Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Athens, Greece: Quality of living ranking 2008

Mercer announced the Top 50 cities for best quality of living in 2008. Greece did not make the top 50, and Athens at #77 was again the lowest ranked city in western Europe for standard of living, as has been the case for several years.

There is a more recent article at “Athens, Greece: Quality of living 2009.”

Top 50

1. Zurich, Switzerland
2. Vienna, Austria – tie
2. Geneva, Switzerland – tie
4. Vancouver, Canada
5. Auckland, New Zealand
6. Dusseldorf, Germany
7. Munich, Germany – tie
7. Frankfurt, Germany – tie
9. Bern, Switzerland
10. Sydney, Australia
11. Copenhagen, Denmark
12. Wellington, New Zealand
13. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
14. Brussels, Belgium
15. Toronto, Canada
16. Berlin, Germany
17. Melbourne, Australia – tie
17. Luxembourg, Luxembourg – tie
19. Ottawa, Canada
20. Stockholm, Sweden
21. Perth, Australia
22. Montreal, Canada
23. Nurnberg, Germany
24. Oslo, Norway
25. Dublin, Ireland – tie
25. Calgary, Canada – tie
27. Hamburg, Germany
28. Honolulu, Hawaii (USA)
29. San Francisco, CA (USA) – tie
29. Helsinki, Finland – tie
29. Adelaide, Australia – tie
32. Singapore, Singapore
32. Paris, France
34. Brisbane, Australia
35. Tokyo, Japan
36. Lyon, France
37. Boston, MA (USA)
38. Yokohama, Japan – tie
38. London, UK – tie
40. Kobe, Japan
41. Milan, Italy
42. Barcelona, Spain
43. Madrid, Spain
44. Washington DC, USA – tie
44. Osaka, Japan – tie
44. Lisbon, Portugal – tie
44. Chicago, IL (USA) – tie
48. Portland, OR
49. New York City, NY (USA)
50. Seattle, WA (USA)

The analysis is based on an evaluation of 39 quality of living criteria that include political, socio-cultural, economic and environmental factors, personal safety and health, education, transport and public services, recreation, housing and availability/affordability of consumer goods. Mercer Human Resource Consulting performs this assessment on an annual basis to determine living conditions for expatriate employees.

While some dispute that this does not apply to the everyday person, it is important to point out that expats use the same public services, institutions and spaces as local residents. Therefore, it is essentially a quality of living analysis for everyone.

Of course “quality” is subjective, not necessarily definitive. In the end, it comes down to personal preference, circumstances and options. One man’s castle is another man’s ghetto.

To see the Top 50 cities on the survey compared to last year’s ranking, click Top 50.

Quality of Living Ranking 2008

Mercer has 350 cities in its database, but narrows the survey to only 215 cities and selection changes annually. To see if your city in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe or America made the list and how it fared, click 2008 Mercer Quality of Living Ranking. Quality of living for Greece (Athens) is found at #77; no change from last year, although cost of living continues to rise, up four places from 2007..

I also found an interesting interactive table by International Living that, although it lists no protocol or explanation, allows you to select by country or by element. Click, “Quality of Life Index.”

Related posts

Cost of Living in Greece 2008: Still on the rise
Minimum salary vs. cost and quality of living in the EU
Benefits of living in the EU vs. USA


  dubaibilly wrote @ June 20th, 2008 at 07:49

Athens is higher than Dubai! Living here is much akin to living on a building site.

  The Scorpion wrote @ June 20th, 2008 at 07:51

While there is no denying that Switzerland and Austria are wonderful places to live and that Greece is not, I find fault with Mercer’s ratings of the USA.

Santa Barbara, Newport Beach, San Diego should be up there in the top 5 as well. Of course, just my opinion, but these are wonderful cities which make you feel like you are living in paradise, and with an infrastructure to dream about.

