Every year, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Index ranks the world’s cities on their quality of life, assessing how ‘liveable’ each one is based on a metric that assesses stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure. While the UK’s major cities typically tend to languish towards the middle (London ranks in 48th, with Manchester sitting at 35th) , this year’s top spot was claimed by Vienna. Ranking first for the first time in the Index's history, the Austrian capital received a 'near perfect score' of of 99.1 out of 100. So, what are the Viennese getting right that us in the UK are getting wrong?
Teresa Ellhotka, a 25 year-old PR account manager at Plus 1 Communications, grew up in the Austrian capital but has lived in London for the past two years, and is ‘not at all’ surprised to see her home city finally top the EIU’s list. As well as citing its rich cultural scene, which is ‘particularly big on music and art,’ she pinpoints Vienna’s laidback pace as a major factor in its appeal. ‘Vienna has a very unique, easy and chilled attitude,’ she explains. ‘It has a big city charm despite being relatively small – being able to walk everywhere and not having to travel for hours when you want to see your friends is a big plus.’
‘Speed of life in Vienna is a lot slower in comparison to bustling London. It’s a big Viennese thing to just hang out in a coffee house for hours and hours – no one will pressure you to order more than a coffee!’ she adds. Whereas barely a week seems to go by in London without the dawn of some tenuous new eating and drinking trend (or should that be ‘experience?’), Vienna ‘takes more time to adopt to new trends. That doesn’t mean it isn’t full of wonderful options – just don’t expect to find 50 different places that serve bottomless brunch!’
After ranking in the EIU’s top ten for years, scoring top marks in the stability category – calculated by assessing the prevalence of petty and violence crime, as well as the threat of terror, military conflict or civil unrest – helped to nudge Vienna into first place. Teresa believes that its reputation as a ‘safe’ city is well-deserved. ‘I personally haven’t once felt unsafe: that is probably the most striking difference to most other cities,’ she says. For her, this sense of steadiness is underpinned by ‘a very good social system, with lots of [stability] in the workplace and support for employees,’ as well as ‘lots of initiatives supporting women.’
Of course, it helps that the cost of living is, on the whole, lower (Teresa cites 'cheaper wine' as a major draw, which we can probably get on board with) – and that careful government regulation has prevented inner city rental prices from rocketing. A piece published in the Financial Times earlier this year described Vienna as a ‘renter’s paradise,’ an epithet that has surely not been applied to London for a long, long time, citing the stat that around 80 percent of Viennese rent, with over half living in social housing. A rent cap – set at €7.50 a month per square metre – has stopped the city from becoming a buy-to-let monopoly. At a point when exorbitant rents and house prices in our own capital seem to have become the punch line to a spectacularly un-funny joke, the Viennese set up can’t help but appeal.