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10 Best Cities to Live Abroad: 2011 – Part 2

Following on from our exploration of the top 5 ranked cities in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s latest ‘World’s Most Liveable Cities’ index, we count down from 6 to 10 and see which factors make the leading cities really stand out.

If you’re thinking about going to work abroad, or if your motivation to expatriate is to improve your quality of life, it’s critical that you do plenty of research into which locations offer the best in terms of stability, education and healthcare, infrastructure, culture and the environment – so, fortunately for any would-be expat, these are the very criteria upon which the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) bases its rankings.

Assessing 140 cities around the world on a total of 30 categories within each of these main criteria, the EIU placed the following as the top five cities in the world in which to live: Vancouver, Melbourne, Vienna, Toronto and Calgary.  We discussed each of these destinations in depth yesterday, and today turn our attentions to the rest of the top 10, counting down from Helsinki to Auckland.

As you will soon see, where yesterday’s focus was all about Canada, today it’s all about Australia!  The two nations dominate the Economist Intelligence Unit’s World’s Most Liveable Cities index year-on-year – which is why it’s no surprise that both are nations exceptionally popular with expatriating Britons.

6)  Living in Helsinki in Finland

One exception to Canada and Australia’s dominance is Helsinki, the only Scandinavian/Northern European city to make it into the top ten.  Located in Finland, Helsinki is the capital of the nation, and the largest city to boot.  It’s also the political, educational, financial, cultural and research centre of the country, and it’s home to almost three quarters of all foreign companies which have a base in Finland.

As you can well imagine, the expatriate population in the city is strong – and it’s not just because the employment options are diverse and equally strong.  Helsinki is quite a beautiful city, and one with very strong cultural and educational standards and offerings for example.

The one major downside of living in Helsinki is the cost of living – it is exceptionally high and expat assignments need to be well paid!  The second negative aspect relates to the climate.  Despite being marketed as a city that ‘enjoys’ four distinct seasons, winters can be harsh in Helsinki and exacerbated by the fact that daylight hours this far north are very short during the winter months.

7)  Living in Sydney in Australia

Sydney is the one city which I think absolutely deserves its place in the EIU’s top 10 most liveable cities in the world, because it has absolutely everything going for it.  It is the most culturally rich city in Australia bar none, it has a generally very friendly and non-pretentious or aloof population (unlike London or New York for example!) meaning that expats can generally adapt and integrate well and very quickly.

Furthermore, there are diverse employment options in Sydney as well as a massive expat population – and Sydney benefits from beaches, a stunning harbour, vast and wonderful parks, and it has a huge range of retail options, bars, restaurants, cafes, pubs, bistros and clubs galore.  The climate is generally excellent, with stunning weather in the summer: what’s more, there are very good real estate options for expats who want to live in Sydney.

Sydney is home to good schools, good universities and has decent healthcare standards; crime levels are within the norm for such a vast city, and therefore it’s no surprise to me that it ranks within the Economist Intelligence Unit’s top 10 most liveable cities in the world.

Of course, the cost of living has risen sharply along with the city’s general appeal – and the cost of real estate can be prohibitive in many of the best suburbs.  Add to that the fact that Australia is so far from ‘home’ if you come from the UK or Europe, and it does have some downsides that any would-be expat needs to consider before committing to a relocation.

8)  Living in Perth in Australia

Located on Australia’s Western coast, Perth is considered by some to be one of the most remote cities in the world.  It has risen in terms of population density, economic output and appeal since the 1960s because it is the main service centre for the entire state’s affluent resource industries.  Gold, iron ore, nickel, alumina, diamonds, mineral sands, coal, oil, and natural gas are the main commodities sourced in the state, and as you can imagine, extracting, mining, producing and distributing these resources provides for very strong employment in and around Perth.

Thanks to the growing affluence of the region, Perth has witnessed significant investment and development, which is possibly why it is now ranking so well as a ‘liveable’ city.  It has long been an expat favourite too – proven by the fact that in the 2006 census 142,424 British-born Perth residents were counted!

The climate in Perth is comparable to a Mediterranean climate, with Perth one of Australia’s wetter cities – but one which enjoys a lovely spring and summer for example.

The economy in Perth is strong, investment is continuing to advance the city’s offerings, it has multiple high-grade educational establishments including four public universities, and culturally speaking Perth is well serviced with museums, galleries, theatres and venues.

There is strong emphasis on sport in the city, and finally Perth is home to restaurants from so many different cultures that you can eat out and dine on a different country’s cuisine every night of the week!

9)  Living in Adelaide in Australia

Adelaide is a city of many contrasts, on the one hand it has quite a young vibe, but on the other hand, it’s the one state capital city in Australia with the most rapidly ageing population!  Over a quarter of all residents are aged over 55, and Adelaide has fewer children as a percentage compared to all other state capitals.

It’s a strong sporting centre, with great emphasis placed on the outdoor lifestyle – making it of appeal to those heading abroad in search of a much better quality of life.  Adelaide is apparently noted for its many festivals, sporting events, its food, wine and culture, its long beachfronts, and its large defence and manufacturing sectors.  It’s situated on Australia’s southern coastline and is the driest capital city in the country – having said that, according to Koeppen climate classification, it enjoys a Mediterranean climate with any rain that falls generally arriving in the winter months.  Newly arrived expats are keen to point out that winters can be genuinely cold too, so the myth that Australia is always hot is completely untrue (particularly if you live in Adelaide!).

You can reach pretty much anywhere and everywhere within half an hour from the centre of the city – from the beach to the hills to the most popular suburbs – so it is an easier city to get used to and to navigate than Sydney for example, but it isn’t quite so culturally rich as Melbourne or Sydney.

10)  Living in Auckland in New Zealand

The final city to make it into the Economist Intelligence Unit’s top ten list is Auckland – a city described as ‘increasingly cosmopolitan.’  Located on New Zealand’s North Island, Auckland is the most populous urban area in the nation, and the one predicted to continue to grow most rapidly.

The city has an oceanic climate – which is generally warm in the summer and mild in the winter with rain and humidity common.  It has been dubbed the ‘city of sails’ because of the sheer number of yachts that fill the vast harbour area, and because it has 2 harbours, rivers and plenty of waterfront access, it’s a city where a lot of leisure activities are dominated by the water.

Whether you want to shop well, dine exclusively, enjoy café culture, visit galleries, museums, the theatre or opera, you can do all of this and much more in Auckland.

Issues the city has to deal with are some air pollution, crime, increasing property prices and a higher than national average cost of living – but if you want to move to live in New Zealand, Auckland has a very great deal going for it.  There are good schools, universities, decent state hospitals, varied employment options and plenty of leisure and cultural activities to enjoy in Auckland.

In Conclusion

Any survey such as the Economist Intelligence Unit’s ‘Most Liveable Cities’ index is of value to a would-be expat doing research into where in the world they should move to if they want to enjoy the best quality of life possible.  However, no survey serves as sufficient stand alone due diligence – if you are serious about expatriating and starting a new life abroad you really do need to spend time in your destination of choice to ensure it is the right choice.

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