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Northern European cities offer best living conditions

  • ECA International reveals best and worst cities for air pollution, transport infrastructure, personal security and cultural barriers for European expats
  • Canadian cities offer Europeans better quality of life than many cities in Europe
  • Singapore continues to be the most liveable Asian city for Europeans

Copenhagen and Bern offer the best living standards in the world for expatriates according to a report by global mobility experts, ECA International (ECA).

Analysing a range of ‘liveability’ scores for Europeans moving abroad, from air pollution and personal security, to language barriers and isolation, ECA reveals cities in Denmark, Switzerland and the Netherlands offer Europeans the best living standards overall.

According to ECA’s annual report, living standards in London do not score as well in comparison. The UK capital features further down in the liveability rankings mainly due to higher air pollution levels and crime rates. Glasgow is the only UK city that scores worse, primarily due to a more limited access to schools offering an international curriculum.

London harder for expats to adapt to due to air pollution and personal security

“London does not score as well as most other UK locations in our report due to higher levels of crime and air pollution, although this is to be expected for a city of its size,” said Neil Ashman, Senior Location Ratings Analyst at ECA International. “Even so, when compared to other major capital cities in Europe such as Madrid, Berlin, Lisbon and Brussels, we can see that London’s overall living conditions are still slightly worse – with only Rome scoring lower. However, London is still relatively high in the rankings and scores very well in areas such as recreation and the quality of healthcare, so there are still many positives for an expatriate moving to the UK’s capital city.”

Although Berlin’s scores for natural phenomena and language limitations are worse than London’s, crime is considered somewhat less of an issue based on expatriate feedback and external sources. The same goes for Lisbon and Madrid, where although the language barrier is more of an issue, both cities score better for crime.
Eastern European cities tend to be some of the worst-performing European locations, with Belgrade, Sarajevo and Minsk all outside the top 100 in the rankings. However, Chisinau, Moldova is the worst-performing European city on the list at a lowly 198th. The Moldovan capital scores poorly on a range of criteria, including availability of healthcare and international schooling.

Why Europeans fare well in Canada

Canadian cities in ECA’s report score better than many cities in Europe. Air pollution is low, personal security is good, and most Canadians speak English (which cannot be said for most cities in Spain and Italy, for example). Many Canadians also speak French, the third most widely spoken language in Europe. 

“Canadian cities, namely Toronto and Vancouver, are relatively easy for European expatriates to adapt to thanks to excellent infrastructure and facilities coupled with low levels of pollution and crime,” explained Ashman. “It’s for the same reasons that Canberra in Australia and Wellington in New Zealand also score well for Europeans despite their geographical distance from home.”

Austin and Boston in the USA also score better than some cities in the UK, France and Italy despite their distance from Europe, again due to lower air pollution as well as a better language score. English is of course spoken by the majority of residents in the US; however, Spanish is also widely spoken in Texas due to its Mexican influence.

Singapore most liveable location in Asia for Europeans

Singapore offers the best quality of living for European expats in Asia, mostly due to its culture score compared to other Asian cities. Singapore is also considered to be much safer in terms of personal security than many European cities.

“The large number of expats in Singapore, combined with a low crime rate and lower levels of pollution than many of its regional neighbours, means it remains the most liveable city in Asia for Europeans,” said Ashman.

Uruguay offers best living conditions in South America

South American locations tend to feature lower down the rankings for European expats, with Montevideo, Uruguay and Santiago, Chile the only cities to feature in the top 125. However, compared with many other South American cities in the list, Montevideo has a very favourable score for socio-political tension, as well as relatively low crime rates, making it the most liveable South American location for Europeans.

Port Louis in Mauritius tops rankings for Africa

Although Port Louis has a fairly high natural phenomena score due to frequent cyclones in the area, the capital city of Mauritius has good air pollution and culture scores. 

Ashman explained, “Port Louis has a population where many of the residents speak both French and English. Socio-political tensions in Port Louis are also much lower than in most other cities in Africa.”

Cape Town in South Africa follows Port Louis. Although the city offers a much better score for both natural phenomena and quality of healthcare, its overall rank is below Port Louis. This is mainly due to the very high crime levels the city experiences. There are also issues with utility provision, as evidenced by the extreme water shortages currently being experienced.  High crime levels in most African cities make Africa generally the most difficult region to live in.

Top 10 most liveable locations for European expatriates
                  Location                 
2018 ranking
Copenhagen, Denmark
=1
Bern, Switzerland
=1
The Hague, Netherlands
3
Stavanger, Norway
=4
Geneva, Switzerland
=4
Amsterdam, Netherlands
=6
Eindhoven, Netherlands
=6
Basel, Switzerland
=6
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
=9
Gothenburg, Sweden
=9

-ENDS-

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 480 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. 
 

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