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Quality of Life Redefined

I don’t know about you, but I’m always a sucker for those surveys ranking cities against each other on a variety of arbitrary criteria: Best Places for Singles! Top Cities for Entrepreneurs! America’s Most Livable Cities! Granted, they’re usually some place where the crime is low, the housing prices are moderate, and there’s a good hiking trail or two — but you’d have to hail a Greyhound to score a latte. In short, a nice place to visit….

I don’t know about you, but I’m always a sucker for those surveys ranking cities against each other on a variety of arbitrary criteria: Best Places for Singles! Top Cities for Entrepreneurs! America’s Most Livable Cities! Granted, they’re usually some place where the crime is low, the housing prices are moderate, and there’s a good hiking trail or two — but you’d have to hail a Greyhound to score a latte. In short, a nice place to visit….

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But the latest survey from Mercer, the big consulting firm, got my attention with the depressing nature of its research criteria. Forget proximity to parks and lakes. To rank high in the firm’s Quality of Life survey, you had to score well on things like relationships with other countries and economic growth, and low on things like terrorism, political turmoil, and limitations on personal freedom.

New York is the base city, with a rating of 100 (a little dicey on the terrorism front, but gung-ho for personal freedom). Not surprisingly, Baghdad brings up the rear, with a score that barely registers a pulse: 5. Probably great real estate deals though.

The top scorer? Little Luxembourg, with a mighty 122.5. (Think there’s a Starbucks there?) Helsinki, Bern, Geneva, and Zurich tie for second with scores of 120. In North America, the Canadians kick butt. Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver rank 18th, with scores of 112. Contrast that with crime-ridden Russsian cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, which score 41 and 53.5 respectively. And that’s with no points deducted for crummy weather.

The point? Helping companies place employees on international assignments. The ranking might be worth a look if you’re being asked to relocate. It would help to know in advance if you should negotiate the cost of a big dog and a flak jacket before you go.

About the author

Linda Tischler writes about the intersection of design and business for Fast Company.

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