Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Where do you want to live? A simple question, but ...

For the second consecutive year, Tokyo was selected No. 1 in Monocle's
Quality of Life survey.

It's no secret that the best cities in the world are ones which are vibrant and offer the best quality of life for their residents. The best city environments are those which are tolerant and open-minded, celebrate diversity, have great universities and welcome creativity.

Having quality independent bookshops, green spaces and clean streets as well as efficient transportation systems are big pluses, too.

Back in summer 2007 when Monocle was still just a few months old, the London-based monthly briefing that's become a "must-read" – and a favorite of mine – through its focus on global affairs, business, culture and design, launched its inaugural "Quality of Life" survey, naming the best global cities to call home. Munich was the first No. 1. This year, it's Tokyo reigning at the top for the second consecutive year in the 10th year that Monocle has conducted its "Quality of Life" survey. It's both a source of pride for the cities who make the top 25 list – like receiving a prestigious Michelin star – and every year seems to unearth a surprise or two or three.

Monocle: A briefing on Global Affairs,
Business, Culture & Design.
Over the years, Monocle has added new metrics that take into account both intangibles and infrastructure – from nightlight to pet-friendly parks – which have led to some dramatic changes and brought about a new world order.

"We add to the metrics each year and this time we've measured cities' nocturnal qualities too, from closing times to the places that still serve a good meal after 22.00," wrote Monocle executive editor Steve Bloomfield in a preface to this year's "Quality of Life" survey. "Despite these new metrics, when looking back over the previous surveys it's striking to see how the fundamentals of what makes a livable city have remained the same.

"Among the metrics we still count the number of murders and break-ins, and the average response times of emergency services – because if your city isn't safe it doesn't matter how many art galleries there are. We still grade cities on their transport network too, from infrastructure to cost. Cities that encourage cycling and make it cheap and easy to use public transport continue to score well. So too do those that make it easy to get away; the best cities are connected to the rest of the world. And we still judge our cities on their food, drink and retail – the quality, not just the quantity. Those with a high number of independent bookshops prosper; those with a high number of Starbucks less so."

Bloomfield concludes: "The most livable cities are safe, affordable and exciting. And that will probably still be the case in another decade's time."

While London, Paris and Rome remain three of the biggest tourist destinations in the world, their popularity doesn't necessarily translate into great places to live. Hint: none of the Big three made Monocle's top 25 cities list.

Here are Monocle's top 25 cities in this year's "Quality of Life" survey:

•  1. Tokyo, Japan
•  2. Berlin, Germany
•  3. Vienna, Austria
•  4. Copenhagen, Denmark
•  5. Munich, Germany
•  6. Melbourne, Australia
•  7. Fukuoka, Japan
•  8. Sydney, Australia
•  9. Kyoto, Japan
•10. Stockholm, Sweden
•11. Vancouver, B.C. (Canada)
•12. Helsinki, Finland
•13. Zürich, Switzerland
•14. Madrid, Spain
•15. Hamburg, Germany
•16. Lisbon, Portugal
•17. Düsseldorf, Germany
•18. Hong Kong
•19. Barcelona, Spain
•20. Singapore
•21. Amsterdam, Netherlands
•22. Auckland, New Zealand
•23. Honolulu, Hawaii (USA)
•24. Portland, Oregon (USA)
•25. Montréal, Quebec (Canada)

Of the 25 cities, I have experienced seven of them: Copenhagen, Vancouver, Helsinki, Amsterdam, Honolulu, Portland and Montréal. I've been a return visitor to Vancouver, Amsterdam and Portland numerous times and there's much to enjoy in each of these cities. Vancouver was a welcoming host for both the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and the 2015 Women's World Cup football championships and I'm glad to have experienced both events as well as both winter and summer weather in Vancouver.

In justifying Tokyo's No. 1 ranking, Monocle wrote: "... the city's round-the-clock economy is a key feature that makes it one of the most attractive places to live and visit. With a conveniently located international airport open 24 hours a day, bookshops that open at 07.00 and close at 04.00, and restaurants and shops that never close, Tokyo recognizes the pull of being open all hours."

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