Quality of life? Cost of living? Sunshine? What do the world’s most liveable cities have that Ireland doesn’t?
ith the annual ranking of the world’s most liveable cities released, we tracked down the Irish who made the big move.
As a resident of Vienna for 20 years, bar owner Michelle Paton (52), can attest to why Vienna is the world’s most liveable city. Dancing, singing, wine drinking, beer making and schnitzels are all highlights of living in Vienna.
Ms Paton, originally from Galway, was working for the Irish Embassy and living in Beijing when she was sent to Vienna. She eventually met her husband there and started a family.
“It can be a little reserved. Sort of a dramatic culture change compared to us mad Celts,” Ms Patton said.
“But it’s just in the beginning because it’s a little more difficult to get to know the Viennese, but when you get to know them they’re fantastic. They’re your friends for life. Very honest, very trustworthy and lot of fun.”
Options for activities and events in Vienna are seemingly endless. Free entertainment, bicycle paths around the city, open-air pools in every district, hiking in the Vienna woods or a walk through the vineyards are just a few ways Ms Paton said people spend their time in the city.
“We seem to have a nicer, more relaxed social life here than in Ireland,” she said.
“It’s not all work, work, work and everyone can afford to go out for food and drinks. Doesn’t matter how much money you have, it’s just a social thing and everyone can afford it.”
Housing and the cost of living in Vienna is also very affordable compared to the current situation in other parts of the world.
“The apartments we get for the same size and same proximity to the city I would say are a quarter of the price of Dublin,” she said.
“There is a very strict rent control where you’re only allowed to charge a certain amount per square meter depending on the district and whether it’s a new or an old building.”
2. Copenhagen, Denmark: ‘Copenhagen is expensive and the weather is unpredictable – but it’s very safe’
Celine Byrne (41), originally from Malin, Co Donegal, has lived in Copenhagen since 2009 and works as a communications officer at the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. She moved to Copenhagen after meeting Daniel, a Dane, in 2003.
“Copenhagen is a very expensive city, we pay really high taxes, and the weather is as unpredictable as back home,” Ms Byrne said.
But she said there is a good work-life balance.
“Copenhagen is really well designed as a city for people to live in and it is a really safe place. Spaces are multi-use, you can find trampolines in footpaths, playgrounds on top of multi-storey car parks and ski slopes running down the side of power plants,” she said.
She is also quite fond of the transportation system and says that there is no need for a car.
“Most people cycle everywhere all year round. It is a far cry from me cycling around Dublin in the nineties battling with buses for a bit of the road. It would be hard to find a street here that does not have a bike path,” she said.
Despite the high taxes, Ms Byrne appreciates the health services they pay for.
“The health service is free for everyone, which means you never worry about having to pay to go to the doctors or hospital. You just go.”
As for work-life balance, Ms Byrne says Copenhagen is much more understanding that Ireland.
“I find work culture to be much more relaxed over here and on a Friday, you will often finish by three to join colleagues for a Friday bar. Danes, on the whole, are a fairly relaxed bunch,” she said.
Although nothing seems to compare to Irish hospitality.
“They do not really like to talk to strangers, not the way that we would tend to have a full-on conversation with anyone we meet throughout the day,” she said.
“People at concerts are a lot less wild than Irish concertgoers. You are likely to be shushed or told to stop dancing.”
When asked if it was a particularly good place to live as a foreigner, Ms Byrne said: “Learning Danish is quite difficult so the fact that most Danes speak amazing English makes it much easier. Making friends with the Danes can be a little difficult if you do not put in the work. But once you are settled in, living here is very easy – and the longer you stay, the harder it is to think about leaving.
“There is a big international community and there is a big Irish community. if you miss a bit of Irish culture, we have a great GAA club (Copenhagen GAA), Pop Up Gaeltachts, and traditional music sessions.
“Now, you are asking me about Copenhagen just as the summer is kicking in, the city is alive with the Tour de France Grand Depart and the Jazz Festival – perhaps if you come back to me in January, I may be more subdued.”
3. Zurich, Switzerland: ‘The high salaries make it possible to live here fairly comfortably’
Alix Kennedy (60), originally from Kesh, Co Fermanagh, has lived in Zurich since 2011 and eventually settled in 2013.
Since then, she has worked as a personal assistant/house manager for an international family. She left Ireland when she was 20 and has lived in many countries before settling in Zurich, including the USA, UK, Belgium, New Zealand, France, Italy and Dubai.
