When considering where to move, it is important to consider what the cost of living is. The key to doing well as an expat is to take enough of your local currency with you and to also exploit the local difference in cost of living. This way, you will be able to have the highest quality of living for your resources. Thus, research is pivotal in order to find the best place for you. Many years ago, The Economist did a purchasing power parity gimmick called the “Big Mac Index”. What was entertaining about this was that the magazine only intended it to be a joke.
However, now it is a viable way to measure which countries have the best cost of living based on the cost of the world’s favorite infamous hamburger. Inspired by the “Big Mac Index,” here are some of the countries that have the best day-to-day cost of living that are currently safe:
South Africa surprisingly has one of the lowest prices on this list being #4 with the price of $1.77. What this tells the prospective consumer is that South Africa, if in the proper neighborhood, does in fact have a very low cost of living. Given the country’s enormous class divide as it is still recovering from Apartheid, this depends on what you are making in income for this purchasing power parity to be effective. Thus, the key to make South Africa work in your favor is to make your money elsewhere or to get a high paying job in USD or GBP and live well there. This is how many of my friends live in Cape Town and just enjoy the spectacular wine country and taking frequent trips to explore Africa. This is absolutely possible to do in South Africa if you plan well and ultimately take advantage of the low day-to-day cost of living.
Malaysia is #5 coming in at $1.82 per Big Mac. What this shows us is that Malaysia has a slightly higher cost of living. What I did notice in Malaysia is that it was very easy to get affordable real estate there. Additionally, the restaurants and museums were affordable. The key to taking advantage of Malaysia would once again be the salary from working in Malaysia or bringing exterior resources. However, one could live a very high quality of life in Malaysia and not expend a great deal of resources.
Taiwan came in at #7 with a price of $2.08 per Big Mac. It surprised me that Taiwan was so low on the list because I remembered it being significantly less expensive than other countries in the North of Asia. For example, the average teacher in Taipei is paid over $2,000 per month with apartment paid for by the school. With ratios such as this, the teacher can pay many of their student loans from home and live very well while enjoying the culture in Taiwan.
Indonesia came in at #9 at $2.19 per Big Mac. Indonesia does not surprise me as well because Jakarta, one of their largest cities, was quite affordable. In particular, Jakarta was quite reasonable in the luxury malls and real estate. The advantage that Indonesia brings is when the expat goes to the smaller cities with their savings because they can live very well and not expend a great deal of resources. This is why we see so many expats investing in condos in Bali and the neighboring islands to live well in their retirement.
The “Big Mac Index,” although entertaining, is actually quite a great indicator when considering what the cost of day-to-day living is in a country that you are considering living in. It is a safe way to assess what you are going to need to save or set as your minimum salary bar in order to live a high quality of life there as an expat.