OK, maybe since I’m from California, I’m biased but still can anyone say anything bad about Santa Barbara, Newport Beach, or San Diego in general?

  rositta wrote @ June 21st, 2008 at 05:25

I have no idea how Frankfurt would be in the top ten, Vancouver though I understand, it’s a really pretty city…ciao

  dealsend wrote @ June 21st, 2008 at 23:32

Another disappointment for Greece, yet not a surprise!

  photene wrote @ June 22nd, 2008 at 08:47

Chicago is in the top 50 and I have to say it’s one of loveliest cities anywhere…the lake is really like an inland ocean and there is TONS of park space along it for volleyball, golf, football (soccer) boating, surfing, there’s the small problem of winter and the fact that it can get down to 30 below zero F that puts it the bottom…..oh well…….Go Cubbies!!!

  Kat wrote @ June 22nd, 2008 at 18:00

DB – A city does get points for development and growth 🙂

The S – I don’t work for Mercer or fully understand their protocol, but my assessment of the cities they choose have to do with where a company most likely has a headquarters or branch and will transfer an employee. That’s why large metropolitans are selected and not small villages or affluent suburbs.

R – You would know better since you know those places well. Lots of Canadian cities ranked very high.

DE – Nice to see you here again! Your comments are always blunt and I like that.

P – Stockholm gets bitterly cold also, but it’s also a very clean, green and wonderful city ranked at number 20. I don’t think weather is a factor when rating a city, but the way a city deals with weather fallout such as snow removal, natural disaster (tornado, earthquakes, wildfires) and emergencies certainly does.

  maria v wrote @ June 22nd, 2008 at 22:28

i know that wellington new zealand is a beautiful city to live in (rank 12), but so is the town where i live now, and i’m sure it is hardly known outside europe. athens did not do too badly if you think that there were another 250 or so cities below its rank.

the fact that a progressive modern city of less than 200 years of age ranked higher than a city like athens with its ancient foundations, where every time someone digs a hole in the ground to lay pipes and finds antiquities, they have to stop ‘progress’ in the name of ‘culture’, does not mean that every one would be racing to go to the former.

sure, new zealand is beautiful, (two of its cities ranked in the first 12), but it also has its fair share of problems: teenage drinking, teenage pregnancies, drunk driving, drug-related problems, political correctness gone mad, a lack of unified cultural traits to bring together a nation, a too-small population for a country with so much land sapce (new zealand is three times the size of greece) and a good share of racist attitudes, which i noticed when i went back to visit wellington in 2004 after an absence of over a decade. the attacks were not directed at me, but against anyone who looked like a new economic migrant, whether their eyes were slanted, they dressed Asian-style, or they simply spoke good English with an accent.

the rankings do not take all aspects of quality of living into account. what about measuring carbon footprints? as an example, let’s take toronto, which ranked 15th: it’s covered in snow half the time, and 80% of canada’s food is imported. a high quality of living at what price? increased use of energy to keep yourself warm and fed.

maybe some other priorities of well-being should also be considered…

Kat Reply:

The town you live in isn’t a metropolis, so comparing it to Wellington is apples and oranges. Athens was ranked 77, so 215-77 = 138 cities that ranked below it, not 250+. Mercer has 350+ cities in its database, but you can’t assume that the excluded cities ranked below Athens. Regarding Wellington’s ills, I don’t know a city that doesn’t have the problems you described.

I say clearly in the post that “quality” is subjective and based on an individual’s priorities (but priorities has nothing to do with the actual survey); well-being is also interpretative (i.e. I know people who whine all the time about their health, but in reality they’re perfectly healthy). When doing a survey of this kind, one can only measure things that are quantifiable, such as prices, how many times basic services such as garbage pickup go on strike, bureaucratic transparency, corruption/black market, inflation, recycling, etc.

  maria v wrote @ June 23rd, 2008 at 08:39

I do take your point, but I just thought to mention how happy some people feel in their little part of the world, whether it is a suburb in a metropolis or a village on a remote island, and that rankings are based on conditions that are difficult to measure in every part of the world in the same way.

Comparing life in a city of 400,000 where most people live in detached houses with lawn gardens like Wellington, with life in a city like Athens of over 3 million (or is it 4?) where most people live in boxes stacked on top of each other is a little like comparing apples with oranges to me.

