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The Most Liveable Cities On The Planet

Cities offer considerable opportunities for families and professional expats looking for career openings, convenience, and the best amenities in their new home from home.

However, dense urban areas are also synonymous with pollution, high crime rates, congestion and cramped properties.

We’ve combined reports from the ECA International study of European cities with The Global Liveability Index 2021 to arrive at the ultimate list of the top cities to consider for relocation.

Ranking the Best Cities for Expat Living

So, what are the metrics that make a city ‘liveable’? Factors analysed include air quality, safety and facilities, alongside:

  • Culture and environment
  • Leisure amenities
  • Infrastructure
  • Educational facilities
  • Political stability
  • Health services
  • Housing availability

The outcomes are considerably different within the EU and the wider world, with only a few cities in Switzerland and Denmark getting close to the international rankings.

Edinburgh receives the most points across the UK, with Dublin among the top ten EU cities to live in. London is poorly rated due to pollution and personal safety risks in the Big Smoke.

The Most Liveable Cities For Expats In Europe

We’ll start with the EU, where Copenhagen in Denmark makes it to first place jointly with Bern, Switzerland.

The Hague in The Netherlands comes in third, also tied with a Swiss city, Geneva:

  • First Place: Copenhagen, Denmark / Bern, Switzerland
  • Third Place: The Hague, Netherlands / Geneva, Switzerland
  • Fifth Place: Eindhoven, Netherlands / Stavanger, Norway
  • Seventh Place: Amsterdam, Netherlands / Basel, Switzerland
  • Ninth Place: Dublin, Ireland / Luxembourg City, Luxembourg / Gothenburg, Sweden

Before we look further afield, it’s worth investigating the factors that make these cities some of the most popular places in Europe.

Living In Copenhagen, Denmark

The capital of Denmark offers some of the most lucrative working conditions, with high salaries and a social care system that supports both locals and foreign nationals.

Copenhagen is an easy city to live in, without any complex public transport or red tape to manoeuvre around. Housing and utilities are widely available, the climate is mild, personal safety is high, and there are very few political tensions.

Copenhagen rent is just under 33 per cent cheaper than London. Still, the overall price of living in this peaceful city is around 5.5 per cent higher, with a family of four spending an average of 27,152 Krone (£3,113) per month, excluding accommodation.

Living In Bern, Switzerland

Another capital city, Bern is found next to the River Aare, with winding medieval streets and countless international businesses and world-renowned schools.

Most of the residents here are multilingual, with German widely spoken. Bern is also considered one of the safest cities, with non-existent crime rates.

Like Copenhagen, rent is less expensive than London by about 36 per cent, but general living costs are 43 per cent higher. A single person spends an average of 1,390 Swiss Francs a month (£1,138) before accounting for rent or mortgage costs.

Living In The Hague, Netherlands

The Hague is the international city of justice, situated by the coast and packed with parks and green spaces. The expat community here is thriving, with thousands of expats from around the world – it’s also a bit cheaper than Amsterdam.

A free business environment, dependable transport links, outstanding healthcare and good safety statistics make The Hague (or Den Haag) a great place to live.

It’s also one of the more affordable locations, 12.24 per cent cheaper than London and 43.6 per cent less expensive for property rentals.

Living In Geneva Switzerland

Finally, our last city in the top EU liveability rankings is Geneva. It’s approximately 38 per cent more costly to live here than in London, but rent is similar at just under 0.5 per cent more expensive.

However, Geneva is an upscale and luxurious city with exceptional public services. Careers centre on the strong financial district, with multiple headquarters for international organisations like the Red Cross and United Nations.

Expats looking for work find Geneva attractive since it hosts the largest count of multinationals anywhere in the world.

The Best Cities To Live In 2022

Now that we’ve considered the EU rankings, let’s broaden our gaze to look at the most liveable cities globally.

The 2021 rankings heavily feature cities in Australia, New Zealand and Japan – but two Swiss cities creep into the top ten (interestingly, not in the same order as surveyed by European expats).

