Which non US or UK city would you choose to live in and why?
December 18, 2004 5:24 PM   Subscribe

CityFilter: You are preparing to {take over the world, choose a city to spend the rest of your life in, do amazing things, have some great life experiences} and you have your choice of any city outside of the United States or the United Kingdom in which to start. You come from a traditionally backwater part of the midwest US, but you've lived in some major metro areas in the US, also. Which city do you choose as your {place to live, base of operations, favorite city, place to find anything/everything}, and why? Inspired by Civil_Disobedient's comment about the most complicated square mile on earth.
posted by arimathea to Home & Garden (32 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'd pick Toronto, Munich, Frankfurt, and Montreal, roughly in that order.
posted by oaf at 5:42 PM on December 18, 2004

Oh, and why? Because you can get pretty much anything in those places. Toronto because they speak English, Frankfurt and Munich because I speak German (well enough to get by), and Montreal because a ton of anglophones live there.
posted by oaf at 5:44 PM on December 18, 2004

I have been to, and liked, Hong Kong and Bangkok. Both are overwhelming (especially Bangkok b/c of the language barrier), both are really interesting, great food. Hong Kong is a good place to be a foreigner, lots of people (although not nearly all) speak English. Bangkok is way cheap, so even if you barely worked you could avoid starvation.

I also loved Ireland, especially Galway and Kinvara. Lots of great people, everyone hangs out in pubs and plays music all the time and is super friendly.

Of places I've never been, Tokyo seems the most interesting. And the food would be awesome.
posted by mai at 6:04 PM on December 18, 2004

I'll end up in Toronto, ON within the next few years, as that is where my wife is from and we both absolutely love it.

However, if I had my pick of the whole world, and would try either Stockholm, Sweden or Oslo, Norway.

Why? I have a thing for Scandanavia....
posted by punkrockrat at 6:47 PM on December 18, 2004

I have an irrational desire to live in one of the small beach communities north of Brisbane (Noosa, for instance) but since I don't "come from a traditionally backwater part of the midwest US" I'm not sure my answer counts.
posted by billsaysthis at 6:51 PM on December 18, 2004

I love Toronto. The only concern I have would be the winter. I also think living in Australia would be fun.

Too bad the UK is off-limits, because I've always said that London is the one foreign city I could live and be really happy...the tradeoffs between things I can get there but not in the US and things I can get in the US and not there are about even.
posted by SisterHavana at 7:26 PM on December 18, 2004

Christchurch, New Zealand.

Actually, just about any city of decent size on the south island would work just fine. The country is big on tourism, so the cultural amenities tend to be very solid, and yet you've got easy access to all the solitude and natural splendor anyone could ask for...plus a gardening-zone rating that makes me drool.
posted by clever sheep at 8:02 PM on December 18, 2004

I would second Munich, but I think I like Berlin better. There's always something exciting happening in Berlin.

Maybe Rotterdam? The Netherlands is a very cool country, and Rotterdam has all the good points without any of the kitschy tourist crap that infects Amsterdam.
posted by borkingchikapa at 8:08 PM on December 18, 2004

However, if I had my pick of the whole world, and would try either Stockholm, Sweden or Oslo, Norway.

Why? I have a thing for Scandanavia....

Me too. There's just something about Scandinavia that makes it very intriguing for me. I'd also add Copenhagen to that list.

Hong Kong would be another choice for me, simply because you'd be able to find both great western and Asian cuisine.
posted by gyc at 8:18 PM on December 18, 2004

If I had the money to live anywhere in the world, it'd be Brussells, hands down. The people there are really nice, and they have both a museum of comics and an amazing museum of musical instruments.

And then there's the beer.
posted by interrobang at 10:05 PM on December 18, 2004

Canberra, Australia. It's clean, well-designed and cosmopolitan; it has great restaurants and cafes; the people tend to be well-educated, widely-travelled and from a wide mix of cultures but aren't at all snooty; you're a couple of hours from the bustle of Sydney, the majestic Snowy Mountains and the glorious southern coast; it has great schools, including two universities; there is plenty of work, especially if you're skilled in IT or any aspect of public administration; there are only 300,000 people here; it has Australia's longest-lived population; it's mostly easily accessible national parks; it has great museums and galleries; it has excellent public transport; there are some great markets; there are plenty of excellent bookstores; housing is cheap compared to Sydney or Melbourne; it has all four seasons; last, but not least, there's no shortage of great craftbrewed beer.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:13 PM on December 18, 2004 [2 favorites]

obiwanwasabi, naming your city of residence is cheating! LOL, but good answer too.
posted by billsaysthis at 10:35 PM on December 18, 2004

I'm most likely moving soon, and tried to research the "where to live forever" question. Over and over I found Vancouver, CA around the top of lists, for example that of the Economist Intelligence Unit. (Alas, there's no job for my wife there.)

