KL best Asian city, Paris worst in Europe for expats, according to survey

Paris has been named the worst European city for expats in a new survey. — Istock.com pic via AFP
Paris has been named the worst European city for expats in a new survey. — Istock.com pic via AFP

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PARIS, Nov 15 — Apparently, Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman are not the only ones to have become disenchanted expats living in Paris. Because in a new international survey, the French capital is rated the worst European city to live in as an expat.

Of the 51 cities ranked on InterNations Expat City Ranking 2017, Paris places dead last in the category that gauges the ease of settling into a new city.

The biggest contributing factor? The Parisian’s cold and unwelcome attitude towards foreigners, says the study.

The results do little to dilute existing Parisian stereotypes: More than two in five respondents living in Paris (43 per cent) gave unfavourable scores to the city’s friendliness, calling locals distant and difficult.

Meanwhile 58 per cent of expats said it’s hard to make new friends in Paris, compared to the global average of 33 per cent.

Wrote one American expat in Paris: “Most French people are not interested in making friends with people outside of their family and social milieu.”

Of the 102,000 InterNations members in France, about half — 51,000 — live in Paris.

Overall, Paris ranks 49th on the list, ahead only of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Lagos, Nigeria.

The results also suggest that once the lustre of Paris’s beauty fades and the logistics of real life demand to be addressed, expats in Paris find it particularly difficult to settle in: More than a third (36 per cent) of expats said they do not feel at home in Paris — 15 percentage points more than the global average.

This is especially true if you don’t speak French, as 67 per cent of respondents said it’s difficult to live in Paris without being able to speak the language compared to the global average of 38 per cent.

Other contributing factors to Paris’s poor performance include the high cost of living and a high level of dissatisfaction with their financial situation.

Both Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman ruffled French feathers after speaking openly about feeling disenchanted and disillusioned with life in Paris. They’ve both since uprooted and moved back to the US.

Top-rated expat city

At the other end of the spectrum the top-ranked city on the index is the Bahrain capital of Manama, which scored highest in the “Getting Settled” category. The majority of respondents said they appreciate how easy it is to live in Manama without knowing the local language and agreed that locals are welcoming and friendly towards foreign residents.

In stark contrast to Paris, close to two-thirds (65 per cent) of expats living in Manama said they’ve had few problems making new friends.

And expats there are twice as likely to have an annual household income of more than US$200,000 compared to respondents worldwide. 

Rounding out the podium are Prague and Madrid.

The survey is based on the responses of 7,985 expats across 40 countries who were asked to rate more than 25 aspects of urban life abroad that were broadly themed under indices like quality of living, getting settled, urban work life, finance and housing. InterNations bills itself as the world’s largest expat community.

Here are the top 10 cities on the Expat City Ranking 2017:

1. Manama 

2. Prague

3. Madrid

4. Kuala Lumpur

5. Amsterdam

6. Barcelona

7. Johannesburg

8. Bangkok

9. Basel

10. Frankfurt — AFP-Relaxnews

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