Thursday, January 14, 2010

France – a good place to live

International Living magazine's 30th annual survey of the best countries to live analysed 194 countries and based results on nine criteria including the cost of living, leisure and culture, economy, environment, freedom, health, infrastructure, safety and climate. This involved looking at everything from the average cost of a cup of coffee, to average house prices, tax and inflation rates, GDP per capita and the number of people per museum.

1. France International Living says: "Its tiresome bureaucracy and high taxes are outweighed by an unsurpassable quality of life, including the world's best healthcare."

2. Australia International Living says: "Australia's economy has managed to weather the Global Financial Crisis better than any other Western country."

3. Switzerland International Living says: "Jump on a Swiss train and you know you will arrive on time. Swallow a Swiss pill and you know it won't poison you. Likewise, you know the bank will always be discreet and the hotel room spotless. The Swiss succeeded because they made everything work."

4. Germany International Living says: "Despite the global downturn, Germans have it pretty good. Along with 30 days paid annual holiday, the average employee earns €41,509 (£37,274)."

5. New Zealand International Living says: "Taken nationally, latest figures show the average home costs $274,881 (£125,887). New Zealand doesn't have the pollution, congestion, health issues and cramped city living seen elsewhere."

6. Luxembourg International Living says: "If we judged quality of life by a nation's Michelin-starred restaurants per square mile, the winner would be the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. With per capita GDP of $88,000 (£54,000) it's among the world's richest countries."

7. United States International Living says: "It is the land of convenience. No place else on Earth is it easier to get what you want, when you want it."

8. Belgium International Living says: "Ringed with parks, Brussels is Europe's greenest capital. The municipality not only sterilizes stray cats, it appoints someone to feed them. Its main library offers storytelling in sign language for deaf children. And disadvantaged citizens can attend cultural events at hefty discounts."

9. Canada International Living says: "Canada has remained resilient through the global financial crises. The banks are considered 'more Swiss than the Swiss banks,' and property markets are 'on fire'."

10. Italy "Southern winters are short and mild, summers are scorching hot, and jugs of wine cost $6.50 (£4.00). On Sicily and in slow-paced regions like Puglia, Basilicata, and Campania, affordable homes abound. Even farmhouses with a couple of acres surface for £40,000. Many village houses cost even less."

What about Spain? Well that features in the ten worst cities for pickpockets

1. Barcelona, Spain. Las Ramblas, the wide pedestrian walkway, voted the "perfect place to get your purse poached." One reviewer compares Barcelona pick pocketing to football - a generally practised and accepted sport.

2. Rome, Italy. Watch out for thieves around the Trevi Fountain or the Pantheon, where pickpockets will nab your camera with a "quick snip of scissors" or "clever handiwork with a zipper."

3. Prague, Czech Republic. TripAdvisor focuses on Charles Bridge, which is crawling with tourists, as a particular pickpocket favourite.

4. Madrid, Spain. El Rastro flea market and the crowded Metro have pickpocket networks, while visitors should also watch out for museums, where thieves prey on distracted tourists.

5. Paris, France. Travellers should be especially cautious on the Metro system.

6. Florence, Italy. Trip Advisor says: "When admiring Michelangelo's David, or its replica in busy Piazza della Signoria, be alert that others may have their attention on your wallet."

7. Buenos Aires, Argentina. If while sightseeing you find you are suddenly covered in "bird droppings" (likely mustard) and a "friendly" local (likely a thief) happens to be standing by with napkins to help you clean up, beware.

8. Amsterdam, Netherlands. "Don't be too taken in by the canals and the friendly, laid-back atmosphere - pickpocketers have been known to take advantage," say traveller advisers.

9. Athens, Greece. Make sure you keep your bag close to your chest when visiting the Parthenon.

10. Hanoi, Vietnam. Hanoi's Old Quarter attracts thieves and TripAdvisor points out that five of Hanoi's top ten most popular attractions are busy, outdoor areas.

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