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EU country with the best lifestyle?
April 24, 2010 5:16 PM   Subscribe

EU country with the best lifestyle?

Which country in the EU has the best lifestyle with respect to how they approach work, eating and living life.

The lifestyle in North America is hardworking and that's a good quality but my long term goal (2 years from now?) is to live somewhere people value their free time a bit more and know how to eat delicious healthy meals normally and enjoy things more slowly.

And where family values are strong and appreciated.

It also wouldn't hurt to live near the sea either.

I have papers to work in the EU. Language is a barrier but not that big of an issue as I'm sure there will be at least some English speaking people, especially at my job.

I enjoyed my time in Istanbul for a few months. It wasn't the EU but I felt different than in NYC where its hectic and cortisol inducing.

Maybe I'm just thinking the grass is greener but I feel like there has to be a better way to live life.
posted by simpleton to Society & Culture (37 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Norway
posted by fire&wings at 5:22 PM on April 24, 2010


Norway is not in the EU. I'd say Denmark.
posted by zeikka at 5:25 PM on April 24, 2010


I second Norway, although it's not EU.
posted by Dimpy at 5:28 PM on April 24, 2010


Hmmm... I was thinking of something a little more southern like Spain because of the weather and siesta time and it just sounds more romantic


....but I should rethink things perhaps..
posted by simpleton at 5:30 PM on April 24, 2010


Maybe I'm an optimist, but it seems like it would be possible to eat delicious meals and value your free time no matter where you lived.
posted by box at 5:35 PM on April 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


I've probably spent 3 months in Belgium (Brussels, mostly) on various work-related trips there, and I would move there in a heartbeat. Since you specifically mentioned food as a quality-of-life thing for you, as it is for me, I have to say that the food in Brussels is better than in any other European city I've visited, including Paris, Milan, and Vienna.
posted by deadmessenger at 5:39 PM on April 24, 2010


The OP doesn't explain the nature of his work permit, but since Norway is in the European Economic Area it may still be an option. However it would not be at the top of my list when food is one of the criteria.

Sorry, Norwegians.
posted by serathen at 5:55 PM on April 24, 2010


I've been in Spain for the past four months, and this attitude you describe exists, but it's sort of going away, at least in the bigger cities. If you need a big city like madrid or barcelona to do what you do, it's just like every other international urban center. But if you can do your job in a medium-big city like Sevilla, Spain might just fit your bill. People are pretty laid back here, average time off a year is between one and two months. Spanish people don't really eat the healthiest in terms of what goes into their food (not a lot of vegetation, a lot of bread and pig), but everything is fresh and locally sourced. If you can manage to do your job in a really rather small place, Spain is just littered with coastal cities like this.

Essentially, the larger city you are in in Spain, the less laid back it is (mind you, the baseline laid-backness is still pretty high). Also, the closer you are to the exact middle of the country, same thing (Madrid being dead-center, and yes Barcelona is more laid back than Madrid, but not by much.)

Oh, and no one really takes a siesta anymore. All of the smaller shops do close during siesta time though.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 5:55 PM on April 24, 2010


To box, you said: Maybe I'm an optimist, but it seems like it would be possible to eat delicious meals and value your free time no matter where you lived.

This is true and I try to to that but here is an analogy to explain how I feel. Let's say you live in a family that eats junk food all the time and its available in the house along with healthy food choices.

Sure one can decide to eat the healthy stuff.

But are you really not going to indulge in that twinkie more than you should, especially when everyone else is indulging?

My point is that the environment facilitates how you think, what you do. The weather, the food, the city, company culture and the people ARE important in my opinion.

Its helps make who you are I think.

When I was young I used to wonder why people travel. Its only a beach I would say. But when you get there, it changes you and over the long term it changes who you are I think.
posted by simpleton at 6:13 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've never been to Belgium but someone in Istanbul repeatedly told me never to go to Belgium. Shops all close early and everything is dead. But I'll take your word that the food is great.

Thanks for the account of living in Spain.
posted by simpleton at 6:19 PM on April 24, 2010


Which country in the EU has the best lifestyle with respect to how they approach work, eating and living life.

