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Size matters: Smaller Scottish cities most liveable UK destination for European expats

  • Edinburgh is still the most liveable UK city, with Aberdeen ranked second – ahead of London, which ranked 37th
  • Bern remains the most liveable city for European expatriates, with clean air and low crime rates among the attractions
  • Former joint number one Copenhagen falls to fifth place globally due to housing availability issues
  • Smaller cities rank higher for expat liveability than their larger counterparts

Scottish cities Edinburgh (ranked 17th) and Aberdeen (24th) top the charts as the most liveable UK destinations for European expats, according to the latest annual Location Ratings Report from global mobility expert, ECA International (ECA).

Edinburgh has climbed the rankings over the past ten years, entering the top 20 most attractive cities globally on account of relatively low levels of crime and air pollution – ahead of London which this year ranked 20 places lower at 37th.

Neil Ashman, Senior Location Ratings Analyst at ECA, said: “Edinburgh and Aberdeen score well across all liveability factors which sees them placed high in the rankings.” However, not all Scottish cities are as liveable for expats - Glasgow ranked 47th, for example, because of its higher rate of crime.

London remains stable in the rankings in 37th place compared to 39th five years ago and 38th ten years ago and is still a highly attractive expatriate destination with excellent facilities, a comprehensive public transport network and many recreational options.

ECA’s Location Ratings objectively evaluate cities around the world to form an assessment of the overall quality of living for expats, in over 500 locations across the globe. The ranking is based on a variety of liveability factors including availability of health services; housing and utilities; isolation; access to a social network and recreational and leisure facilities; infrastructure; climate; personal safety; socio-political tensions and air quality.

Bern was again the overall most liveable city for European expatriates for the third year running. “With top facilities, minimal air pollution and low crime rates, Bern is a very attractive city for expatriates and their families”, said Ashman. Swiss, Dutch and Scandinavian cities fill out the top 10 most liveable cities.

Bern is the fifth largest city in Switzerland, and its sitting in pole position reflects a wider trend in global expat liveability: smaller cities are more liveable as destinations to those moving from other countries to work.

Bigger cities in other European countries feature further down the rankings owing to some of the negative issues associated with larger urban centres. For example, Berlin ranked 35th this year, compared to Frankfurt which ranked 24th, while Paris ranked 41st compared to Toulouse which ranked 19th.

“It is not surprising to see smaller European locations like Eindhoven, Stavanger, Rotterdam, Gothenburg and The Hague in the top ten,” Ashman added. “They tend to have excellent facilities and infrastructure, as larger cities do, but they also benefit from lower crime rates and air pollution levels than big cities.”

Former joint number one choice Copenhagen now finds itself in fifth place overall. “Copenhagen is still a great city for expatriates, it remains very liveable but has seen shortages of suitable housing in recent times which has seen it drop in the ranking slightly,” Ashman added.

Dublin is one of only three cities to drop out of the top ten compared to ten years ago. The Irish capital now sits in 11th position, compared to 7th place a decade ago. In a similar vein to Copenhagen this is largely down to a common issue associated with cities which become more popular as destinations for expatriates - reduced availability of suitable housing.

Housing availability issues have also resulted in Luxembourg and Dusseldorf dropping out of the top ten, when compared to their popularity ten years ago. In Dusseldorf’s case this has been compounded by an increased Socio-Political Tensions score, owing to the increased threat from terrorist attacks in Germany in the last decade.

In Asia, Singapore remains the most liveable city for European expatriates (96th in the world), closely followed by Tokyo (99th). Toronto is the highest placed North American city (20th).


Notes to Editors

*The 2023 Location Ratings represent the situation in November 2023, with all scoring accurate at the time of publication. The rankings are compared with those from five (2018) and ten (2013) years ago.

For further press information, please contact:

Tiffany Huret / Isaac Parry, Rooster PR
T: +44 (0)20 3440 8930

About ECA International

ECA International is the market-leading provider of knowledge, information and technology that enables businesses to manage their international reward programmes.

Partnering with thousands of clients on every continent, we provide a fully-integrated suite of quality data, specialist software, consultancy, and training. Our unparalleled insights guide clients as they mobilise their most valuable resource: people.

We make the complex world of international mobility simple, providing clients with the expertise and support they need to make the right decisions – every time.

ECA International: Mobility solutions for a world that’s constantly moving.

About ECA’s Location Ratings

Updated annually, ECA International's Location Ratings system measures the quality of expatriate living conditions in over 500 locations around the world to arrive at a fair and consistent assessment of the level of difficulty the expatriate will experience in adapting to a new location. Factors evaluated include climate; availability of health services; housing and utilities; isolation; access to a social network and leisure facilities; infrastructure; personal safety; political tensions and air quality. The impact of some of the factors assessed will vary according to the home location of the assignee.

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ECA’s blog provides updates and commentary on currency, inflation and expatriate cost of living. Follow the blog here:

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