It's off-topic, but one of the lists I found was something like Best Cities for British Expatriates, and also listed the worst, with explanation. Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea featured "humidity year-round... corruption... extreme security precautions" etc. Anyway they weren't offering the right job for me so I'm not going there either.
posted by Aknaton at 12:22 AM on December 19, 2004

If you're going to rule out the UK, come to Amsterdam. Though scandinavia is kind of nice too, if you're not big on sunshine.
posted by fvw at 12:55 AM on December 19, 2004

obiwanwasabi, that was the glowinginest thing I've ever read.
posted by interrobang at 2:23 AM on December 19, 2004

Sydney! Beach, English, Exotic, Sunny, Culture etc. Otherwise I'd chose Barcelona.

But as someone who's lived in both Stockholm and Copenhagen i can give you these pointers: Stockholm is hands down the most beautiful city in the world. ;) And Copenhagen has the nicest people!
posted by dabitch at 4:22 AM on December 19, 2004

stockholm? vienna? berlin? prague? madrid?

not been to stockholm, so that may be wishful thinking. vienna is, for me, "civilisation", but perhaps too civilised. berlin seemed more like the kind of place where you could make a profit. prague where you could live on very little and still enjoy a good life, and madrid something like a spanish-speaking vienna (which is an advantage for spanish-speaking me).

i have been to canberra and it was like visiting a morgue.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:48 AM on December 19, 2004

Dublin, of course!
posted by meehawl at 6:48 AM on December 19, 2004

I fell in love with Darwin.

/me sobs in the cold and dark northern hemisphere.
posted by ginz at 7:21 AM on December 19, 2004

I'd say Amsterdam is the best city on earth. A lot like New York, only cleaner and somewhat friendlier.

My second choice would be Dublin. Kind of like London, only cleaner and somewhat friendlier.

Copenhagen and Stockholm are very nice in the summer, but not so much in the winter. So my third choice would be Vancouver.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 8:18 AM on December 19, 2004

Having lived in both NYC and Amsterdam more than 4 years each I have to laugh at that "cleaner" comment. Sorry, but it just isn't true.
posted by dabitch at 8:26 AM on December 19, 2004

Madrid, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Montreal. : >

Tokyo and HK and Shanghai i'm totally interested in, but haven't been yet.
posted by amberglow at 11:58 AM on December 19, 2004

If you want to remain the Western womb, Holland has some of the coolest people on earth (they Dutch also make some of the nicest travellers to meet up with when abroad -- keep an ear out for them). Utrecht, Amsterdam and Texel are all very nice in different ways.

Further south there's Barcelona, Cinque Terre, and Rome (Roman attitudes reminds me of NYC more than any other place in Europe). Paris is pretty, but it's not very exotic.

I recommend getting out of your element. The short ferry-ride from Spain to Morocco is psychologically about the same distance as the physical distance from the Mid-West to Paris. It's like stepping back in time. The first time you hear the call to prayer -- from the rooftops, souques, mosques, television stations and radio stations -- you'll get the first power hit of the the travel drug. It takes a strong personality to handle all the scam artists and thieves with civility, but if you can make it through Morocco, the rest of the world will seem easy (except, perhaps, some parts of Indonesia and central Africa).

The old city of Fes (which I mentioned before) is like something out of the Bible. It's enormous, surrounded by a giant wall that physically limits growth outwards, so like an anthill, an increasingly complex network of streets have developed. Here's a really bad panorama taken from the surrounding mountains. There are only two streets wider than a dozen feet, the rest of the city is made up of alleys stacked upon alleys. Survival skills quickly kick in -- uphill is out of the city, downhill leads further inward.

Hong Kong has that same "stacked" feeling, only it's the exact opposite of Fes -- ultra modern. Bangkok has elements of both old and new, sketchy and high-class. If you want to stage a world-takeover, I'd personally start with Bangkok. You can train your guerillas in Laos or Cambodia and check out some really beautiful jungles and cities.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:26 PM on December 19, 2004

I'll second Sydney (after dabitch)

A minimally foreign language (don't ask for a 'napkin' in a restaurant; it's a 'serviette'.)
Fantastic climate -- there's never been a freeze, but winter skiing is just a couple of hours drive away.
Beautiful city (reminiscent somewhat of Boston or San Francisco).
Active nightlife.
Outstanding restaurants and variety of cuisine.
Great travel hub for all of southeast Asia.
Lots of beer.