Hi there, it looks like you want to live in (at least the stereotype of) a sleepy Southern European rural village. I have some friends in Europe, so I can help as far as reality checks go until some more natives drop in. If you have lots of cash, you can live a relaxed lifestyle anywhere in the world. If you have a real job, you'll still be living somewhere that won't feel like a storybook peasant hamlet, and even then, people in small towns are a little less frozen in time than you seem to be inferring. I'm not saying this to be harsh, it's only that there are things beyond tourist imagery you might want to consider, especially if you only speak English.
I suggest you travel a bit and take in a few different regions before banking on one country.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 6:24 PM on April 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


somewhere people value their free time a bit more [...] and enjoy things more slowly
Shops all close early [...]
In a place where everyone puts more value in their free time, I'd expect the shops to close early, since the shop owners would also value their own free time.
posted by Utilitaritron at 6:32 PM on April 24, 2010 [14 favorites]


If I was to pick a Spanish city for you to take a look at, assuming you had easy access to ready cash, I'd start somewhere in Galicia, possibly Vigo, and in Portugal somewhere in the vicinity of Porto, perhaps Vila Nova de Gaia.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 6:44 PM on April 24, 2010


The Scandinavian countries as a group have the lowest economic inequality, some of the highest happiness rates, world-leading levels of education, interpersonal trust and trust in government, the lowest crime and the longest life expectancies and lowest infant mortality rates. Yes, the winters can suck (you can have both a high happiness rate and a high depression rate!)

However, going by the numbers on health, happiness and support for families, Scandinivian countries are your best bet. Iceland's not doing so great at the moment, of course ;-)
posted by Maias at 7:16 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


To Utilitaritron, yes that make logical sense about shops closing.

Its just that when you have free time, sometimes you want to go out for entertainment, including various shops.

But I wasn't discounting Belgium as an option, just indicating what a friend said.
posted by simpleton at 7:16 PM on April 24, 2010


So you want to move to another country because you are tempted to eat poorly? Ok.

I would do your research (I too was gonna say Norway sounds up to your idea), and then visit there for like a month before going. But the fact that you have romantic notions about the south of spain or whatever seem...troubling at best. What do you do? This is important. Are you independently wealthy or something?
posted by wooh at 8:16 PM on April 24, 2010


So...you want to live somewhere where people only eat "good" food and always avoid "bad" food to change your own eating habits, where you value your free time but other people shouldn't?

I'm curious about what your line of work is, as well. This sounds like a highly romanticized fantasy life.
posted by kro at 8:47 PM on April 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've never been to Belgium but someone in Istanbul repeatedly told me never to go to Belgium. Shops all close early and everything is dead.

This sentiment kinda goes against your "the best lifestyle with respect to how they approach work, eating and living life." By closing early (or on time, from another perspective), people are enjoying life by not being at work as much as possible. You would get used to it by changing your lifestyle to accommodate. You buy food more frequently (and more fresh) and you get the benefits of a culture that respects people taking time for themselves.

Just sayin'.
posted by qwip at 12:12 AM on April 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you find Norway too expensive, there's Sweden. Also, have a flexible job: winter in Spain, summer in Sweden at the coast north of Gothenburg, and make you own meals.
posted by Namlit at 1:27 AM on April 25, 2010


I'm not sure what "family values" means, but if it means being vocal about two-opposite-sex-parent nuclear families being the only sensible kind, that might narrow down your choices a lot. Most of Western Europe is very supportive of non-traditional families.

Also "family values" around here can be code for "I'm very religious", and if that's you and you want a religious community you'll be comfortable with that's another thing that should perhaps be influencing your choice. I have the impression that religion as practised around Europe can be pretty different to that practised in the States.

Sounds like what you want is somewhere like Dubai, where the middle classes (as I understand it) enjoy a lazy and luxurious lifestyle, off the back of the labour of a lower class of indentured foreigners who will work long hours in order to make sure the shops are open when you want them.
posted by emilyw at 2:26 AM on April 25, 2010


No one's named France? France has most of everything you might want, the South is easy going and warm, Paris is one of the great cities of the world, there's wintersports galore (not just in the Alps), and by Jebus is the food good.
posted by Kattullus at 4:08 AM on April 25, 2010


my long term goal (2 years from now?) is to live somewhere people value their free time a bit more and know how to eat delicious healthy meals normally and enjoy things more slowly. And where family values are strong and appreciated.
[...]
someone in Istanbul repeatedly told me never to go to Belgium. Shops all close early and everything is dead.
[...]
Its just that when you have free time, sometimes you want to go out for entertainment, including various shops.


