Vienna tops quality of life global survey of cities

Mon Dec 3, 2012 8:04pm EST

By Derek Brooks
    VIENNA, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Austria's capital offers its
residents the best quality of life of any city in the world and
Baghdad the worst, according to the latest global survey from
consultant group Mercer.
    The Austrian capital with 1.7 million residents came top of
the survey for the fourth year in a row, boasting of a vibrant
cultural scene alongside comprehensive health care and moderate
but rising housing costs. Its opulent architecture from the time
of the Habsburg empire makes it a tourist magnet. 
    The reliable public transport system costs just 1 euro
($1.30) a day for an annual pass in a city governed by
left-leaning Social Democrats and environmentalist Greens.
    "The city is so international... I have been waiting for
buses and heard over 10 languages being spoken at one stop,"
said American Dawn Gartlehner, 42, a law firm manager who has
lived in Vienna for more than 15 years.
     "The city caters to all kinds of people, all ages and all
walks of life. You can have a wonderful day here spending all
the money in your bank account but have an equally great time
spending nothing at all." 
    Mercer conducts its annual survey to help companies and
organisations set compensation for staff on international
assignments. It uses 39 factors such as political stability,
health care, education, crime, recreation and transport.
    Anna Staribacher, a 24-year-old student, praised her home
town's safe streets and abundance of parks and woodlands.
    "Austria is a wealthy country, we have low unemployment and
free university access. Living is affordable and prices are
still moderate by international standards. But I wonder why
people are still so grumpy all the time?" 
    Despite its sovereign debt crisis, Europe has 15 of the
world's top 25 cities in the 2012 survey. Germany and
Switzerland each have three in the top 10. The lowest-ranking
city in western Europe was Athens, gripped by deep economic
woes.
    "Overall, European cities continue to have high quality of
living as a result of a combination of increased stability,
rising living standards and advanced city infrastructures," said
Slagin Parakatil, senior researcher at Mercer. 
    "But economic turmoil, political tension and high
unemployment in some European countries and high levels of
unemployment have continued to be problematic in the region."
    Canadian cities dominated rankings in the Americas region,
with Vancouver at number five retaining the top spot and
Honolulu at 28 the most pleasant U.S. urban centre.
    New Zealand's Auckland at number three is still atop the
Asia Pacific region's charts, while Dubai at 73 gets best marks
in the Middle East and Africa.
    But that region also has 15 cities in the bottom 20,
including Lagos, Nigeria; Bamako, Mali; Khartoum, Sudan; and
N'Djamena, Chad. Iraq's capital Baghdad was ranked lowest in the
world.
    "The ongoing turmoil in many countries across North Africa
and the Middle East has led to serious security issues for
locals and expatriates," Parakatil said. "Many countries
continue to experience violence through political demonstrations
that have sometimes developed into massive uprisings and led to
serious instability within the region."
    This is a far cry from Vienna, which has held the top spot
in the Mercer rankings since 2009. 
    Yet the city is not without complaints. 
    Jennifer Stepper, an American designer who has lived in
Vienna for 18 years, noted that visiting friends often comment
about how unfriendly waiters and shopkeepers are. But it no
longer bothers her
    "Now I realise it is just the way of the Viennese. Like the
rest of us, they have their quirks."
    
    Top 10
      Rank             City               Country
  2012    2011                     
      1       1  VIENNA            AUSTRIA
      2       2  ZURICH            SWITZERLAND
      3       3  AUCKLAND          NEW ZEALAND
      4       4  MUNICH            GERMANY
      5       5  VANCOUVER         CANADA
      6       5  DUESSELDORF       GERMANY
      7       7  FRANKFURT         GERMANY
      8       8  GENEVA            SWITZERLAND
      9       9  COPENHAGEN        DENMARK
     10       9  BERN              SWITZERLAND
                                   
                                   
  Bottom 10
    212     211  KINSHASA          DEMOCRATIC REP. OF THE
                                   CONGO
    213     212  NOUAKCHOTT        MAURITANIA
    213     214  TBILISI           GEORGIA
    215     214  BRAZZAVILLE       CONGO
    216     216  SANA'A            YEMEN 
    217     217  KHARTOUM          SUDAN
    218     219  N'DJAMENA         CHAD
    219     218  PORT-AU-PRINCE    HAITI
    220     220  BANGUI            CENTRAL AFRICAN
                                   REPUBLIC
    221     221  BAGHDAD           IRAQ
    See: www.mercer.com/qualityofliving
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