Ms Kennedy lives in Adliswill, a small village in the outskirts of Zurich.
“The public transport through Switzerland is fabulous and as a resident, I benefit from half price transport on trains, trams, buses and the lake boats/ferries,” she said.
“The high salaries make it possible to live here fairly comfortably, even if prices for almost everything are very high.”
As for her work-life balance, Ms Kennedy believes Zurich provides a nice stability between the two.
“I work hard but I also have the time to socialise and travel. The city organises fabulous festivals and parades every year and there are many celebrated museums and concerts,” she said.
“There are many Irish pubs, which are always the best places to meet fellow Irish people and watch Irish sports and support Irish music performers.”
Despite Switzerland having four national languages; German, French, Romansh and Italian, Ms Kennedy says it’s not a necessity to know them fluently.
“It would be useful to speak German here but it’s not essential. I speak French and some Italian and these are very useful when travelling around the country.”
When asked if she would recommend Zurich to other Irish citizens, Ms Kennedy said: “I’ve met more Irish people here in Zurich, outside Ireland, than anywhere else I’ve lived in the world. It’s great to get together for sporting events and St Patrick’s day. I think it’s a great place to live for Europeans, although I know it can be more complicated for non-Europeans.
“I would definitely recommend it to other Irish people – it’s a great base for travelling throughout the rest of Europe, especially by car or campervan.”
4. Calgary, Canada: ‘I came to Calgary to visit some friends and I was completely hooked.’
After first visiting Canada, Ciara Lane (36), described it as being like five different countries in one with such a variety of places.
“I came out to Calgary to visit some friends here and they took me out to the mountains and honestly, that was it, I was completely hooked,” she said.
“To be able to live so close to the Rockies was too tempting to turn down so I made the move a few months later.”
Ms Lane is originally from Dundalk, but after making this big move in 2011 she has no plans of leaving Calgary.
She works as an athlete services co-ordinator at Mount Royal University in Calgary, overseeing academic advising and guidance, athletic scholarships and eligibility regulations. While this job encourages a healthy work-life balance, she also gives credit to Calgary’s community.
“For me though, I do think that my quality of life improved hugely when I moved to Calgary,” she said.
“There’s definitely a vibe in the city that promotes being active and living a healthy lifestyle, especially in the summer.”
“With the mountains only an hour away, it’s easy to access unbelievable hiking trails, rock climbing, mountain biking, kayaking, and loads of other stuff. Then in the winter you just switch over to skiing or snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and winter hiking so really, there’s stuff to do all year round which is cool. Banff, Lake Louise and Sunshine Village are all within a couple of hours of Calgary and there’s some incredible skiing out there.”
The appeal of living in Calgary doesn’t stop at the overall lifestyle and opportunities.
“I’d say the cost of living is quite reasonable compared to other places where I’ve lived,” Ms Lane said.
“It seems way more achievable here to be able to afford to pay your rent, run your car, get your groceries, go out to socialize with friends or take off on a mountain adventure and still be able to save a little at the same time.
“Don’t get me wrong, Calgary isn’t immune to the massive increase in the cost of living that we’re all experiencing right now, but I do feel like there are other parts of Canada that have been harder hit when it comes to the cost of gas, rent hikes, energy bill increases and things like that. Compared to Vancouver and Toronto I think Calgary is still in a pretty OK spot when it comes to being able to manage the cost of living.”
5. Vancouver, Canada: ‘You just have everything on your doorstep’
Originally from Dublin, Aodhán Ó Riain (27) and his partner were craving adventure and made the move to Vancouver.
“When we got here, we were a little bit iffy and kind of getting used to it,2 Mr Ó Riain said.
“There was definitely culture shock, I suppose, more than we expected. It’s just you have everything on your doorstep. Beaches so it’s like Spain here in the summer, and then in winter we go snowboarding. The lifestyle has kept us here.”
In addition to enjoying the beach and mountains, he takes advantage of the many patios during the summer season. Like the weather, the social scene also differs from what many are used to in Ireland.
“I have heard people say that Vancouver can be a lonely city. They find it’s kind of hard to meet people,” he said.”
“I don’t agree and I think if you put yourself out there you are going to meet people. That is a difference maybe, we just might be quite a bit more social. That’s probably a very Irish thing.”
While running his own financial advising practice, MR Ó Riain tends to work long hours. He doesn’t believe this reflects on the culture of the city.
