Welcome back to this week’s article of ELM’s ‘Top Cities to Live and Work Abroad’ series. Last week we took a peek at the three South American cities of Bogotá, Sao Paolo, and Buenos Aires. If you haven’t read it already, make sure to check out our article on South America. Today we will be looking at the top cities to live and work in Europe. These are the three European cities that we have chosen: Berlin, Paris, and Amsterdam.
Introduction to the three European cities
Located in the North-eastern part of Germany, Berlin is geographically situated on the Great European Plain, the largest of its kind in Europe. Berlin contains several important universities, orchestras, museums, and has organised several major international sporting events and festivals. Its diverse architecture and artistic culture attracts many people, especially young artists, who enjoy the liberal, artsy lifestyle, which so often has been associated with Berlin.
Amsterdam, the capital city of The Netherlands, serves as the country’s financial capital, and is often seen as the Dutch cultural capital. Its many attractions draw around 4.5 million tourists a year. Even though Amsterdam is known for its many coffee shops, and the red-light district, the city has lots of other interesting things to offer, such as the Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank’s house, the Hermitage Amsterdam, and great boat tours around the city’s large network of canals.
Paris, the city of love, romance, fashion, art, and great food. The amount of history contained in this city is indescribable. Amongst the many attractions, a few that stand out are the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, and the Eiffel tower. On top of that, it is the business capital of France, with 38 of the fortune 500 companies based in Paris, and an economy comparable in size to countries like Turkey and The Netherlands.
Quality of Living
No doubt that the quality of living in any of these three cities is going to be great. All three have made it to the top 50 of Mercer’s Quality of Living survey. Many of the choices that internationally driven people are going to make in terms of where to live and work is going to come down to personal preference. However, being the best is always a relative thing.
The city that scores best in Mercer’s survey is Amsterdam. The Dutch capital ranks very well at 13, making it one of the best cities to live and work in Europe, and the whole world. Berlin has the second highest quality of living from our three cities, ranked by Mercer at 17. Further down at 34 is the French capital. Considering that mid-sized cities score better in Mercer’s survey, 34th position is not bad at all for a large city like Paris.
Winner – Amsterdam
Ranking the highest in Mercer’s quality of living survey, Amsterdam is a great place to live in, offering people from abroad a unique opportunity to experience the Dutch bicycle culture, the large network of canals, and its great architectural heritage.
Cost of Living
Europe is not only known for its high quality of living, but also for being rather expensive. So it’s really no surprise to see many European cities in the top 50 of Mercer’s cost of living survey. One of our European cities, however, is not in the top 50. That is Berlin. For a big capital, it is quite exceptional to not be amongst the dearest cities in the world, making Berlin an affordable choice if you want to live in one of the main capitals of Europe. Paris is the most expensive city of the three cities, ranked at 17. Amsterdam has positioned itself 35th on the ranking. It should be noted that in Amsterdam you can always choose to move around by bicycle instead of by car or public transport, which could significantly reduce your transportation costs.
Winner – Berlin
Berlin is the cheapest of the three European cities to live in, and doesn’t even make it to the top 50 of most expensive cities to live in. This is quite exceptional for a main European capital.
Berlin’s economic history is quite unique. It used to be the business centre of Germany, with leading enterprises in machinery and the chemical industry. However, the two World Wars and the Cold War changed many things in Berlin. The East/West division caused many problems for the once great capital of Germany. Communication was broken down between the two sections, and a lot of talent went to waste. Having said that, after the unification of the city, and especially after the placement of the federal government in 1999, Berlin has received several economic stimuli, put into place to improve the city’s infrastructure, and regional communications. All these events have changed Berlin’s economy from a manufacturing economy to a service economy, including growing sectors like communications, information technology, marketing, and more recently tourism. The size of the economy is around 90 billion Euros, which is expected to grow in 2011 by 2.5 percent. The unemployment rate is 13.9 percent.
