Urban Livability

Have you ever vowed to move to a city based on a short vacation there?  Personally, I’ve solemnly pledged that I was going to completely uproot my whole life and start afresh every time I’ve been on holiday in the last five years. I’ve made a go of it a couple of times,  only to decide it wasn’t the right idea after all a few weeks later, but for the most part my vows have been swept by the wayside by the time I’ve returned to London. It has made for interesting daydreaming though, as I’ve speculated as to what my life would be like were I to live in (in no particular order): Berlin, Vienna, Fes, Mumbai, Sanaa, Addis Ababa, Cairo, Damascus, Bangkok, Amsterdam, Singapore and Florence.

I was interested the other day to stumble across a survey carried out in The Economist of the most livable cities in the world and  – after a bit of digging – found that there were a number of organisations that carried out equivalent surveys with vastly differing results (despite the fact that they claimed to be using roughly equivalent ranking criteria). What I found to be especially surprising was the fact that not only had I never made one of my afore mentioned vows to live in one of the Economist’s top ten cities, I hadn’t even visited any of them. In fact, looking at surveys carried out by the Economist, Mercer and Monocle Magazine, the only liveable city that I’d actually been to was Vienna – a lovely city (that much we could all agree on).

Image from Our Surprising World

A bit more googling turned up the Euromonitor International Top City Destinations which ranks the most visited cities in the world – London sitting comfortably at the top of the table, away from the rest of the pack by a country mile. I should perhaps not have been surprised to find that the liveability of a city doesn’t necessarily influence its draw on tourists – Bangkok sees over ten million tourists a year but is hardly a city that you’d choose to retire to. What was surprising, though, was that not a single one of Mercer’s top 15 featured in the most popular cities amongst tourists in the world. In fact, even including Monocle and The Economist, the only cities which seemed to be both attractive tourist destinations and pleasant places to live were Paris and Toronto.

Which leads me to wonder, do the things that make a city a good place to visit not also make it a good place to live? Residents of London swear they couldn’t live anywhere else precisely because of the museums, nightlife, galleries, stunning architecture and great restaurants that make London a tourism Mecca. However, London ranks only 39th in the Mercer table, 53rd in the Economist and is nowhere to be seen in the Monocle rankings. Admittedly, liveability is based on quality of life rather that cultural pursuits but it does strike me that perhaps a new means of ranking is called for.

In the meantime, however, where in the world would you most like to live? And have you ever gone somewhere on holiday and ended up staying a couple of years? How did it work out?

Image from Top Things To Do