“I don’t necessarily believe this but I have had Irish friends say that it seems like in Canada or North America some people are very career obsessed and you live to work,” he said.
“Where in Ireland, you more work to live and you’re not too obsessed with your career. I would take that with a pinch of salt and would say it’s kind of similar. It just depends on you as a person and what you do.”
He said the cost of living in Vancouver is very similar to Dublin. Although when he first moved, the tipping culture in North America required some adjusting to.
6. Geneva, Switzerland: ‘You can plan things here with the weather’
Former president of The Geneva Irish Association, Oliver Donagher (46), has been a resident of Geneva, Switzerland for 10 years. Mr Donagher first made the move from Donegal when he was asked to join a company in Geneva and never returned.
There are many positive aspects to living in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s number six ‘most liveable city’, but a few stuck out to Mr Donagher.
He describes Geneva as a calm and quiet city with a large mixture of nationalities. With the majority of the ‘locals’ being expats, they have created their own sense of community and the city puts on a lot of cultural events throughout the year.
“I would certainly say that the Swiss work to live as opposed to live to work. We work hard here but we also get to enjoy the city very much and what it has to offer in terms of activities from Lake Geneva right on our doorstep to going up to the Swiss Alps or the French. In general I think people have a good work to life balance,” Mr Donagher said.
With Lake Geneva right next to the city, it brings a lot of unique opportunities for activities outside of work.
“There’s all sorts of activities to do, whether it’s down by the lake, swimming or sailing or any of the water sports you can do. There’s definitely more opportunitie,” he said.
“The weather plays a massive part in that because you can plan things here with the weather. You get your four seasons in a year, as opposed to back home in Ireland you get four seasons in one day. The summer months are very nice and very hot.”
Although, these impressive characteristics of Geneva are reflected in this area’s living expenses.
“Geneva is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, I’m not sure it’s ranking but it is in the top 10,” he said.
“On average, the cost of living is expensive. Though it is certainly reflected in the minimum wage, which is approximately €4,500 to €5,000 a month.”.
7. Frankfurt, Germany: ‘The benefits of living here are second to none’
After what was supposed to bey a two-week trip to Frankfurt, Ali McNamara (37) is now approaching her five-year anniversary of living in the city and loving it.
The career and lifestyle opportunities in Frankfurt are what makes Frankfurt so appealing to many.
“The lifestyle here is very oriented towards a sporty person,” Ms Mcnamara said.
“Hiking and bouldering are a big part of German culture. They were kind of things that I used to do in Ireland as well, but I would be the odd person out going.”
After a spur-of-the-moment decision to move to her company’s office in Frankfurt – without knowing any German – Ms McNamara has landed a job as a professor in the Technical University in Aschaffenburg.
“The benefits of living here are second to none,” she said.
“You don’t get half of the facilities or opportunities in Ireland that you do here. The opportunities here are incredible.
“Initially I had a very Irish attitude towards work and I was very work focused. My quality of life far greater exceeds what I expected once I embraced the German culture.”
Ms McNamara explained that the cost of living is cheaper in comparison to Dublin. Food, housing and drinks all stand out as being much more affordable.
“I have a one-bedroom really nice apartment for $790 I was renting a room in Dublin with mould on the ceiling in the bathroom for €700. That was in a really good central location but I don’t want to make myself sick because of living in an apartment because of the standards are just not the same.”
8. Toronto, Canada: ‘It is very much a work hard, play hard kind of city’
Business owner David Irwin moved to Toronto, Canada. He decided he wanted a change after working in a bank for nearly eight years in Dublin.
David worked for the City Bank of Ireland and after dealing with the 2008 crash he just “couldn’t take it anymore”.
The Dublin native said there are pros and cons to everywhere, but that in comparison to Ireland, there are greater rewards working in Toronto.
Before starting his business, Mr Irwin worked in a tech company after first moving to Toronto.
“When I first came to Toronto there was a stark difference between the immigrants working and the Canadians working, but that’s not necessarily fact in all cases. There was just more drive from the immigrants that I interacted with and that could be Irish, Korean, people from all over,” he said.
“There was a drive to make a little bit more out of our situations, but I find that in Toronto that was a little bit more welcome than in Dublin.
“In Dublin hard work is rewarded with more hard work, whereas in Toronto the employers were a little bit more surprised.
“When it comes to work-life balance, it was very much a work hard, play hard kind of city and everybody was working very hard. Whereas in Dublin it was just work hard, work hard, they never let up.”