Amsterdam is the business and financial capital of The Netherlands. Lots of international companies are based in the Dutch capital. The list includes companies such as The Royal Bank of Scotland, Heineken, the ING Group, Philips. In 1998, the plans for a new modern business district was created, the Zuidas. The site is still under construction, but it will slowly become the new business district of Amsterdam, and where lots of established and new companies have settled themselves. At the moment, organisations located at the Zuidas include Accenture, the World Trade Centre Amsterdam, and ABN AMRO. The Zuidas also includes a university complex, which includes the university buildings and housing for students. Its proximity to a modern business district might proof to be a great solution for both the students and the companies.
Tourism has become one of the most important sectors in the city’s economy. Amsterdam attracts millions of people every year. Additionally, the city has become one of the important fashion centres of Europe. Other important business sectors of Amsterdam are the financial sector, media and entertainment, telecommunication, IT, construction, and engineering. The GDP of Amsterdam is around 35 billion Euros, which is expected to grow in 2011 by 3.4 percent. The unemployment rate of Amsterdam is around 6.5 percent.
Paris, if compared to other countries, would be on the top 20 economies of the world, comparable in size to Turkey or The Netherlands. 38 of the fortune 500 companies have their headquarters in Paris, only beaten by Tokyo with 47. Some of these companies include, BNP Paribas, Carrefour, Peugeot, L’Oreal, and Christian Dior. Many of them are located in the city’s main business district, La Défense. The most important sectors in the Parisian economy include manufacturing, which amounts for about 20 percent of a workforce of more than 5 million people, and the service sector, surpassing 80 percent of the city’s workforce. The biggest subsectors are professional and technical services (10 percent), commerce (13 percent), and public administration (10 percent).
Tourism is another big sector in the city’s economy, mostly because of Paris’ attractive culture, and immense historic heritage. Additionally, Paris is one of the fashion capitals of the world.
The GDP of Paris is 510 billion Euros, and is expected to grow in 2011 by 2 percent. The unemployment rate of the city is estimated at 8.7 percent.
Winner – Paris
The diversity and sheer size of Paris’ economy really dwarfs the other two European cities. Paris is one of the main European centres of business, with no particular sector significantly bigger than the other, like, for example, the entertainment sector in Los Angeles, or the financial sector in New York, making it a great choice for people looking for work in a wide range of business sectors.
Overall Winner – Amsterdam
This week was very close. As you probably have noticed, the three cities have divided the different categories amongst them. This makes it a bit harder when deciding which city should be considered the best city to live and work in Europe in 2011. However, we thought that overall, the city’s high quality of living, its reasonable cost of living, and great economic environment, make Amsterdam this week’s rightful winner. Additionally, we believe that living in Amsterdam, and experiencing the bicycle culture and the canals is a unique experience that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
Honorary Mention – Geneva
Located at the south-western end of Lake Geneva, between the Alps and the Jura Mountains, Geneva’s location is stunning, and great for outdoor activities, making it a very attractive city to live in. It is close to France and Italy, which is great for those interested in visiting different countries and their cultures. Geneva’s quality of living is very high. It ranks third on Mercer’s Quality of Living survey, making it one of the best in the world. It comes at a price though. Geneva is the most expensive European city in Mercer’s selection. Major economic sectors in Geneva are the international financial sector, and the private banking sector. But you will also find that a lot of companies have decided to have their headquarters in Geneva, attracted by the tax policies of the Swiss. This gives the Swiss economy a good dose of variety, and great place for people working for big companies.
Make sure not to miss next week’s article. We will be looking at the top cities to live and work abroad in Africa. Feel free to send us your recommendations of the cities you would like to see in next week’s article. We will try to go through your emails and comments. We would like to thank everyone for the emails and recommendations that they sent us last week, we really appreciate it. See you all next week!
Joseph Cavanna, ELM Team
© Expertise in Labour Mobility B.V. All rights reserved.