Limassol ranked 95. (22 points below Athens): isn’t that city part of Western Europe?? (ie it ranked much lower than Athens).

The cities that made the top 50 are all in countries traditionally associated with prosperity in the late 20th century (when these rankings most likely started to be compiled); with the exception of some Japanese cities and Singapore, every other top-50 city is in Northern Europe or the New World (ie USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand).

And it’s no surprise that the cities with the lowest rankings (pages 4 and 5 of the list you provided) are all in countries that are or were ruled by an oppressive regime, and/or are found in continents that have traditionally been associated with the Third World (Africa and Asia).

Am I being unfair in making these remarks?

In any case, I hope you are having a happy and productive summer, and I do enjoy reading your articles. If only this damned good weather wouldn’t numb my brain, I could write more…

  Pat wrote @ June 24th, 2008 at 00:02

@The Scorpion –

Re: San Diego — San Diego maybe pretty, but it’s got some big downsides. In the winter, L.A.’s pollution gets first blown out to sea and then down to San Diego. Tijuana, MX pollution floats north to its beaches. Lastly, San Diego is arguably one of the more corrupt cities in California.

I wrote a comment about Paul Grahams essay about cities and the messages they send.

  DIO wrote @ June 25th, 2008 at 12:21

@The Scorpion:
SD is damn too good to be true but it’s also boring, lacking the life, excitement and events of a city like NY or Frisco…actually I believe San Diegans are obsessed with their city, totally ignoring the corruption (as mentioned by Pat) and the fact that no hard working people (other than Mexicans) are living there…

As for Athens, no surprise there as I have hard times finding quality of living in a city where nobody seems to care about lung health, environmental protection or safe driving

Feeling great as I am moving back to the Bay in a month or so, while being jealous of my friends in Switzerland and Germany. Whoever has visited the top 10 cities knows why they are there…

  Sotiriou wrote @ August 14th, 2008 at 11:02

Athens has a history and a culture hardly found anywhere in the wolrd.
It may be overpopulated but it has some neighbourhoods that are really beautiful.
Also the night life there is awesome and Greeks know how to really live.

  Kat wrote @ August 14th, 2008 at 17:13

M – Yeah, I think I already made the point this year and last year that one’s happiness or interpretation of quality of life depends on personal priorities, both in the articles and in my last comment to you, so all you’re doing is repeating what I already covered.

Limassol is in western Europe, but corporations, media agencies and the like typically mark off territories to include this city in Africa and the Middle East. As I recall, Mercer also makes this distinction since this survey was created for HR and accounting purposes. Feel free to make whatever remarks you’d like.

P.S. You’re not the only one working and cooking in temps of 39C or more. That’s life. 😉

P – That indeed was a good post. I remember it.

D – I miss you already!!! That’s true, anyone who has been to the Top 20 cities can’t deny that the quality of the cities’ offering; but most people tend to measure quality by their own skewed standards, such as nightlife (oop, such as the next commentator).

S – I know it’s hard to believe, but other cities in the world have larger populations, beautiful neighborhoods, nightlife and people who also know how to live (and without garbage, strikes, and high costs). Let’s remember that this survey was done based on tangible things that could be measured, not cultural heritage (which contributes nothing to actual standard of living), emotion or personal preference.

  Jessica wrote @ March 26th, 2009 at 10:41

I suppose it’s how you define quality of life. The quality of life we have experienced in Corfu for the past 10 years has been exactly what we wanted.

We now have dual nationality (American/Irish) and a residency permit, and we are retired. We fought many of the battles you document on your wonderful website. [this is SUCH a good website, I wish I would have found it sooner! It looks like you’ve stopped adding to it, and there’s still so much to talk about!]

For all the frustrations, there’s something about living in Greece that hooks you. In spite of the terrible roads, the half finished construction projects, the frustrations with the bureaucracy, there’s a sweetness of life that holds you and keeps you here.

I wish you well in your marriage and new family!