Although Toronto is very expensive, according to Mr Irwin, he said you are more likely to receive better wages when working in Toronto and that pay rises are common.
“Toronto is still a difficult city to live in affordability wise, but the wages themselves are higher than in Ireland,” he said.
“The comparison would be I worked for City Bank for over seven years, granted this was post ‘08, but I couldn’t get a raise in that job for the eight years I worked for them and when I came here wages have increased year-on-year.
“Costs are fairly the same to Ireland, but wages are higher.”
9. Amsterdam, Netherlands: ‘It is amazing – I would recommend Amsterdam to anyone’
Hayley Ryan moved to Amsterdam, Netherlands in August 2019, only a few months before a global pandemic began.
The 24-year-old had never been to the city before but had friends living there so moved over on a whim.
“I had never been to Amsterdam, but I had a few friends living here and I heard really good things, so I just said I am going to bite the bullet and see what it was like over here,” Ms Ryan said.
She secured a job in Molly Malones Irish Pub and has been working there since.
She loves how tourism-oriented the city is and said it has been a great opportunity to meet people from all over the world.
“There are people from everywhere and because it is a city based mainly around tourism, it’s like a hop-on, hop-off tour, there are people going and coming every single day,” she said.
“Working in a bar, anyone can walk in the door, you never know who you’re going to meet. It’s a really easy city to be social in because there are always people looking for other people to do stuff with and go out with.
“I am from Limerick originally, so it is kind of a small enough city, everyone knows everyone, so it is a bit of a buzz being over here and being a little bit anonymous because it is such a massive city.”
One of Ms Ryan’s favourite things about moving to Amsterdam has been the expat community of other nationalities from all over the world who live there.
“I don’t think expats give themselves enough credit for uping and leaving and moving to a different country because it is a hard thing to do,” she said.
“You are totally getting out of your comfort zone, you’re probably going somewhere where you don’t know that many people, you may have never been there before.
“The expat community really lean on each other in that sense because, especially during Covid, a lot of us weren’t able to go home, so the closest thing we had to our family was our friends. So an important part of being over here is having good friends or colleagues around you.”
Ms Ryan believes people should not be blinded by Amsterdam making the list of one of the most liveable cities in the world, while she loves Amsterdam, she explains that all places come with their difficulties too.
“I would hate for people to have a false sense of thinking it is just this amazing place because it is hard to settle and it is hard to get all of your ducks in a row,” she said.
“But if you are able to do it and in the way the Dutch like you to do it, if you follow their rules, it is amazing and I would recommend Amsterdam to anyone.”
10. Osaka, Japan and Melbourne, Australia (tie): ‘I wouldn’t advise anyone to come over to Melbourne unprepared’
Shane Doyle, originally from Limerick City, moved to Melbourne, Australia in 2013 after becoming redundant from his job and has lived there since.
After living down under for nearly nine years, Shane has adjusted well to his new life and although he agrees that Melbourne is a liveable city, it is very expensive.
“Australia is very expensive to live in, at the moment I got two full time jobs. I got a full-time job Monday-Friday in construction from 8am-4pm and that job solely pays my bills and then my second job I am doing is just to get that extra money,” he said.
“If you go in for a pint it will cost you $16 here, which is crazy.
“I honestly don’t know how people working in jobs like the service station, I don’t know how they afford to live over here.
“I wouldn’t advise anyone to come over here unprepared, if you’re going to move here make sure you have the finances and don’t come over to Australia with no job.”
Even though the cost of living is astronomically expensive, Shane praised Australia for its healthcare system.
“I am a transplant patient and the healthcare over here in comparison to Ireland is a million miles better, it is so good over here,” he said.
“When my health got bad over here, I didn’t have any legal standing in the country whatsoever, but nobody ever questioned it really.
“Ireland and Australia have a reciprocal rights agreement so if you’re Australian and you’re in Ireland and you get sick, Ireland pays for your care and vice versa.
“I have spent a lot of time in hospital back home and those guys do their best with the system they have, and our nurses are the best in the world, but I am seeing more and more of them over here in hospitals, every second one of them is an Irish girl.”
https://www.independent.ie/news/meet-the-irish-who-moved-to-the-worlds-most-liveable-cities-its-a-culture-change-compared-to-us-mad-celts-41882200.html Meet the Irish who moved to the world’s most liveable cities: ‘It’s a culture change compared to us mad Celts’