Quality of life Index 2009

Baltimore, MD

France is the Best Place in the World to Live, Says International Living (www.internationalliving.com) in its 2009 Quality of Life Index

“The French believe that every day is a pleasure to be slowly savored—and lingering at the dinner table for three hours in conversation isn’t considered abnormal. Family, friends, and good food are all vitally important to the French—and so is having enough time to appreciate them all. There is no better place to live than France.”

So say the editors of International Living, the world’s #1 retirement and relocation publication in their annual Annual Quality of Life Index.

For the fourth year running, France has earned the top spot as the best place in the world to live, says International Living Publisher Dan Prescher.

“Our readers look to us for advice about where to live,” he says. “So we’re constantly comparing locations to determine the very best places in the world. We do a couple of these indexes every year. While others have more to do with cost of living and/or retirement benefits a particular country might offer, this one is all about determining the country where you can achieve a lifestyle of the highest standard.

“I think anyone who has spent any amount of time in France knows why the country is so special,” he says. “Paris may be the most beautiful city on earth. Arguably, it’s the most romantic. I personally love France for the food and wine. And for its efficiency. You can easily get to just about anyplace in the country via clean and well-run, on-time trains. This public transportation system is not expensive, either. In fact, once you get outside Paris, France is very affordable. You can live very well and not spend a lot of money. And that’s very important in these rough economic times.”

To compile the Quality of Life Index, says Laura Sheridan, managing editor of International Living magazine, “we compare almost 200 countries in nine categories: Cost of Living, Culture and Leisure, Economy, Environment, Freedom, Health, Infrastructure, Safety and Risk, and Climate. This involves number crunching from official government sources, the World Health Organization, The Economist, and many other data sources. And we ask our editors and correspondents around the world to weigh in with real-life opinions about the countries they live in and report on.

“For instance, ‘quality of life’ for some people means living in a tropical paradise where the only shoes you need are a pair of flip flops. Others want access to the cultural events a city offers. And some like the idea of being able to afford a maid or a gardener, as you can in Latin America or Asia.”

This year, says Sheridan, as with the past three years, all the number-crunching, rating, and ranking landed France at the top of the Index. France scores high marks across the board…from its health care (84 points) to its infrastructure (90 points) to its safety rating (100 points). But the main appeal of living in France is arguably its lifestyle (its scores 85 points in our Culture and Leisure category).

Surprisingly, despite high scores in nearly every category, France remains an affordable place to live. As opposed to last year, Americans especially have an advantage in France with a favorable exchange rate.

“Today, a euro is worth $1.31,” Sheridan says. “Six months ago, a 100,000-euro house for sale in France would have cost you $159,000. Today, the same house would cost you $132,000. That’s a 17% drop in six months.”

Thanks to the global economic crisis, France is a buyer’s market, she adds. International Living writers in France report that owners are often willing to negotiate, and in some cases, they’re dropping prices before it even gets to negotiation stage. They says it’s unlikely that France will experience a real estate crash, as has the U.S., since France has never experienced a housing bubble. Instead, property prices have increased gradually, over many decades.

“There are many parts of the country where habitable homes in storybook settings cost less than $100,000,” says Sheridan. “We recently found farmhouses in a famous French wine-growing region selling for just $53,000. We also came across a lovely town an hour from Paris—where a two-bedroom apartment costs just $145,000.”

How do other countries stack up in International Living’s 2009 Quality of Life Index? Following France, in the #1 spot, are Switzerland, the U.S., Luxembourg, Australia, Belgium, Italy, Germany, New Zealand, and Denmark.

Although the U.S. remains in the top 10, says International Living Publisher Dan Prescher, we can’t ignore the fall of the U.S. economy in 2008. “In the economy category of our Index, the U.S. fell from 89 points last year to 57 this year. That’s because in one sector after another this year, the cost of sustaining the “American Dream” has escalated out of reach. With many Americans just steps away from the Poor House, we’re finding more and more of them turning to resources like International Living. It’s still possible to live well in many places of the world without breaking the bank. You just have to know where to look.”

In 2009, Prescher says International Living will continue to focus on several countries, where you can achieve both a high standard of living and a low cost of living. In addition to France and Italy (#s 1 and 7 on the Quality of Life Index), these include Uruguay (#23); Brazil (#42); Costa Rica (#44); Panama (#47); Ecuador (#49); and Mexico (where Prescher himself lives), which came in #64 on the Quality of Life Index, but was #1 on International Living’s 2008 Global Retirement Index, released last September

To see the complete scores for every country in every category, and for information about how the rankings were determined, go to: www.internationalliving.com/qofl2009

For interview and further comments, contact Suzan Haskins: shaskins@internationalliving.com.

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