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Swiss on a roll - Bern remains top hot spot for international expat liveability

  • Bern remains the most liveable city for European expatriates, with clean air and low crime rates among the attractions
  • Edinburgh is still the most liveable UK city, with Aberdeen ranked second
  • Former joint number one Copenhagen falls to fifth place globally due to housing availability issues
  • Hong Kong’s overall ranking plunges in the last five years, but remains in the top ten most liveable Asian cities

Bern, Switzerland remains the most liveable city for European expatriates for the third year running according to the latest annual Location Ratings Report from global mobility expert, ECA International (ECA).

“With top facilities, minimal air pollution and low crime rates, Bern is a very attractive city for expatriates and their families. Swiss, Dutch and Scandinavian cities fill out the top 10 most liveable cities,” said Neil Ashman, Senior Location Ratings Analyst at ECA.

ECA’s Location Ratings objectively evaluate cities around the world to form an assessment of the overall quality of living for expats, in over 500 locations across the globe. The ranking is based on a variety of liveability factors including availability of health services; housing and utilities; isolation; access to a social network and recreational and leisure facilities; infrastructure; climate; personal safety; socio-political tensions and air quality.

Previous number one Copenhagen now finds itself in fifth place. “Copenhagen is still a great city for expatriates, it remains very liveable but has seen shortages of suitable housing in recent times which has seen it drop in the ranking slightly,” Ashman added.

Dublin is one of only three cities to drop out of the top 10 compared to ten years ago. The Irish capital now sits in 11th position, compared to 7th place a decade ago. In a similar vein to Copenhagen, this is largely down to a common issue associated with cities which become more popular as destinations for expatriates - reduced availability of suitable housing.

Housing availability issues have also resulted in Luxembourg and Dusseldorf dropping out of the top 10 compared to 2013. In Dusseldorf’s case this has been compounded by an increased Socio-Political Tensions score, owing to the increased threat from terrorist attacks in Germany in the last decade.

Edinburgh remains the most liveable UK destination, sitting in 17th place overall. Another Scottish city, Aberdeen, also features highly (24th), though Glasgow in 47th place scores less well owing to higher crime levels. London remains relatively stable in the rankings in 37th place compared to 39th five years ago and 38th ten years ago. “London remains a very attractive city for expats, with excellent facilities, a comprehensive public transport network and recreational options”, said Ashman.

Crisis hit countries now less liveable

Unsurprisingly, locations experiencing major crises find themselves considerably lower in the rankings. This is certainly the case for Kyiv, Moscow and St Petersburg, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in early 2022. Moscow had actually improved from 155th to 146th in the rankings between 2013 and 2018 but now finds itself down in 189th position. Kyiv is 218th, down from 137th, when it was above Moscow, ten years ago.

In Asia, Hong Kong has been more volatile in recent times, dropping from 105th spot five years ago to 110th now. “It is true that since violent protests in 2019, the elements of the scoring related to socio-political tensions, censorship, surveillance and freedom of expression have worsened as the city moves closer to mainland China”, said Ashman. “However, Hong Kong still has excellent facilities, infrastructure and recreational options and remains an attractive location for expatriates.”

Elsewhere in Asia, Yangon (Myanmar) has followed a similar path to Moscow in that between 2013 and 2018 there was a significant improvement in the rankings (from 216th to 203rd) following the reinstatement of civilian rule. However, this progress was reversed when the military seized power again in 2021 and Yangon is now back down in 222nd position. Meanwhile, Beirut in Lebanon has seen its economy collapse in recent times, exacerbated by the huge port explosion in 2020. Once one of the more liveable locations in the region, it now finds itself in 203rd place in the rankings (compared to 154th a decade ago). 

Staying in the lower reaches of the rankings we can see that several African countries experiencing turmoil in 2023 find themselves lower than five or ten years ago. For example, Gabon witnessed a military coup in September/October which sees Libreville drop to 215th position. Meanwhile, living conditions in Khartoum have deteriorated significantly as the Sudanese conflict has intensified – only six cities are now lower in the rankings.

South African cities continue to rank the highest in the African continent, but even here there has been a decline in ranking. Pretoria, for example, is now 134th compared to 124th five years ago. “South African cities like Johannesburg, Cape Town and Pretoria remain relatively liveable, with good facilities and schooling options, for example”, said Ashman. “On the other hand, crime rates remain very high and their scores and rankings have deteriorated recently, especially given the issues with the power supply experienced this year and the impact this has on expatriates”.

Notes to Editors

*The 2023 Location Ratings represent the situation in November 2023, with all scoring accurate at the time of publication. The rankings are compared with those from five (2018) and ten (2013) years ago.

For further press information, please contact:

Tiffany Huret / Isaac Parry, Rooster PR
T: +44 (0)20 3440 8930

About ECA International

ECA International is the market-leading provider of knowledge, information and technology that enables businesses to manage their international reward programmes.

Partnering with thousands of clients on every continent, we provide a fully-integrated suite of quality data, specialist software, consultancy and training. Our unparalleled insights guide clients as they mobilise their most valuable resource: people.

We make the complex world of international mobility simple, providing clients with the expertise and support they need to make the right decisions – every time.

ECA International: Mobility solutions for a world that’s constantly moving.

About ECA’s Location Ratings

Updated annually, ECA International's Location Ratings system measures the quality of expatriate living conditions in over 500 locations around the world to arrive at a fair and consistent assessment of the level of difficulty the expatriate will experience in adapting to a new location. Factors evaluated include climate; availability of health services; housing and utilities; isolation; access to a social network and leisure facilities; infrastructure; personal safety; political tensions and air quality. The impact of some of the factors assessed will vary according to the home location of the assignee.

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ECA’s blog provides updates and commentary on currency, inflation and expatriate cost of living. Follow the blog here:


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