Living cheap in the most expensive cities in the world

March 26, 2017

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s worldwide cost of living list just came out, and it turns out I like expensive cities. Singapore tops the list, and Hong Kong is second, while New York City rounds out the top ten, tying for ninth place.

For a student like me, the question of affordability is dependent on two things: food and housing. And from my experience, that puts New York at the top of the list. Nowhere in New York can you get a meal for 3 USD. Not even the grocery store.

I am drawing attention to the hawker centers of Singapore and the cooked food centers of Hong Kong. These places really draw me in. I love the local vibe, the fact that I don’t really know what’s on the menu (at least in Hong Kong, as my reading isn’t perfect), and the affordability of the food. I can get 5 meals with the same money I would spend on a New York meal.

People make fun of the fact that I am obsessed with cheap food. I like finding the jankiest places, the most hole-in-the-wall eateries. Not only are they cheap, but they’re also a bit of an adventure: In Vietnam or Thailand, I sometimes have no idea what I’m pointing at. The only concern is food poisoning (which isn’t quite an issue in the two most expensive cities in the world). Oh well, I’m training my stomach/immune system.

Chicken rice. Satay. Cha siu. Red bean and pineapple buns. Anything on rice. Egg waffles. Frankly, everything that I could ever want to eat can be found at these local places. I just need to know where to go, and how to order them.

The point is, not paying full time rent means that I can perceive both Hong Kong and Singapore as relatively cheap (at least if I want to live cheap). And really, what more can I ask for than good food?

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