When I am back in the US visiting friends and family I often get questions about the differences between living in the US and Germany.

Why do you like living in Europe so much?
What is it like? What's different?

Eventually the conversation steers its way to the inevitable:
Do you think it's better than here?

For me there is no simple answer. I did not move to Germany for ideological reasons and truthfully knew next to nothing about the country before boarding the plane and heading over (crazy girl). My previous international experience was limited to Mexico and Canada and I never even thought about living anywhere but the US (except for a brief infatuation with Italy during graduate school).

In the first year overseas I spent a lot of time observing the positive and negative aspects of living in Switzerland and Germany. But not for everybody - only for me. I didn't even try to have an objective viewpoint as I was more interested in making the experience work for the sake of my relationship, the reason I was there.

Now as I transition into a new phase of my European experience I view Germany with fresh eyes again. Probably the most startling thing is how much I have come to enjoy living there. I always assumed I was there for one reason and if that reason was no longer part of my life I would just pack up and head back to the US. When the time came to face that decision, it was a clear to me what I wanted.

I still don't have a simple, straighforward answer as to 'is it better than here?'. Nevertheless, I thought I would take a look at what Google had to say about best places to live in the world.

This is old news (published mid 2008) but there is an annual survey of best cities in the world for quality of life. Zürich comes in at #1 and Munich is tied with Frankfurt for #7. Altogether Austrian, Swiss and German cities take up 7 of the top 10 slots. The results are based on 39 factors grouped into 10 categories, such as political environment, economic environment and health, among others. The first US city to make the list, Honolulu, comes in at #28.

While the survey is an attempt to objectively assess and rate the best cities of the world and probably does a fair job at it, it misses something. Like where is best for you as an individual, which may be any number of places that don't even make the list. Where you were raised, your personality, your connections with friends and family, political ideals and more are just as important as a set of objective criteria to measure a city by when considering world's best place to live (for you).

And I suppose that is why I have no straight answer.

Posted from Cherry Hill, NJ


C N Heidelberg said...

I think about this a lot too. My final answer seems to be: no perfect country for me exists. It would have to be a combination of things from different places that can't really be found. :/

Diane Mandy said...

I think it all depends on how flexible you are as a person, how willing you are to accept differences and not be so quick to say "oh this is how we do it in the U.S."

Me? I can't say which I like more or less. The countries and people are do different. And I am happy to have come to know them both.