This difference is likely due to additional elements considered, such as visa availability and living costs, in addition to air quality, crime rates and conveniences:

  1. Auckland, New Zealand
  2. Osaka, Japan
  3. Adelaide, Australia
  4. Wellington, New Zealand
  5. Tokyo, Japan
  6. Perth, Australia
  7. Zurich, Switzerland
  8. Geneva, Switzerland
  9. Melbourne, Australia
  10. Brisbane, Australia

These 2021 statistics incorporate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, examining vaccine rollouts, border closures, and support for health professionals.

What Makes Auckland the Best City In The World?

Auckland, regularly a contender for one of the most liveable cities, has often been outshone by Melbourne, Australia – but in the past year, a lot has changed.

The decisive action by the New Zealand government to control the pandemic has meant that, for the most part, restaurants, cultural attractions, and theatres have remained open, and schools haven’t closed at all.

Other New Zealand cities, such as the capital, Wellington, have also seen a corresponding boost in their international liveability rankings.

Of the things that make Auckland so attractive, expats report that the city is incredibly friendly, with a blend of multiple cultures and endless things to do. There are beautiful beaches with pristine water, regional parks for hiking, an amazing restaurant scene, and thousands of water sports adventures.

Life in Auckland isn’t all play, though, and the country’s economic powerhouse is a truly global city, with access to some of the important international markets across the Asia Pacific.

Auckland isn’t necessarily cheap, but it is surprisingly affordable. The average family of four spends $5,416 a month (£2,777), excluding rent, compared to $1,494 for a single person (£766).

The city is overall around 4.5 per cent less expensive than London, with property rent a respectable 40.25 per cent cheaper than the UK capital.

Where’s the best city for living in Europe?

According to recent surveys, Copenhagen in Denmark and Bern in Switzerland are the most liveable EU cities.The ratings depend on multiple factors such as crime rates, air quality, local facilities and living standards.

How has New Zealand’s COVID response made Auckland a Better place to live?

Auckland has gone from around sixth place on most ratings to the most liveable city worldwide, most likely attributable to very low COVID cases, the retention of citywide amenities, and keeping schools open throughout the pandemic. Melbourne, often a contender, has dropped several spaces due to a less successful pandemic response, making the Australian city a less enjoyable place to live.

What makes a city more liveable for expats?

Liveability is a general term, but there are five fundamental requirements for a city to be a prominent place for expats to live:

  • Strong neighbourhoods and communities.
  • Access to widely available transport or transport routes.
  • A robust and resilient economy.
  • Expansive, green public spaces.
  • Affordability – of housing and other living costs.

The best cities to live in are safe, clean, comfortable and interesting.

How do Japanese cities compare with the UK?

The majority of the Japanese population lives in one of the megacities – Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya or Kawasaki.

These cities are densely populated, and property prices are sky-high, so it is all but impossible to buy land or develop in these areas. However, widely available career opportunities, a clean environment and superior infrastructure make living in Japan smooth and stress-free.

It’s vital to point out that work ethic is strict. Companies follow a traditional hierarchical management structure, so while salaries are good, a lot hinges on blending into this inflexible work culture.

Which are the most affordable cities for expats?

We’ve explored some of the most liveable cities, but it’s fair to say that few are considered cheap. If you’re looking for places to live that are comfortable and yet inexpensive, your best bet is to look towards Vietnam.

There are three main cities – the capital of Hanoi in the north, Ho Chi Minh in the south, and Da Nang in central Vietnam. The vast majority of jobs are in one of these three locations.

Roles in foreign language tuition are commonly available for expats and pay around £832 – £1,286 a month, which is a reasonable salary for a part of the world where the Vietnamese Dong is weak in relation to the US dollar.

Living costs are highest in the cities, but apartments typically rent for around £190 a month, and a meal out will cost up to £2 for a pricier western restaurant

Cities offer considerable opportunities for families and professional expats looking for career openings, convenience, and the best amenities in their new home from home

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