It's always seemed odd to me that shops would all be open only at the times when people are busy in work. It has been suggested to me that this is a hold-over from the days when men went to work and women were housemakers and would do the shopping during the day.

Would your definition of strong family values include a wife who didn't work, or who only worked part time, who could take care of tasks such as shopping during the day?
posted by Mike1024 at 4:33 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


While I like Norway and adore Belgium (it really does have a very undeserved rep for being boring), I really think a good fit would be France.
posted by Dagobert at 5:20 AM on April 25, 2010


France or Italy.

Norway is depressingly expensive.
posted by knapah at 7:10 AM on April 25, 2010


Denmark - and this is from someone who has lived in Barcelona :)

Living now in Copenhagen - and loooooving it.
posted by alchemist at 7:28 AM on April 25, 2010


To answer someone's question, no I'm not wealthy.

But as long as I can find a job in the software field I think I can get a decent place.

My version of family values includes a wife who may or may not want to work. I'm open minded about anybody else's version of family values though.

I'm not trying to move because I'm tempted to eat poorly here - that was just an analogy for my overall reasons.

Maybe I do have romantic notions of how to live life. Why can't I make that dream real? I want to in an environment that supports that notion.

Why in the world should we all work our butts off to retire? Why not live the way we want now?

Growth, growth growth. That's the focus it seems on this side of the world. Our lives should not be filled with so much work.

I don't want to live off the backs of the lower class. I'll clean my own place and feed myself.

The most important thing is to be healthy in mind and body. That alone is worth a million dollars.

Something never fit me here in North America and I've lived here most of my life. Something is missing.
posted by simpleton at 7:44 AM on April 25, 2010


I'm tempted to suggest Crete, Portugal or Spain, though I've only visited those countries, not lived in them. I'm still not 100% sure exactly what you are looking for, though. Can you be more specific about what values are important to you?
posted by Infinite Jest at 7:58 AM on April 25, 2010


I made this move, for the same reasons, to Norway. It's been fun, but I'm moving back in September. It only partially worked out. Mefimail for more info if needed.
posted by dance at 8:12 AM on April 25, 2010


"Shops all close early and everything is dead."

Well, you can either have shops & nightlife, OR a slower pace of life with a lot of free time.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:18 AM on April 25, 2010


Knapah, Norway isn't "depressingly expensive" if you are in receipt of a Norwegian salary. But I can seehow it could be visiting as a tourist with exchanged currency. The food isn't so good but the lifestyle is similar otherwise to the OP's requirements.
posted by dance at 8:26 AM on April 25, 2010


Regarding the question "Can you be more specific about what values are important to you?"

I guess I sound fuzzy about my values and I'm still exploring what I want to some degree.

But here's a list:
- Close to a beach and sand
- Easy going attitude
- Healthy eating
- Focus on a happy simple family life
- No need for a car
- Not crazy expensive
- Real people, real friendships

Maybe I'm lost because my family is fragmented, I don't know.
posted by simpleton at 9:25 AM on April 25, 2010


Other than the beach and sand (and to a certain extent, the car & expense issues), this sounds like a life you create, not a place you move to.

I am all in favor of trying new things, living new places, seeing the world, and I certainly think if you want to, you should, but -- the attitude, the food, the simple family life, the people & friendships -- these are things you're going to have to create yourself, and I think you will be unhappy if you expect to move somewhere and find this. You will find people living simple, healthy, family-focused lives with real friends in the bustle of New York City, and you will find people eating junk, ruining their families with gambling and affairs, and focusing on externalities and superficialities in the most pastoral of French countryside towns.

The good thing is, if you know you want these things in your life -- a family focus, slow food, real friends, a good work/life balance -- you can act deliberately to create a life that has these things for you. And you can do that wherever you live, though you may certainly seek out areas that support it better.

(If you hadn't disallowed North America (and if not for the beaches), I'd say this sounds like a Midwestern college town, although the temptations of fast food still exist next to Whole Foods, but I think that's true in most of the first world these days. If not for the expense, I'd say Portland or Seattle, or parts of Hawaii.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:22 AM on April 25, 2010


France or Portugal. Not Norway or GB
posted by A189Nut at 10:29 AM on April 25, 2010


I'd say Slovenia. ;) It's small enough that you can live anywhere and still be close to a beach - preferrably a Croatian one, because Slovenia really has only one beach. :P

To everybody saying Norway: a friend moved from Slovenia to Norway and he's been really depressed. He said food is inedible and the weather awful (-30 Celsius in winter, always raining in summer). Considering he used to live in a land of sausages and sauerkraut and only 3 seasons: summer, fog and sleet, I'd be a bit sceptical about Norway. Disclaimer: I've never been there.