Kat Reply:

The survey was based on tangible qualities that could be measured quantitatively, not subjectively. I do say in this article and many others that definitions and tastes vary according to where you’re from, age, priorities in life, location, status and (often) one’s financial situation. For example, if you are dual EU national retirees on Corfu and have income from outside Greece, you have far less contact with typical Greek life and bureaucracy (and therefore less frustration) than a 30-something, non-EU citizen who lives in Athens, uses public transport and works for a Greek salary.

Even one’s perspective on something as simple as weather can be different. Many from Chicago and the UK gush about weather in Greece, while I see it as no big deal (even unpleasant) because I’m from California.

I have no idea what you mean by “stopped adding” to the website. Two articles were added in the past 10 days, the Twitter feed has something new every few days, questions are answered every day, and existing articles (as many as 100 forming the core) are constantly updated with new information as laws change. Aside from my regular full-time job, I spend 30 unpaid hours on this website per week. I do quite a lot of talking online and offline, and I listen to and help solve everyone else’s problems on top of handling my own, which are never discussed publicly.

There is a sweetness to life anywhere in the world if you acknowledge it, and sometimes the bitterness of reality provides counterbalance and renders it to nothing special. Then life is just life.

  kT wrote @ March 27th, 2009 at 15:46

“There is a sweetness to life anywhere in the world if you acknowledge it, and sometimes the bitterness of reality provides counterbalance and renders it to nothing special. Then life is just life.”

That is so true, and this is why I recently stopped searching for the perfect place to live, and accepted the fact that I will be happy anywhere I live as long as I want to be. However, the above post has some truth to it as well. I find that regardless of nothing working right in Greece, there is something that I can’t explain about that country, that makes me very happy at times. And I do have a strong feeling( that I can’t find words to explain) that someday I will return for good.

Kat Reply:

There is no such thing as “perfect.” A friend of mine says it’s easier to taste the sugar when there’s so much sh!t, but I’m not so cynical. It’s easier to see Greece as “sweet” when one is Greek, young, absolved from much bureaucracy and not living in Greece full time. I once felt the way you did, but I’m older and wiser now. 😉

  Demitris wrote @ March 27th, 2009 at 19:15

There’s no reason to dispute the results of this analysis, it’s probably pretty accurate considering the criteria. We all need to be honest here & admit that Athens is indeed trailing behind in some important key areas & there is definitely room for improvement. I doubt we’ll see Athens crack the top 50 in surveys like these any time soon but it’s worth a try for the benefit of all it’s citizens.

Sotiriou brings up a common statement about the nightlife issue. I do agree that Athens boasts a nightlife that is second to none. I’ve lived in London which is often hyped as the party capital of the world but in reality it does indeed pale with what Athens offers. Though that should never be a barometer by which any city should be measured, basic services, job opportunities, education, infrastructure, level of bureaucratic practices etc., are far more important considerations.

Kat Reply:

I believe one’s parea is much more important than the club or location, but otherwise I agree with everything you say. 🙂

  Demitris wrote @ April 3rd, 2009 at 00:38

Thanks Kat,

And I agree with many of your responses here. Interestingly enough most of my friends live in London so had no problem finding a good parea. I had good times there no doubt. There are some great clubs there especially the super clubs….that’s if you can get in. The rest are quite dingy & nowhere near the standard of what you find in Greece (or Spain according to my English friends who visit that country often).

I think that’s also part of the problem, young Greeks from abroad who visit Greece get seduced with the vibrancy of the nightlife & other little things without taking in account how everyday living would really be like for them. It’s a much harder slog in Greece than most other countries, the playground won’t be fun for long. If only the same zeal that Greeks have for song, food & dance would go into creating a better work environment we would be talking about a radically different & better country.

Anyway keep up the good work with your site, always enjoy reading.


  Ioanna wrote @ April 8th, 2009 at 11:29

Hello! I really love your website! It’s wonderful that you created this website. It’s helped me a lot through in my long & difficult job search here in Greece. Still looking but the job sites which you’ve put on here are excellent.

Before I start, I would like this comment not to be published. Thank you!

