February 04th, 2019

The 2018 Top 10 Cities for Expats

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Mercer has just released its top 10 cities for expats list, 2018.  To me, it seems a very intangible thing to measure.  One persons love of the vibrant chaos of Bangkok, is the opposite of anothers’ love of the order and serenity of Zurich.  However, based on an assessment of overall quality of life based on factors such as the stability of the political environment, economics including cost of living, the quality of public services and access to recreation, Mercer have made a pretty good ranking list of great places to live.  So, in reverse order:

10 - Sydney - tie

Anyone who’s been to Sydney would find it hard not to be entranced and dazzled by it’s fabulous waterside location and quality of life.  Despite being a big, bustling and pretty expensive metropolis, the antipodean capitol boasts world class art and food scenes, safe city centre and suburban neighbourhoods, a stable economy and some of the greatest architecture in the world.  The only downside?  It’s a long, long way away!

10 - Basel, Switzerland - tie

At the intersection of France, Switzerland and Germany, Basel still holds an important place at the heart of Europe.  As a result of its geographical location, Basel has a great food scene.  An important financial and political centre the city on the banks of the Rhine, it boasts a beautiful medieval old town and Switzerlands highest concentration of museums.

9 - Copenhagen

It’s hard not to be bowled over by wonderful Copenhagen.  The most bike friendly city in the world, Copenhagen is a capitol of cool, renowned for leading 20th century design and its impressive eco credentials.  A superb public infrastructure goes some way to offsetting the high costs of living.  Easy access to Sweden and the fantastic Zeeland coast, make tis a great base from which to explore.

8 - Geneva

The second of three Swiss cities, Geneva is definitely the most inter cultural of the Helvetic capitals.  Home to a huge range of NGO’s, banks and global organisations, Geneva is one of the most expensive cities in the world and as our members will tell you, one of the most challenging real estate markets characterised by huge demand a small supply.  However, expats love the fact the whole city is pretty much walkable, the public transport is world beating and the outlook over Lake Geneva is pretty special.

7 - Frankfurt

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Frankfurt on many occasions and it’s an easy and delightful place to spend time in.  Boasting one of the worlds great airport hubs, Frankfurt is globally connected.  The beautifully restored old town comes alive at night and especially at Christmas with one of Europe’s most brilliant festive markets.  Frankfurt has a huge financial centre, the largest in continental Europe, set perhaps to overtake London, which for the third time does not make this list, post-Brexit.

6 - Dusseldorf

The second of three German cities in the top 10, Dusseldorf is both a financial and cultural hub, with a slightly lower cost of living than its rivals despite being one of Germanys wealthiest cities.  Dusseldorf is a quieter, less famous city than others across Europe, but it’s like a best kept secret… shhhh.

5 - Vancouver

My favourite city, hands down.  Vancouver, like Sydney, lives as a harbour city connected to water in almost every downtown neighbourhood.  Long known as a cultural and multi cultural hub, Vancouver like the rest of Canada boasts a superb state funded health care system, great galleries and lovely neighbourhoods.  Brace yourself for the utterly eye watering rents… property prices have nearly trebled in less than a decade.  Access to Vancouver Island and the ski areas of Whistler, make Vancouver a recreational treasure.

4 - Munich

Ah Munich, capital of Bavaria, venue for the 2019 EuRA International Relocation Congress and one of Europes greats, what’s not to love?  Safe, clean, beautiful, cultural, authentically German, Munich is a cultural immersion in all things Bavarian while still being a multi cultural, business and cultural hub.  The arts scene based in one central area of the city boasts some of Europe’s best galleries, with collections rivalling the Tate in London and Louvre in Paris, but without the crowds.  Expensive but with great public transport, Munich is much loved for its easy access to the beauty of Bavaria.

3 - Auckland

Like Sydney and Vancouver, Auckland is another great city on the water.  Auckland boasts a fantastic street food culture and an outdoor lifestyle synonymous with NZ.  A great wine scene and access to all the nature NZ has to offer make this a great city for living… again it’s just so far away.

2 - Zurich

Switzerland just seems to get the expat experience right every time!  Ancestral home of Tad Zurlinden our CEO (check out Zurlindenstrasse in the financial district!) Zurich is a great mix of urban splendour and bucolic beauty.  Access to the mountains, the lakes and the rest of Europe via its well connected air hub, Zurich also boasts great health care, public transport and is very very safe.

1 - Vienna

And the top spot goes to Vienna!  There’s something of a Teutonic theme going on here!  Vienna has been at the top spot nine years in a row, coincidentally nine years since the EuRA Conference was held there!  The city government has continued to heavily invest in infrastructure and housing which has kept its cost of living much lower than other comparable cities.


So that’s it… not one city in the US, not even Singapore made the top 10 this year.  But like any top 10, personal preference will always dictate the expat experience and as the mantra of the relocation professional goes, it’s all about managing expectations!


Dom Tidey


Dominic Tidey is the C.O.O. of EuRA, the European Relocation Association.  EuRA is the professional industry body for relocation providers and affiliated services. As a non-profit organisation EuRA aims to promote the benefits of a professionally managed relocation to companies with globally mobile employees.

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