RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – According to a report by Mercer’s 2011 Cost of Living survey, Luanda in Angola is the world’s most expensive city for expatriates, for the second year in a row. While I am not a lifetime expat (yet), this surprised me as my recent awareness of the city, followed by some quick research, painted a different picture of civil war and poverty. The top place winners were: Luanda, Angola (1st), Tokyo, Japan (2nd), N’Djamena, Chad (3rd), Moscow, Russia (4th), Geneva, Switzerland (5th).
Maybe it’s my own background and skewed education, but Tokyo, Moscow and Geneva did not surprise me, these are international cities with legacies of wealth and power. Luanda and N’Djamena though are places I had not considered, I’m not even sure I could point to them on a map.
What do these cities offer to drive costs up, and what would draw expatiates there to live? A quick bit of research, looking at English language news portals for Chad and Angola, leads me to believe it is oil.
In our news about the cost of living soaring in Brazil, we note how in the American continents, Brazilian cities top the ranking: São Paulo, Brazil (10th overall), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (12th), New York, United States (32nd), Brasilia, Brazil (33rd), Caracas, Venezuela (51st).
Everyone has different dreams, but a consistent part of the expat dream is living well I think. The foreign traveler lives abroad, adventuring far away from friends and family and other support networks. What they sacrifice in stability is made up for in comfort, and leveraging expertise and resources to enjoy a lifestyle. But unless you are bankrolled by a multinational company or the government, that is often not the case.
The reality for many foreigners in Brazil, is one of work and struggle to cover the bills, bills that are increasing quickly. The national inflation may only be at around 6 percent, but if you factor the skyrocketing cost of housing, as well as the weakened U.S. dollar against the Brazilian real, it feels twice as expensive as it was just two years ago to live here.
A British friend of mine in Rio lamented that we are not expats in Brazil, we are immigrants. The immigrant’s dream is much different of course, it is about working for a better opportunity than exists at home. It is about working harder then the natives, earning less, but building a future for our family.
Welcome to Brazil in 2011. This is a place no longer driven by International tourism (who can afford it?), but national tourism and global business. Foreigners here have to work extra hard to find their place, and the landscape has shifted. That said, there is oil here now, and no matter what the cost, there will be periods of avalanche tourism for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.