I’m Greek but was born & raised in the US. (Florida). By reading your personal experiences on this website, I observed that our lives parallel in the way of traveling nomad. By this I mean, traveling different countries with no security of any sort. This too has been a lifestyle of mine since 1995-2008. I, too, traveled to several other countries with just a suitcase or backpack in hand & not knowing where to live, go or work here in Greece as well as Hawaii &Australia. I’ve worked mostly as data entry/office asst as well as ESL teacher/tour guide/hotel & a fortune teller on the side reading tarot/palmistry. So I did this mostly working illegally in Australia. Im a bit of an eccentric nomad!

I want to congradulate you on your accomplishments bcos you have far endured so much especially to moving to foreign countries which English isn’t the primary language. Although, I have struggled also myself with the Greek bureaucracy & the Greek language bcos I never went to Greek school growing up, but living in my country is worth all the hassle and fuss.

I would like to know if you are available to chat or email sometime. I would like really to be able to swap stories. I am living here in Athens now since October and still getting used to the big city life since I was living in Agios Nikolaos, Crete for the last 2 years and last summer was working in Skiathos.

Take care,


  bios wrote @ April 8th, 2009 at 16:57

“that’s if you can get in. The rest are quite dingy & nowhere near the standard of what you find in Greece (or Spain according to my English friends who visit that country often).”

i believe that, but i don’t believe the clubs are anything special in most parts of Greece either. maybe the ‘posh’ ones are, but most of the clubs young kids hang out in are pretty dumpy IMO. they resemble brothels.

on the islands it’s perhaps a little different, but even then they aren’t what i’d call ‘fancy’ either.

Greek club owners are just creative with lighting. a lot of the fittings are straight from IKEA.

“young Greeks from abroad who visit Greece get seduced with the vibrancy of the nightlife & other little things without taking in account how everyday living would really be like for them. It’s a much harder slog in Greece than most other countries, the playground won’t be fun for long”

this i definitely agree with. I’m tired of younger diasporan Greeks telling me how great Greece is because they had an amazing holiday there.

most of them wouldn’t be able to live there; guaranteed.

  vicki wrote @ April 10th, 2009 at 08:10

Hi, I’ve been following your blog for a long time now, while living in Greece and now in Australia. It was near impossible for us to continue living in Greece on one income and with 3 very young children. I’m sure you have helped many non Greeks with your information.

I might be asking a personal question, of course you do not need to answer it but I thought I’ll ask. Why continue living in Greece, or maybe how do you do it? Kind Regards Vicki

Kat Reply:

Actually, this website helps a lot of everybody, including Greeks. If you look at comments, more than half are Greek citizens or those of Greek origin/descent asking me for help.

The ‘why’ behind our continued presence in Greece is complicated, so I choose not to elaborate. What I can say is most people have relatives, friends or a car & house they left “back home” that cushion the blow of leaving Greece and returning; however, in our case, we would be starting from absolutely nothing in an uncertain economic climate, in addition to immigration issues. The ‘how’ we do it is nothing special: I am not a subsidized housewife, we both work full-time with decent salaries, I take freelance projects from outside Greece that pay better and on time, we have no children at the moment (but could afford them), we are not big consumers, we do not take money or property from anyone and pay our own way, and we operate on a budget that allows us to save or invest money each month. To be clear, we are not cheap. I am just very intentional in planning and disciplined in keeping to that plan.

The emotional and mental challenge of being here is partially handled by self-esteem, perseverance and a sense of humor that allow me to ignore people and situations; I would not have been able to survive this country for 9 years alone doing everything myself, otherwise. The rest is a daily struggle that I don’t always win, and I am fortunate to have good friends (mostly outside Greece) who keep me sane.

It’s nice to finally “meet” you! 🙂

  vicki wrote @ April 13th, 2009 at 02:53

We left behind our home, relatives and friends and many happy moments, i guess we just lost our sense of humour and you can not survive the daily struggle without it! I would like to think that one day soon we will return;) Here in Australia everyday living is easy but as Greeks we miss many things that Greece has to offer!

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