Best Quality of Life Cities and Countries in 2011

Vienna, Austria in the rainWhen you’re considering moving to another country, one of the big things you think about (at least I do) is the quality of life you’ll be leaving and what you’ll find in your new home. As 2011 has drawn to a close, let’s take a quick look back at the year’s top picks in various expat-oriented “Best of” lists.

Quality of life means different things to different people. For example, I’m typing this at my son’s dining room table, in the mountains of Vermont. It’s cold (temperatures have been in the single digits), it’s snowing, and it’s gorgeous. He has a great quality of life here and loves it.

I moved away years ago because the quality of life here didn’t work for me during eight or nine months out of every year.

So as you read through these lists, remember that what’s perfect for you might not work for me and vice versa.

Top 10 Cities for Quality of Life, from Mercer’s Quality of Living Survey

First, the annual Mercer’s Quality of Living Survey, which ranks world cities on a number of factors. They’ve done an odd little thing with the numbering this year, as several cities tied for various positions.

Europe ran away with the honors here, without any real competition.

    • #1 Vienna, Austria
    • #2 Zurich, Switzerland
    • #3 Auckland, New Zealand
    • #4 Munich, Germany
    • #5 Dusseldorf, Germany
    • #5 Vancouver, Canada
    • #7 Frankfurt, Germany
    • #8 Geneva, Switzerland
    • #9 Copenhagen, Denmark
    • #9 Bern, Switzerland
    • #11 Sydney, Australia

Of the cities regularly mentioned as good destinations for expats, only Singapore (#25), Dublin (#25) and Paris (#30) made this list. Partly this is because all the cities on this list are relatively expensive.

The top US city is Hononlulu, Hawaii, at #29.

Top 10 Cities for Personal Safety

    1. #1 Luxembourg
    2. #2 Bern
    3. #2 Helsinki
    4. #2 Zurich
    5. #5 Vienna
    6. #6 Geneva
    7. #6 Stockholm
    8. #8 Singapore
    9. #9 Auckland
    10. #9 Wellington
    11. #11 Copenhagen
    12. #11 Dusseldorf
    13. #11 Frankfurt
    14. #11 Munich
    15. #11 Nurmberg

You can find the complete information for both these lists at here. Or view the first list as a slideshow here.

10 Best Cities for Quality of Life in 2011, from the Economist

You’ll see some similarities to the list above. Europe is well represented on this list, while Canada, Australia and New Zealand have a few spots as well.

  1. Vancouver, BC, Canada
  2. Melbourne, Australia
  3. Vienna, Austria
  4. Toronto, ONT, Canada
  5. Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  6. Helsinki, Finland
  7. Sydney, Australia
  8. Perth, Australia
  9. Adelaide, Australia
  10. Auckland, New Zealand

Read more about this list here.

Countries with the Best Quality of Life, Nation Ranking

I had questions about the methodology of this list, as did many others, but I’ll share it with you again for what it’s worth.

  1. Iceland
  2. Norway
  3. Sweden
  4. Switzerland
  5. Luxembourg
  6. Austria
  7. Finland
  8. New Zealand
  9. Germany
  10. Canada

You can find more information about the methodology and other aspects of the list here

International Living’s List of 10 Best Places to Retire in 2011

Every year International Living publishes a list of best places to retire as well as quality of life. Last year I thought their quality of life list was way off track, so I won’t even reproduce it for you here. However, here’s their list of best places to retire.

  1. Ecuador
  2. Mexico
  3. Panama
  4. Spain
  5. New Zealand
  6. France
  7. Uruguay
  8. Costa Rica
  9. Malta
  10. Italy

You’ll find more information about the list here.

Best 20 Countries to Retire in 2011, Live and Invest Overseas

These are not ranked in any particular order, and the list includes countries in Asia, Europe and the Americas.

  • China
  • India
  • Laos
  • Malaysia
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • Croatia
  • France, particularly the Languedoc and Aquitaine regions
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • Argentina
  • Belize
  • Brazil
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Uruguay

You’ll find more about this list and the conference where it was announced here.

Do you live, or are you planning to live, in one of the cities or countries on these lists? Does it offer you the quality of life you expected?

photo by Emmanuel Dyan on flickr


  1. I find it curious that the best places to Retire and Invest are not duplicated on the Best Place to Live or Best Quality of Life Indexes. (other than New Zealand).

    Thank you for the post. I would one day like to visit most of these places. But not during the winter.

    Good Luck in Vermont. Love that Lake Champlain..

    • Yup, Jennifer, different places on different lists. They all use different methodologies, so they come up with different results. When you compare different lists you get different perspectives. If you’re really curious, you can follow the links and read up on how they compiled each list.

      I love Lake Champlain too — especially during the last week in July and first week in August when they sometimes enjoy comfortable temperatures 🙂

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