Bern takes top spot in international expat liveability index

With clean air and low crime rates, Bern remains the most liveable city for European expatriates in the latest Location Ratings Report from ECA International.

He looks off to sun shining over distant Swiss Alps

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In the UK, Edinburgh is still the most liveable UK city. Aberdeen ranks second. Former joint number one Copenhagen falls to fifth place globally due to housing availability issues. In Asia, Hong Kong’s overall ranking plunged in the last five years, but remains in the region’s top ten most liveable cities  “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 ten most liveable cities,” commented Neil Ashman, senior location ratings analyst at ECA.

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Index stable, but housing pressures weigh on top locations

ECA’s Location Ratings Report objectively evaluates over 500 cities and locations around the world to form an assessment of the overall quality of living for expats. The ranking is based on 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.Compared to ten years ago, Dublin is one of only three cities to drop out of the top ten. The Irish capital now sits eleventh, compared to seventh a decade ago. In common with Copenhagen, this is largely down to popular expatriate cities’ reduced availability of suitable housing.Housing availability has also resulted in Luxembourg and Dusseldorf dropping out of the top ten 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.

Top ten countries for expat liveability according to ECA's Location Ratings Report

(1) Bern, Switzerland
(2) Eindhoven, Netherlands
(=3) Stavanger, Norway
(=3) Geneva, Switzerland
(=5) Rotterdam, Netherlands
(=5) The Hague, Netherlands
(=5) Copenhagen, Denmark
(=8) Gothenburg, Sweden
(=8) Amsterdam, Netherlands
(=8) Basel, Switzerland

The UK picture

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

Crisis-hit countries less liveable

Unsurprisingly, locations experiencing major crises find themselves considerably lower in the rankings. This is certainly for Kyiv, Moscow and St Petersburg, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in early 2022. Moscow had improved (from 155 to 146) in the rankings between 2013 and 2018, but now finds itself down at 189 in the ranking. Kyiv is at 218, down from 137, when it was above Moscow, ten years ago.In Asia, Hong Kong has been more volatile in recent times, dropping from 105 in the ranking five years ago to 110 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.” 
ECA Location Ranking Report 2024 - key findings
South African cities continue to rank the highest in the African continent. Even here there has been a decline in ranking. Pretoria, for example, is now at position 134 compared to 124 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”.

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