France is the world’s best place to live for the fifth consecutive year, while the U.S. fell from third to seventh place in International Living magazine’s 2010 “Quality of Life Index” (January 2010), which rated 194 countries.
To produce the 30th annual Index International Living editors considered nine categories: Cost of Living (15 percent of final ranking), Culture and Leisure (10 percent), Economy (15 percent), Environment (10 percent), Freedom (10 percent), Health (10 percent), Infrastructure (15 percent), Safety and Risk (10 percent), and Climate (10 percent). “This involves number crunching from official sources, including government websites, the World Health Organization, The Economist, etc., and our global editors’ perspectives,” said publisher Jackie Flynn.
France was first with 82 points (out of 100); Australia was second, Switzerland third, and Germany fourth, each with 81 points. New Zealand finished fifth (79 points), followed by Belgium at sixth (78 points), the U.S. at seventh (78); Luxembourg at eighth (78); Canada at ninth, and Italy at 10th, both with 77 points.
France nets high scores in most categories, but its bon vivant lifestyle is unique. “I wish quality of life indicators could measure a country's heart and soul but it's impossible to enumerate the joy of lingering over dinner and a bottle of wine in a Parisian brasserie,” said Flynn.
France scores were high from healthcare (100) to infrastructure (92) and from safety to freedom (100 points). But the main appeal of France is its lifestyle (81 points in Culture and Leisure category). Surprisingly, France remains an affordable place to live (cost of living score–55).
Provincial French properties are often keenly priced and lifestyles are less expensive than Paris. The Southwestern Midi-Pyrenees region offers good hunting for village homes under $100,000 – and $14 three-course lunches. Houses cascade with wisteria; outdoor markets abound. Foie gras, pink garlic, Armagnac, and crystallized violets aren't gourmet fare, just another day's shopping.
“We can’t ignore the fall of the U.S. economy," says Flynn. "In the economy category, the U.S. scored 67 points (up 10 points over 2009), but many sectors are still mired in recession and the ‘American Dream’ has escalated out of reach.”
In the 2010 Quality of Life Index the United States scored as follows: Cost of living, 56 points; leisure and culture, 79; economy, 67; environment, 62; freedom, 92; healthcare, 78; infrastructure, 100; risk and safety, 100; climate, 84. Final score: 78 points.
In 2010, Flynn says International Living will continue to focus on several countries, where you can achieve both a high standard and a low cost of living. In addition to France and Italy, these countries include Ecuador (#39); Panama (#34); Uruguay (#19); Belize (#63) Costa Rica (#33) and Mexico which came in #46 on the 2010 Quality of Life Index.