Friday, October 23, 2009

Quality of Life ?!?

This are supposedly the best cities in the world to live in.

According to Mercer, which publish an annual report called "Mercer Human Resource Consulting Quality of Living Survey", where cities are ranked according to their livability, ZURICH wins. (this is the 2007 survey...I was too lazy to copy newer ones, but the result is essentially the same).

Here are the rankings:

The mix we are presented with here is quite curious. Germanic and Scandinavian cities in Europe and any city in Oceania and Canada are apparently an awesome place to spend a few years of our lives.

Well, this really makes me wonder. I have been to all of these cities (except Frankfurt, Duesseldorf, Luxembourg and Copenhagen).... and I could legally move to any of these places (except Canada) tomorrow and stay there basically forever.

So why dont I do it?

Honestly, I find these rankings a bit silly. But lets read first what their criteria are.

Political and social environment (political stability, crime, law enforcement, etc)
Economic environment (currency exchange regulations, banking services, etc)
Socio-cultural environment (censorship, limitations on personal freedom, etc)
Health and sanitation (medical supplies and services, infectious diseases, sewage, waste disposal, air pollution, etc)
Schools and education (standard and availability of international schools, etc)
Public services and transportation (electricity, water, public transport, traffic congestion, etc)
Recreation (restaurants, theatres, cinemas, sports and leisure, etc)
Consumer goods (availability of food/daily consumption items, cars, etc)
Housing (housing, household appliances, furniture, maintenance services, etc)
Natural environment (climate, record of natural disasters)

So that's actually quite a wide variety of factors that go into assessing a city's livability.

Lets assess Bangkok then, and see why it is not mentioned in the top 100 cities of the world...

Political and social environment: Ok, and we hit a bump already....we know that Thailand is not the most stable and safe country in the world, but I personally also think that the security threats are far overrated. There are a lot of killings and other dodgy things going on in Bangkok, right, but if you are not involved in murky dealings and treat people with some respect, you should be fine. I am not sure however about the political environment....the next few months/years should make us wiser.

Economic environment. Well, regarding economic growth, we are not going so well, but so is the rest of the world. Banking services and money exchange though is not a problem. Just dont forget that silly "bank book" (here, every account has a book, in which you need to print your transactions. I never do it though....but if you lose it, you must go to the police etc...)

Melbourne...always a darling of these rankings.

Socio-cultural environment. I am a blogger and pretty free in what I can say. But only pretty free. We all know the laws so I better shut up...
regarding personal freedom though, I would say Bangkok rates very highly. (especially for gays of course...I wouldnt want to live in Riyadh or Brazzaville trying to date gay men...) A little minus though for the gossip-factor. Goodness I would never invite a date to my home for the sole reason of having to pass our bitchy, nosey guard...

Health and sanitation. As long as you are not walking on the footpath 4 hours a day you should be fine....and if you drink Minere water and not tap water, you should be fine too....if you are not fine, go to Samitivej or any of the other "world class hospitals", where you shall be joined by rich Arabs.

Schools and education. Tick. Have.

Public services and transportation. I would rate BKK very highly here. Traffic and public transport is something that a lot of people complain here, BUTTTT I challenge you to find a motocy or a tuk tuk who will take you DIRECTLY home from shopping at the mall for the equivalent of CHF 1, EUR 0.60, CAD 1, AUD 1, NZD 1.20.

Please. I have lived in Switzerland and New Zealand before and especially in New Zealand you just have a problem if you dont have a car. When I was in NZ in July, I lived quite far away from a bus stop and often had heaps to carry (goodness I ate like a pig there). The bus came once every hour after 7pm and not anymore after 10pm.

Gosh....sometimes I just about an least it was not 35 C, but more like 5C...walking warms you up at least...

Summing up: Bangkok transport is really good. At any moment, you have at least 3 or so means of transport available right next to you. The only challenge is when to take which one:)

Recreation. Tick. Do I even need to explain this? Bangkok has the BEST FOOD IN THE WORLD and is a fun place, we all know that.

Zurich. Pretty...but can you see a person on this picture?

Consumer goods. Tick. Thai supermarkets are surprisingly good and have very cheap local produce. If you fancy Swiss chocolate, an Italian salami, German beer, Australian wine or New Zealand mussels, go to Paragon or Villa Market or Central World. Want Japanese food galore? Go to Emporium supermarket. It has its price, but every so often, an imported produce is actually cheaper in BKK than where it was imported from!

Cheese however is super-expensive....:(

Housing. Goodness, the availability of housing is stunning. You can have everything from a 1000 baht loom to a 90.000 baht condo (per month). And more of course...I dont know so much how Thais live to be honest, but there are not so many slums anymore as there used to be. I hear it's much better than in the Philippines for example.

If you are an expat though, your Euro or Dollar will get you faaaaaaaaaaaaar. I dont think I will ever live in such a nice place anymore until I retire:)

And...there are plenty of vacancies fact too many. Try finding a flat in Geneva....I hear it's hell!!!

Natural environment. Well, we have Lumpini Park...but I dont like it honestly. It's just not so nice...I must say though, where I live I can only hear frogs and birds, hardly any traffic (the odd motocy and tuk tuk)....all thanks to my hi-so neighbour.

The lack of greenery....we have to admit that, is one of the big minuses for Bangkok. In fact, the lack of ANY available space...everything is being built up, and plans to destroy my favourite place in the city, Suan Lum Night Bazaar and put up another mall are supposedly still waiting to be rolled out.

I say....follow the example of SEOUL. I am going there in two weeks and will try to write a lot about their efforts of improving the city, creating public spaces and greenery.

You want greenery? Here you go. This not just a village, it's actually the federal capital of Switzerland....must be the smallest capital of any "normal country".

So...where do we stand now? Obviously, according to the ranking, Bangkok can not compare itself with the teacher's pets from Switzerland...but I still dont understand 100% why Zurich must come on top, and Auckland is not far behind...


Public transport in Auckland is very bad, the city is basically dead (bar a few streets of excitement), importing food is very expensive and in many areas of the city, gang shootings and violence are a daily occurrence...and the weather....mehh...


As I said, I can see somehow why the cities that won, did actually win. But I really think the assessment is problematic. For some people, recreation is number one (probably for most of us in Bangkok), for others, they want their tram to arrive at 7.23am every day otherwise they'll complain (that's the Swiss people...). Even others need to have a beach within 15 minutes reach (the Aussies and Kiwis) or reach nearly every city in Germany within a few hours (that's Frankfurt)...

I love Bangkok, but my reason of moving to ahm.....hopefully Sydney is not because of the sanitation, the better air or the closer beaches. A city can not be encapsulated in such measurements. Cities have souls and they can not be measured.... are my soulmate number 1:)

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