Why isn't Paris number 1, or at least in the top 10, in the newly released 2011 Quality of Living Index?

It's a good thing that my eagle-eyed Swiss editor is traveling again this week because otherwise this post wouldn't make it past his desk. Oh, sure, he would love seeing that three Swiss cities - Zurich, Geneva and Bern - are listed among the top ten in the recently released Mercer's 2011 Quality of Living Index and would more than likely gloat about the rankings. Well, come to think of it, Swiss people don't gloat. They just look smug while pointing to the majestic mountains, strong Swiss franc and the following list:

Top 10 (quality of life):

Vienna (Austria)
Zurich (Switzerland)
Auckland (New Zealand)
Munich (Germany)
Dusseldorf (Germany)
Vancouver (Canada)
Frankfurt (Germany)
Geneva (Switzerland)
= Bern (Switzerland)
= Copenhagen (Denmark)

What my editor wouldn't like is my suspicions that the research was funded by one of the Swiss banks and that someone falsified the data. What is Paris doing way down at number 30? And why aren't American cities, like New York (#47), Chicago (#43) and Boston (#36), in the top ten? While Mercer provides a convoluted explanation about points being awarded for a range of criteria, such as political and economic stability, culture, health and sanitation, quality of schools, public services and housing, we all know they can't be right.

C'mon, look at Paris. She's beautiful and doesn't have any flaws. Or, perhaps, as the people sleeping outside on the benches and rummaging through the garbage for food would remind me, I don't see them when I'm drinking Serendipity cocktails at the Ritz and gazing at the Mona Lisa in the Louvre.

Many thanks to my "friends in Boston" for sending me the link for the CNN article about the rankings and for advising me to read the comments. You're right, they're priceless. And to the Swiss government, please remember that I'm very grateful to have a Swiss passport, especially when I need it to bypass the long immigration lines at Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Wondering about the "happiest nations"? Take a look at this post.


  1. This article has been floating around on my facebook page and was thinking the same thing. Why wasn't Paris mentioned? After some reflection (and your BEAUTIFUL photo), I can understand why. The rent is high, you don't get what you pay for (most of us don't have closets, elevators or real kitchens!), food is expensive and not as good as it is in other parts of France and Europe, there are some really seedy parts of town (Ahem..Staligrad, Barbés, Jaurés...) and it's hard to meet people. But saying that, I love this place!!!!!

    Oh and your descriptions of your husband reminds me so much of my former boss in NY who is Swiss. Stoic and precise.

  2. Living in Boston, having lived in Geneva, and thinking of Paris as my favorite city in the world, I wanted to share my thoughts on this stimulating article and its antecedent.

    I love Switzerland. I now think of it as my second home, and cherish my Swiss friends, their stunningly beautiful (and efficient) country and our times together.

    That being said, when I lived there in my late twenties and early thirties, I came to the following conclusion, which, I believe, still holds true today.

    Switzerland is a great country for two things: 1) to raise a family, 2) to go to die.

    And under what conditions would Paris make the list as #1?

    If "spontaneity" were given its rightful place as a benchmark of a great city!

    Whenever I needed that certain dose of “unpredictability” that’s particularly required in one’s twenties and thirties, I bounded onto the TGV at Geneva’s train station and did that (precise!) three hour and fifteen minute trip into my Paris's (wonderful) heart of darkness! And “ooh la la”, what pleasures I encountered, each typically associated with that severely underrated criteria: spontaneity!

    To my Swiss friends, I offer two words in asking for their forgiveness: Blame Calvin!

    Your Friends in Boston

  3. Bern? Who's ever even heard of that city? Auckland--I visited for the first time this year, loved it, but really, it's practically on another planet.

    Chicago is never ranked high on these lists--I think it's even been called one of the most stressful cities in the US. The people who put these lists together just don't get it, not here at least. If you use the weather as a barometer, I call you a wuss and say that NYC has worse weather, and worse streets during bad weather. Same goes for Boston (from the few times I've been there.)

    Oh goodness, Frankfurt is on the list--definitely a list sponsored by some big bank--that city is dreadfully boring, unspontaneous, and lacks good shopping. But I adore my friends there.

    By the way, I love your first photo--really beautiful, and the light!

  4. Mlle Ella, Moving here from Switzerland, we've found the food to be really good. The veggies, fruit, fish, bread, all of it. Stephane and I don't talk with each other during meals because we're "mmming" and "oh, my goshing" over how delicious and fresh everything is. When we were in Geneva last weekend, he complained about the poor quality of the Swiss baguettes. Yep, the Swiss - they're stoic, precise, and know good bread when they taste it.

    "Friends in Boston", Great insights! While Switzerland is a good place to raise a family, it wouldn't be my number one choice because everything is so expensive, especially when you multiply it by 3 or 4. And diapers cost a small fortune. The other thing is that the Swiss aren't that fond of children. I remember how nervous I felt going into small stores because the shop people kept a close eye of my kids to make sure that they didn't touch anything. It has gotten better though. We really do have to get together soon and swap Swiss/Paris stories.

    I'm in complete agreement about Calvin. I even wrote a post about his influence (negative) on the Swiss.

    And talking about spontaneity - I had a great day today. I woke up planning to do one thing and instead went to see Rupert Everett unveil the restored Oscar Wilde tombstone at Pere Lachaise. It was completely unplanned and unforgettable.

    Joseph, A photographer friend recently told me that November is her favorite month for taking photos and it's proving to be true this year in Paris. The light was good again today so I got some great shots of Rupert Everett and of Pere Lachaise before going to Parc Monceau to take more pictures. I can see why the Impressionists were inspired to paint with such wonderful light around them. I'm almost tempted to pick up a paintbrush but will stick with my camera for the time being.

    It was a surprise to see 3 German cities on the list, although I have to admit that we did like living near Munich.


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