Dividing cities such as Valencia, Dubai and Mexico City from Johannesburg, Frankfurt and Paris, it is neither language nor geographic location, but a combination of values that determines the level of quality of life for the experiences and services offered by the cities, with the first three leading in the ranking and the others ranked at the bottom as the worst cities to live in.
This was revealed by the Expat Insider 2022 survey carried out by InterNations, which, as the world's largest international community for people living and working abroad, annually gathers the opinions of expat members on the cities where they currently live.
In 2022, InterNations asked 11,970 expatriates, representing 177 nationalities and residing in 181 countries or territories, to provide information and evaluate up to 56 aspects of urban life abroad. From this evaluation process a ranking of 50 cities emerged. The cities are analysed according to five parameters, starting of course with the fundamental aspects of expatriation, such as dealing with administrative issues, finding accommodation, language, and then ease in settling in, working abroad, personal finance and, again, quality of life, including an assessment of services and infrastructure for mobility and transport.
Valencia is the city that ranks first in terms of livable and convenient environment: with an easily accessible health care system, favourable climate and the implementation of sustainable mobility, with which 85% of expatriates are satisfied, it is the city that most succeeds in guaranteeing life improvement for its citizens and satisfying their needs. Mobility councillor Giuseppe Grezzi's goal is to create a city that follows the 'fewer cars, more green' format and is committed to achieving carbon neutrality through various initiatives: increasing the number of pedestrian areas (up to 150,000 square metres), walkable cycle paths (up to 170 kilometres in 2022, with an increase in bicycle use of up to 217%), vehicle speed limits (73% of roads under 30 kilometres per hour) and strengthening the public transport system, for example with vehicles continuing their timetable of service lines until late at night.
According to the ranking that takes into account all five parameters considered for the survey, the top three standing is completed by the cities of Dubai and Mexico City, which, however, does not shine on the issues of environmental protection, transport, well-being and safety. In contrast, the InterNations survey recognises Copenhagen's commitment to improving the quality of life including through smart solutions for optimising mobility and traffic infrastructure, respect for the environment and climate, and citizen services.
The Danish capital stands out above all for its architectural plans that rethink the relationship between the city and nature. From the challenge against global warming, Copenhagen gathers opportunities to create sustainable and innovative solutions such as reducing asphalt roads to create urban parks. Examples are the Tåsinge-Plads or the Enghavepark, renamed Water and Climate Park respectively, where large quantities of rainwater are collected in basins or from neighbourhood rooftops and redistributed to irrigate the greenery; it is the same green design of the neighbourhoods that protects against noise pollution, mitigates heat islands and promotes social inclusion.
Frankfurt and Paris come in last for economic reasons, as the cost of living in both cities is reflected in the personal finances of expats who not only complain about the difficulty of finding accommodation, especially in the French capital, but also of integrating into the host culture. On the other hand, one of the parameters that strongly contributes to Johannesburg's ranking as last is the citizens' perception of a low level of security, which is highest in the South African city, 62% compared to 9% globally.
On the other hand, in cities where effective governance is combined with technology, citizens are guaranteed better services and, even without reaching the avant-garde development of metropolises such as Singapore, the use of digital platforms combined with analytics systems can make a difference in several areas: from security to mobility, via the environment.
The experience of cities like Barcelona and Valencia are proof of this. In the Catalan capital, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning tools are being tested for the prevention of road fires by developing prediction and control capabilities. A few kilometres further south, in Spain's third largest city, the Ecopeatge project was recently presented. It consists of a satellite tolling system supported by cloud computing, which should help achieve the goal of reducing emissions by 50 per cent by 2030.
All urban expedients between sustainable mobility, green design and technology are instrumental in achieving the physical and mental well-being of citizens, allowing them to live in harmony with nature and laying the foundations for the implementation of the cities of the future.