Same procedure as last year – same procedure as every year?
Each spring, Mercer Consulting publishes the results of their latest Quality of Living study for foreign assignees in over 200 cities around the world. The ranking investigates various factors from ten areas that impact everyday life in an expat destination (e.g. medical and health considerations or housing).
The Mercer Quality of Life Survey 2015
Unfortunately, this year’s top 10 out of 230 destinations worldwide don’t offer any surprises. Again, you’ll find the best quality of life in several German-speaking countries (Austria, Switzerland, and Germany) and Oceania (New Zealand, Australia), with a sprinkling of Canada and Scandinavia in-between.
In comparison to the 2014 results, the global top 5 have even stayed exactly the same: Vienna (1), Zurich (2), Auckland (3), Munich (4), and Vancouver (5) have all successfully defended last year’s rank. Thus, instead of rehashing what makes these cities a comfortable (though sometimes costly) place to live, we’ll look at five very different destinations instead.
For the last few years, Mercer has also singled out ten so-called “emerging centers” across the globe. They aren’t necessarily first-tier destinations for expatriates, but their importance for the regional and world economy is increasing.
In short, these are global cities to watch out for – and we’ll briefly introduce those with the best quality of life among them.
Durban (South Africa, #85)
Overshadowed by Cape Town and Johannesburg, Durban is indeed the second most important manufacturing center in the country. Even more importantly, it features the busiest container port on the African continent: shipping and logistics are key sectors of the urban economy.
Visitors might rather appreciate the costal location for its popular and pretty beaches. Durban has a lively local surfer scene and an expanding tourism industry. The local government is currently working on a marketing strategy to position Durban as a global brand for foreign visitors to South Africa.
Cheonan (South Korea, #98)
Situated fewer than 90 km south of the Korean capital, Cheonan is one of the country’s main transportation hubs. But much of its local and regional industry is primarily based on education and technology.
Students form a sizable part of Cheonan’s population (with its 600,000 residents in total), and institutions such as the Korea University of Technology and Education, with its focus on engineering, have an excellent reputation in their field. Chungcheongnam Province has an international student population of more than 6,000 people, most of whom live in Cheonan.
The universities also serve as an applicant pool for the numerous technology businesses in the area. Of course, the “designated high-tech capital of South Korea” attracts its share of foreign assignees and expat employees as well.
Taichung (Taiwan, #99)
Following right on Cheonan’s heels in the Mercer ranking, there’s another East Asian city with a high-tech bent coming up. Taichung is Taiwan’s third-largest city, with roughly 2.7 million inhabitants. The city’s most famous export in recent years might be zhÄ�nzhū nǎichá – to non-Chinese speakers better known as “bubble tea”.
However, the city has much more in store than a milky beverage so sweet it’ll rot your teeth. Formerly known for its shoe manufacturing industry, Taichung has now lost most of that sector to mainland China. Today, the municipality focuses on activities like precision manufacturing, silicon wafer production, and its various technology incubators and science parks.
Wroclaw (Poland, #100)
This is the only European city featured on the Mercer list of emerging destinations. Coincidentally, Wroclaw is also the designated European Capital of Culture for 2016. Once dominated by heavy industry, it remains a significant manufacturing center for vehicles, electronics, and home appliances.
But the historical capital of Silesia also has a venerable intellectual tradition: its first university opened its doors in the early 18th century. Today, Wroclaw is home to about ten public colleges and universities and circa 140,000 students. No wonder that the city has such a busy nightlife!
Wroclaw is also the seat of many well-known Polish and international businesses, with strong cross-border ties to neighboring Germany and the Czech Republic. Expatriates will appreciate the picturesque stare miasto (historical town center) and the cultural festivals all year round. There’s even a festival dedicated to beer – na zdrowie!
Manaus (Brazil, #127)
Cineastes may recognize one of Manaus’s most famous landmarks from a 1982 Werner Herzog masterpiece: The Teatro Amazonas serves as the inspiration for the obsessive and increasingly unstable protagonist of Fitzcarraldo. The opera house itself does have a slightly surrealist air: a result of the rubber boom in late 19th-century Brazil, it’s a Belle Époque building located, more or less, in the middle of the Amazonian rainforest.
Today, Manaus’s relative affluence is no longer built on rubber. Its river port is the key to the entire Amazonas basin, and its large Free Economic Zone has attracted mobile phone manufacturers, the petrochemical sector, and the electronics industry.
On the one hand, economic development in this geographically isolated boomtown has led to environmental problems like devastating deforestation. On the other hand, the importance of fishing, trading in wild fruits, and eco-tourism might also help to shape awareness of the region’s amazing bio-diversity.
(Image credit: 1, 3-6: iStockphoto 2: Cheonan Station by Wikimedia Commons user NHRHS2010)