Liveability: France versus Melbourne

Alison Eastaway, 18/11/12

In the global liveability race between Melbourne and Paris, there is a clear winner. The Australian city wins hands down, but is that really the end of the story?

It’s an open-and-shut case of 1st versus 16th position. No need for a count back, no photo finish. So why then, do so many Australians dream of living in Paris?

Melbourne wins on paper but Paris dominates our dreams

When Melbourne was crowned the world’s most liveable city for the second year running in August 2012, we Melbournites should have been feeling pretty smug. The city boasted perfect scores in the categories of infrastructure, healthcare and education, losing just a few points in the areas of climate, petty crime and culture¹.

But, upon ready the survey results; I didn’t heave the expected sigh of relief. And instead of concentrating on settling in for good, confident in the knowledge that I was already living in the best city in the world, my mind invariably wanders to Paris. And it seems I’m not alone. Blogger Alan Davies echoes this sentiment:

“The strange thing is I have quite a few friends living in top-ten cities who would, if they were given the chance, elect to live in lower-ranking cities. They say they’d love to live in a global city like New York, Paris, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or London.”²

Alison Eastaway, 18/11/12

Not the full story on Paris

See, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) survey takes into account a lot of factors. But aside from the rather broad ‘culture’ category (which accounts for just one-ninth of 25% of a city’s overall ranking)³ I’m yet to find a measure in there that judges a city on their comparable quality of baguettes, or that examines the economic value of people-watching on the Boulevard St Germain.

Yes, perhaps I am being a little facetious, and I understand that healthcare and public transport are essential functions; my point is simply that the EIU survey fails to capture the soul of a city. And such a survey shouldn’t really be expected to.

Alison Eastaway, 18/11/12

Forget liveability, we want the excitement of Paris

The UK Guardian’s Leo Hickman sums up my feelings well: “But aren’t the top-ranked cities – let’s be honest – a bit dull…”?

For me, there are many intangible features of Paris that make it an appealing a place to live. And in light of these survey results I wonder if the ranking itself isn’t something to love about the city. Those who love Paris don’t love it because it’s perfect. Au contraire, the less-than-desirable postal system, the manic traffic jams and the impeccably-timed métro strikes are all part of the fabric that makes Paris what it is.

A complicated, and sometimes frustrating city, yes. But certainly not a dull one.

1. Melbourne again most liveable city: Jason Dowling, The Age 15/08/2012
2, 3. Is Melbourne really the World’s Most Liveable City?: Alan Davies, Crikey 16/08/2012
4. Where is better to live than London?: Leo Hickman, The Guardian 15/08/2012Image credits:
1.  FarbenfroheWunderwelt on Flickr.
2. wlappe on Flickr.
3. JR_Paris on Flickr.

About the Contributor

Alison Eastaway

“I am Australian-born but Parisienne at heart. I've spent 8 years in Paris, and can usually be found sipping coffee on café terraces or snuggling up with my cat and a book. Follow me on Twitter, or find me on LinkedIn."

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  1. Sarah Taylor Dec 4, 2012 at 1:53 AM - Reply

    Another great article about a really interesting topic, Alison! As someone who has been lucky enough to live in both cities, do you find Melbourne (the op-ranking city) dull? If so, how?

  2. Alison Eastaway Dec 4, 2012 at 8:52 AM - Reply

    Thanks very much Sarah! And a really good question.

    Overall, I don’t find Melbourne to be a dull city. The CBD is lively every day of the week, there’s a varied music, arts and theatre scene, not to mention a truly diverse and ever-evolving food scene. But I do find the day-to-day routine, the incidental things (like train stations, grocery shopping etc) to be more interesting in Paris.

  3. Sarah Taylor Dec 6, 2012 at 4:25 AM - Reply

    I see what you mean. There’s definitely something special to be found in even the most mundane of activities in Paris – walking in the rain, for example.
    Culturally, though, I agree that Melbourne is great – definitely top marks for their exhibitions, concerts and restaurants!

  4. Alison Eastaway Dec 6, 2012 at 4:43 PM - Reply

    Absolutely, I agree if you are going to be rained on, better to be rained on in Paris!

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