Bennett also talks to herself — or, rather, to her cat. “I’ll try things out on him when I’m writing,” she said. “He’ll look at me like he’s actually listening. I wouldn’t discuss what I’m writing with my cat if someone were around.”

Other people say their greatest eccentricities emerge in the kitchen. Eating can be a personal, even self-conscious act, and in the absence of a roommate or partner, unconventional approaches to food emerge. Drinking from the carton is only the start.

“I very rarely have what you would call ‘meals,’ ” said Steve Zimmer, a computer programmer in his 40s who lives by himself in a Manhattan loft. Instead of adhering to regular meals or meal times, he said, he makes “six or seven” trips an hour to the refrigerator and subsists largely on cereal.

If you live (or lived) alone, what are some of your strange quirks?

The World’s Most Expensive City

In what city would you be if a house cost around $10,000 month to rent, a sandwich and a soda cost over $20, a hotel room is upwards of $400 a night, a kilogram of imported tomatoes is a staggering $16, and a Barbie cake for a kid’s birthday costs a whopping $360?

If you guessed Moscow, Tokyo, or Zurich you’d be wrong. The correct answer is Luanda, the capital of the African nation of Angola.

So why is Luanda the most expensive city? According to the BBC:

There are several reasons. The main one is that Angola lived through a long civil war which started in 1975, when the country gained independence from Portugal, and continued right up until 2002.

Infrastructure is in poor shape after more than 20 years of civil war

During that time most industry, agriculture and local production stopped and basic infrastructure including roads, railways, electricity lines and water supplies were badly damaged.

Having once been a major exporter of products like coffee and cotton, and self-sufficient in most foods, Angola now imports an estimated 80% of its consumable goods.

This is interesting, even if the rest of the press doesn’t recognize Luanda as the world’s most expensive city.

Do-It-Yourself Tiny Homes

The WSJ notes that of the most intriguing trends in homebuilding these days is do-it-yourself tiny homes. And there are books aplenty to match this enthusiasm. Among the first on the market this year is Lloyd Kahn’s Tiny Homes, essentially a photo book that preaches the benefits of a “grassroots movement to scale things back.” It has already sold 5,200 copies in the U.S. and Canada since going on sale earlier this month.

If you didn’t read the article first, what would you think of the image below (full slideshow is here)? I kept looking at it for a while, trying to decide whether this is a real house or a doll house…

The money quote from the author of Tiny Homes, Lloyd Khan:

What I’m saying with this new book is don’t get a mortgage, don’t pay high rent, and don’t go into debt…If you’re young enough or you’re just starting out and don’t want to work 12 hours a day, here’s an alternative.

Good trivia: Lloyd Kahn made his first splash in publishing by editing the “shelter” section of the Whole Earth Catalog in the late 1960s, a collection of tools and ideas later much praised by the late Steve Jobs.