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Wednesday, Feb 21, 2024

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If you think Los Angeles is an expensive city, try living in Tokyo.

The six-pack of beer you can get here for $4.18 will set you back more than $11 over there. And when it’s time to nurse your hangover the next morning, the same bottle of aspirin that fetches $8.45 in L.A. will cost you a headache-inducing $22.91 in the Japanese capital.

Those facts come courtesy of Runzheimer International, a Rochester, Wis.-based management consulting firm that recently released a survey of the prices of goods and services at leading cities around the world. The figures are designed to assist corporations with their relocation policies, particularly in preparing budgets when they send employees on assignments overseas.

“If you want to maintain an American standard of living abroad, Tokyo is a very expensive place to do it,” said Runzheimer consultant James Anderson.

Other cities in the survey include Hong Kong, London, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, Sydney, Paris, Mexico City, Munich and Toronto.

If you’re curious about how the cities stack up, Tokyo appears to be the priciest, Mexico City the least expensive. But for the most part, it all depends on what you’re buying.

A six-ounce container of yogurt that costs 79 cents in Los Angeles is $1.41 in Hong Kong, but only 52 cents in Sydney. A movie ticket is more than $15 in Tokyo, about $9 in Sydney and just $3.10 in Toronto.

A fast-food meal that costs $4.40 in L.A. will cost you $6.10 in London. But you can get a break on a five-pack of razor blades, which costs just $3.41 in London, compared to $4.29 here.

Similarly, a tube of lipstick that costs $6.78 at the local shopping mall will cost $10.52 if that mall happens to be in Madrid. But a $27 bottle of scotch in Los Angeles costs just over 12 bucks in Madrid.

It’s all a matter of priorities, right?

According to Anderson, few Americans who take overseas assignments ever fully adapt to local customs, instead clinging to their longtime consumption habits whatever the cost.

That probably has less to do with U.S. chauvinism than it does with the length of the stay, generally less than three years, Anderson said. He also said that many expatriates are families with children who as any parent knows do not enjoy having their routines disrupted.

Whatever the reasons, the tendency of expatriates to cling to deeply ingrained spending habits often poses a problem.

“Too many transferees focus only on housing and tax differentials, ignoring the expense of daily purchases that can really eat into your budget,” Anderson said.

And it’s a problem that’s not going away anytime soon.

Thanks to an increasingly global economy, more and more corporations are sending employees overseas, according to Anderson. “It’s definitely expanding,” he said. “This is going to be more of an issue in the future, as opposed to less.”

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