You said a job in the software field? If you're a programmer, you have to be aware that outsourcing is happening in the EU, too - coding jobs are moving to East European countries. You might do better if you're in management or doing business analysis.
posted by gakiko at 10:43 AM on April 25, 2010


In short? I sympathize, and worry we're chasing an unattainable dream.

TL;DR version:
Hey I came from EXACTLY your place: Reading through your values really resonates with me. I also escaped the US, with a technical job, great education, and a will to LIVE before I am sixty.

Where I am now is France: I work in a kinda-small office for a big-ass multi-national, in Rennes, Brittany.

What I have found: This la-dee-dah Europe is an ideal, and people still make the same ugly compromises that we do in the States. It is crazy expensive here (oh and salaries are lower). You will drive fucking EVERYWHERE unless you live and work and breathe ONLY in the centre-centre-ville because almost everyone lives in piddly little villages and has to drive to work. People do NOT work 35 hours a week. In my office it's 45-50 hours. My friends who work in software, they work their asses off. "Healthy eating" is a lot of things - there may be more processed food, but there is a lot of red meat, a lot of bread, very little vegetables. On health, smoking? Oh god everyone smokes and smokes and smokes. Indeed, everything is closed Sunday and you could stage infinite zombie movies and LARPs (on the Belgium thing, I know a Belgian from a small town there who doesn't understand why French night life is so blah compared to Belgium).

The bright side? I do love the unhealthy Breton specialties. There are some really great ways to meet people here, and when you do make good friendships, you know it. You will have health care, and vacation (my contract here is the first I have seen that specifies the days I have to work, rather than the days of vacation. Also, HR told me I was specifically forbidden from working additional days. I haven't tested this yet.).

All in all: I thought Europe would be the shit, but apparently I am not getting it yet. You may just need to get out of NYC for a reset, though.
posted by whatzit at 10:51 AM on April 25, 2010


- Close to a beach and sand
- Easy going attitude
- Healthy eating
- Focus on a happy simple family life
- No need for a car
- Not crazy expensive
- Real people, real friendships


Sounds like Crete to me. Lots of beaches, great food, a definite family focus. Though you might need a car, and it would certainly help to have one. Portugal maybe. Spain maybe. Though I think there's a trade off - the places that fit your description are maybe likely to be smaller towns - where you would need a car, and where you might not find work. (Bear in mind that unemployment is incredibly high in the countries I mentioned - you might find it quite difficult to get a job). As for friendship - I think that's going to depend on you, more than on where you live [speaking as someone who has moved around a bit and is currently living overseas]. Knowing the local language will surely make it easier for you to make friends - so if you speak Spanish etc, that might suggest that you go to Spain.
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:15 PM on April 25, 2010


Someone has already mentioned this, but much of what you seek is down to personal choice rather than a particular location. You choose your friends, where/how to work, the food you eat etc. I think one of the most important things to consider should be the culture of your workplace: a job in an academic setting would be rather different from working in a bank. In short, finding a job you enjoy, colleagues you respect and like, and not much stress should be half the battle.With this in mind, I believe that location is not necessarily all that important.

Also, bear in mind that within-country variance is as high as between-country variance, so choosing a country might not be as important as choosing a location within the country. The atmosphere, and facilities, of a small village by the sea would be very different from that of a big city in the same country, and all countries have some shitty bits, and some beautiful bits. And of course there are trade-offs galore e.g. big city with excellent transport and cultural opportunities vs. beautiful sleepy village but poor transport facilities and limited cultural events.

My datapoint: I'm very much enjoying life in a small city in northern Germany. Public transport is superb (and the bike is king here), the cost of living is low, there are amazing beaches nearby, and people work to live, rather than live to work. There are generous statutory paid holiday entitlements (I get 30 days), excellent health care, support for families (e.g. maternity/paternity leave). In addition, perhaps contrary to the stereotypes, I have found the Germans I work with to be easy-going, friendly and welcoming.
posted by jonesor at 3:31 PM on April 25, 2010


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