If you were there now, you could be picnicking on an island in Sydney harbor, watching sailboats with huge spinnakers, on Christmas day.

P.S. I lived on the Sydney "North Shore" for two years. My daughter started first grade just as we moved to Plano, TX. She had the most 'authentic' Australian accent you could ever hope to hear -- a real delight! The other first graders ridiculed her accent. She cried about being teased. Within a month, there was no trace of Aussie in her and she drawled like a native Texan. (All good things come to an end, eh?)
posted by PlanoTX at 8:44 PM on December 19, 2004

Cities I've been to that I could live in (aside from US/UK): Rome, Nice, Paris, Saigon, maybe Istanbul, Vancouver, Toronto, Dublin.

Cities I haven't been to that I am intrigued by and might consider myself living in:
Sydney, Hong Kong.
posted by Vidiot at 9:26 PM on December 19, 2004

Canberra is indeed a terrific place to live but I wouldn't want to visit it.

Berlin and Copenhagen would be my next choices.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 11:50 PM on December 19, 2004

I'd love to know what spurred this question. Not a real-life situation?

For short-term (not: buying a house, choosing a place to retire/send kids to school), I've really enjoyed the "exotic familiar" of Tokyo, Kyoto, & Shanghai; though aside of Kyoto, they're extremely urban. Vilnius, Lithuania & Talinn, Estonia, too, have "exotic familiar" & are very interesting places, though the insularity of the language families & the relative far-away-ness of the countries (coupled with the smallness of those cities) are detracting points.

Barcelona seems amazing (fantastic architecture, parrots in the trees, good public transport), but I had trouble finding places that didn't reek of tourist. Paris, despite the dingy quality of light, is a big city that nevertheless, I never felt overwhelmed in, plus French food is unbelievably cheap (and good).

Helsinki & Stockholm are beautiful cities full of culture and interesting things going on, and because of the size of the cities (Helsinki especially is miniature--I think 250,000 people?). The language barrier is minimal, people are friendly (& more attractive than anywhere else in Europe!). If it weren't for cold weather & cost of living, I'd be clamoring to live in either place!
posted by soviet sleepover at 11:59 PM on December 19, 2004

Stockholm over Copenhagen, any day (except the day you want to buy weed on the streets of an abandoned military base).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:46 AM on December 20, 2004

I love Toronto. The only concern I have would be the winter.

Not a problem. It is only -22C right now.
posted by SNACKeR at 6:55 AM on December 20, 2004

Canberra: a terrific place to live but I wouldn't want to visit it, says duck by the oboe, who lives there.

Who am I to argue that with a Canberra resident? However, when I lived in Sydney several years back (as an American expat), Aussie companies supposedly were having a hell of a time convincing employees to accept transfers to Canberra from Sydney or Melbourne. It was isolated and out of the cultural belt. Maybe that also meant there are no beaches and winters are too much like winter.

For the visitor, Canberra is held as a masterpeice of urban planning. Indeed, it is a beautiful city. A tourist has no problems with spending a couple of days in Canberra. What seems to be missing are places to visit once you're outside the city. When you drive outside Sydney or Melbourne, you're in scenic country with lots to see or do. I don't remember much of the countryside outside Canberra except that it was the way home to Sydney.

soviet sleepover has praises for Helsinki and Stockholm. I concur. Both are fine cities to visit. Would I choose to live in Helsinki? Probably not.

"The language barrier is minimal," according to soviet sleepover. I didn't think so. Compared to Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, few people knew enough English to be able to converse. Signs in public places were in Finnish, Swedish, and Russian, but rarely in English.

The Scandanavian languages are fairly easy to learn. Each is quite similar to the other. There are distinct connections to both English and German. After all, in heritage, they can all be traced back to a common root.

Finnish, on the other hand, is not a Scandanavian language. It relates to the Turkish and Hungarian languages. It may be beautiful to listen to, but is a nightmare to learn to pronounce. For us North Americans, the language is truly foreign.
posted by PlanoTX at 8:19 AM on December 20, 2004

Response by poster: soviet sleepover,

The question was spurred by needing to pick a city to "retire early" in - e.g., I plan on quitting the field i'm in in a few years, packing up the house and throwing it all into storage, and starting either a world tour or a new life.
posted by arimathea at 9:53 AM on December 20, 2004

Definitely Berlin.

It's an amazingly creative place and as a Brit it's the New York you can afford to visit and dream of moving to without a visa.
posted by holojames at 2:30 AM on December 21, 2004

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