40. What is the Most Expensive City in the World? (English Vocabulary Lesson)

How expensive is the city you live in? Recently, the Economist Intelligence Unit has released its ranking of the most expensive cities in the world. The episode will look at the results of this ranking, as well as talk about some of the trends in price increases or decreases and the reasons behind these trends!

(If you can’t see the podcast player CLICK HERE to listen!)


To rank (v) – to have a position higher or lower than others, or to be considered to have such a position 

She ranked the bottles in order of size along the shelf

Inexpensive (adj) – not costing a lot of money 

That is an inexpensive perfume

To drop (v) – to move to a lower level, or cause something to move to a lower level

We had to drop our prices because of the recession

Habit (n) – something that you do often and regularly, sometimes without knowing that you are doing it

Members of the public were asked about their shopping habits

To embrace (v) – to accept something enthusiastically 

He embraced the opportunity

Vice (n) – a moral fault or weakness in someone’s character

My one real vice is chocolate

To cope (v) – to deal successfully with a difficult situation

It must be really hard to cope with three young children and a job

To plummet (v) – to fall very quickly and suddenly

House prices have plummeted in recent months

What do the French capital Paris, the Swiss city Zurich, and Hong Kong, have in common? At first glance, not too much. While Zurich and Paris are both European major cities, Hong Kong is culturally, geographically, and linguistically different. However, there is one thing they have in common. They are all expensive cities in which to live. In fact, they are tied for number one place in the Economist Intelligence Unit‘s most recent Worldwide Cost of Living. This report ranks the most expensive cities in the entire world! 

By comparing the prices of nearly 140 products and services in 133 cities around the world, the Worldwide Cost of Living report allows organisations and companies to adjust salaries for employees around the world. People who work in expensive cities need more money to live compared to people who work in inexpensive cities! What kind of things does the report compare? It generally sticks to the ‘bare essentials,’ including food, clothes, recreation, utilities and rent. These are things that, wherever you live, you probably need! I decided to check how much it costs to live in one of these cities. According to the costof.live, a website which breaks down the cost of living in different cities, Zurich’s average cost of living is $3,771 a month; most of which is for rent. Food is also particularly expensive in Zurich! Alongside Paris, Hong Kong, and Zurich, Singapore, Osaka, Tel Aviv, New York, Geneva, Los Angeles, and Copenhagen complete the 2020 top 10!

The report found that cities in the Americas, Africa and Eastern Europe were less expensive than last year, while cities in Western Europe became more expensive. The survey also ranks the cities with the lowest cost of living. Damascus in Syria has the lowest overall cost of living, while Tashkent in Uzbekistan and Lusaka in Zambia are also in the bottom three. This survey not only ranks the cost of living, but also provides information on the changes in average prices across the cities over the last year. The cost of personal care products, tobacco, alcohol, domestic help, transport, and groceries have all increased over the last year. However, the biggest overall increase has been felt in the cost of recreation. Recreation includes things like the prices of eating at a restaurant, books, and electronics. On the other hand, the price of clothing has dropped significantly in the same period. 

Why are these changes in prices interesting? Well, they reflect the impact of coronavirus on our spending habits and the prices of goods. For instance, the changing nature of work is clearly responsible for a number of price increases. With more people working from home, the price of laptops and computers has shot up—by 18.7%, on average, since 2019. People have also embraced popular vices to cope with the pandemic: both alcohol and tobacco have increased in price. These products are often used by people as a way of coping with stress and boredom. Meanwhile, with non-essential stores shut during lockdowns, sales of clothing and footwear plummeted, sending prices down with them. With less opportunity to go out and wear nice clothing, many of us felt no need to expand our wardrobes! 

According to the authors of the report, the pandemic also caused Singapore to be overtaken by Paris and Hong Kong. Singapore dropped because the coronavirus pandemic caused foreign workers to leave the city, which led to less demand in the economy and a weaker local currency.

Final Thought

How expensive is your city? Has the cost increased or decreased over the last twelve months? Has the pandemic impacted the cost of living where you are? In my opinion, the impact of coronavirus on the costs of certain everyday items is incredibly interesting. In the early days of the pandemic essential items including hand sanitizer, toilet roll, and medical masks were in great demand which caused prices to increase. As gyms were closed across the UK, home exercise equipment also rose in price. Furthermore, outside of major cities house prices have tended to rise. As people work more from home, there is less need for people to live in the centre of expensive cities. 

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