By Alex Ledsom
More and more people are thinking about working overseas. But where could you go? Where are the most liveable cities in the world, and which of these are in the most beautiful countries to explore? Recent studies might just have the answer.
There are a number of markers for what makes a good city. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Global Liveability Index is one of the most comprehensive as it was originally designed as a tool for companies to work out expatriates’ relocation packages.
The 2022 version rated living conditions in 172 cities based on more than 30 factors, grouped into five categories: stability, health care, culture and environment, education and infrastructure. Things like congestion, crime and how city healthcare providers have dealt with Covid-19.
But other sources can also be helpful. The Telegraph recently published its guide to the most beautiful countries in the world, using a methodology that ranked 36 criteria divided into subcategories that included environmental friendliness, natural wonders, weather, geological curiosities and biodiversity. In addition, Bloomberg recently reported on the six best cities for expats.
Overseas work is increasing
Recent research suggests that more Americans want to/can work overseas:
- A recent survey by Wise found that whilst people in the U.S. are still hesitant about taking vacation time off (due to inflation and rising costs), they are excited by the idea of working overseas—50% of the people polled said they would work overseas if their employer allowed them to and 30% say that they have more flexibility to work from anywhere in the world compared to a year ago.
- As businesses offer more opportunities to remote work (as reported by the Harvard Business Review), interest in so-called Digital Nomad visas is spiking. In 2021, “the number of American digital nomads with traditional jobs increased by 42%, growing from 6.3 million in 2020 to 10.2 million in 2021.”
So, where’s good to go? Ideally you’ll need a country that is easy to live in (that’s safe enough, clean enough and with access to healthcare and possibly schools). But maybe you want somewhere that’s beautiful, with wondrous things to see, study and eat.
So which places come up again and again? Which places are easy to live in and also in beautiful countries?
The world’s most liveable cities
In the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Global Liveability Index for 2022, Western European and North American cities fared well on the scale, whilst unsurprisingly Chinese cities have declined on the scale due to the pandemic—the war in Ukraine seriously impacted liveability issues in Russia, Ukraine and bordering countries.
In the top ten, there are no American cities in 2022:
- Osaka—joint 10th—Japan’s third-largest city is known to be a foodie’s haven.
- Melbourne—joint 10th—this city that has ‘four seasons in one day’, has been number one, seven years in a row.
- Amsterdam—9th—it’s beautiful (UNESCO-listed) and its healthcare is excellent.
- Toronto—8th—great transport systems, beautiful vistas and healthcare.
- Frankfurt—7th—one of the biggest movers, up 32 places this year, due to job opportunities, culture and flight hubs.
- Geneva—6th—its healthcare and infrastructure are legendary and whilst one of the most expensive cities in the world, its natural beauty sets it apart.
- Vancouver—5th—healthcare, infrastructure with a cosmopolitan, friendly vibe that benefits from the great outdoors.
- Calgary—joint 3rd—where culture and nature go hand-in-hand
- Zurich—joint 3rd—a good all-rounder with healthcare, nature, culture and efficiency.
- Copenhagen—2nd—galleries, bikes, culture, history and healthcare.
- Vienna—1st—top spot in 2018 and 2019 due to its stability, culture, healthcare, education and natural beauty.
Incidentally, Damascus, Lagos, Tripoli, Algiers and Karachi were the cities which had the lowest ratings on this liveability index.
The most beautiful countries in the world
So which of these ‘most liveable’ cities are in the most beautiful countries?
Four of the top ten most liveable cities, Melbourne, Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, are in The Telegraph‘s list for most beautiful countries—Canada and Australia.
Using The Telegraph’s guide, a possible 2000 points were available for each country, but it “calculated the answer per square kilometre, to ensure [it] didn’t reward size over substance.” This is the top ten:
- Peru—10th—for ancient ruins, Andean peaks, and massive biodiversity in its jungles and rainforests.
- Italy—9th—beating France (12th) and Spain (11th) because of its dreamy, lengthy coastline (think the Amalfi coast, Cinque Terre or Venice) and ancient relics.
- India—8th—for its colors, flora, fauna, palaces, waterways and temples.
- New Zealand—7th—for its rugged landscapes, wilderness and biodiversity.
- Norway—6th—for its “high mountains, 47 national parks, deep fjords (including the Unesco-listed Geirangerfjord) and its endless conifer forests.”
- Mexico—5th—it has the highest biodiversity of any country in the top ten (the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System is the third biggest in the world) plus its cactus landscapes, beaches, culture and food.
- Japan—4th—for the mountains, hot springs, volcanic terrain as well as the culture.
- Canada—3rd—because of the breathtaking mix of Artic tundra, prairies and seascapes, plus the Northern Lights.
- Australia—2nd—for the light, the Aboriginal art and history, the beaches, forests and the reefs.
- America—1st—because it is “a continent masquerading as a country”, the U.S. is an easy choice for most beautiful country, as reported by The Telegraph. Its mountains, islands, lakes, deserts, glaciers, prairies and canyons come together in the “most glorious of all geographical jigsaws.”
However, there are other things which make places good to live—the warmth of the people and their energy, as well as investment, job opportunities and of course, proximity to friends and family.
Best new cities for expats
Bloomberg recently reported on six blossoming cities for expats—Kuala Lumpur, Lisbon, Dubai, Bengalūru (Bangalore), Mexico and Rio—two of which are situated in The Telegraph‘s Top Ten of most beautiful countries in the world.
Bengalūru is undergoing massive change and receiving vast sums of investment and whilst it might seem “challenging” to newcomers in the sense that infrastructure is not yet finished and complete, it is an invigorating place.
Likewise, Mexico City’s 22 million residents might not seem like an obvious choice for expats, but the city is very progressive (the first to legalize gay marriage in Latin America), on the end of lots of investment, full of talent and ambition and wonderful culinary choices.
Friendliest cities in the world
Whilst liveability issues might be the most important, it can be helpful to be surrounded by friendly people when in a new place, starting a new life.
CNTraveler recently wrote on the friendliest cities in the world (as voted for by its readers). Interestingly, Lisbon and Copenhagen were two cities in the top ten that have cropped up on the other lists regarding beauty and liveability. San Miguel de Allende was noted as a very friendly city, and conveniently just happens to be in one of the Top Ten most beautiful countries (Mexico) as listed by The Telegraph.
Incidentally, whilst Mexico and Portugal do not have Digital Nomad visas, International Citizens (which helps travelers relocate overseas) says that most people apply through Portugal’s D7 visa and Mexico’s temporary resident or non-lucrative visa. The former allows people to stay in Portugal for one year with the option of renewing for another two, whilst the latter allows people to live and work remotely in Mexico for up to four years.