Mercer’s annual Worldwide Cost of Living survey, released today, puts Tokyo at the top of the list. Where is second? Well, last year’s leader, Luanda, of course. (It’s the Angolan capital.)

Clearly there is a formula at work here. Mercer takes New York as its “base”, works in US dollars, and “measures the comparative cost” of over 200 items across the fields of transport, clothing, food, household goods, entertainment and, of course – here is perhaps what skews it for Tokyo – housing.

Bloomberg reports some stand out figures which may highlight some of the problems with the headline on the data: blue jeans cost $174 in Luanda and, in Moscow, you will pay $9.60 for an international paper. The price of coffee in Tokyo is reported to be $8.15 and a luxury two bedroom apartment in Tokyo averages out at $4,766 a month.

For many expats, these figures might feel like added insult to the injuries our wallets take on the streets of Tokyo but, for some, there is a different philosophy. The survey is designed, say Mercer, ”to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation allowances for their expatriate employees.”