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  • Vancouver Crumbling infrastructure, drug dealers and sleze everywhere. Most of the year it's dark and pissing rain. Not to mention the taxes. Ask any Canadian living in the US and they all say the same thing, it's to escape the weather and taxes.


I have a lot of time for Australians, who are now, like the people from other pluralist, democratic nations, largely a tolerant people, with a strong sense of 'the fair go.' One of my favourite films is The Castle!

Please do not be discouraged or get defensive by the headlines of racism. They apply to the violent thugs today and the colonials of yesteryear, and not to the many, decent Australians who support equal opportunity and who are hospitable hosts to the many migrants here. It is important that these Australians pipe up and safeguard pluralism in their societies, which underpins the economy and attraction for the innovative, creative class.

Rudd's apology to the Aborigines was admirable statesmanship - it would speak even greater volumes when his words translate into meaningful programs for that unfortunate community. Likewise, it would be wise of Rudd to show as much concern for the Indian student community as he has for Tracey Grimshaw (spelling?) who was insulted by that foul-mouthed chef, Gordon Ramsay.

Certainly colonial history has left alot of ills for which there is, for want of a better term, a 'karmic burden' to bear. When the British left India, for example, the life expectancy of the average Indian was 28, and it's literacy rate was 14%. A rather large decline for a country that was responsible for 25% of world trade for 17 of the last 20 centuries till 1700 and home to the world's first four universities. Fortunately, for India, the British left a few educated 'brown sahibs.' Conversely, when the Belgians left the Congo, there were only 30 native college graduates. That may explain why subsequent 'Hindu rates of growth' have resulted in India's life expectancy today being 67 years and 66% literacy while the Congo languishes far below that.

The 'white man's karmic burden' is not an easy one. Integration and assimilation is not an easy task. As you rightly point out, even with the Lebanese, the 'world views and experiences' amongst Lebanese Christian and Lebanese Muslims resulted in a very different outcome.

But today's white man's burden is one that the brown Indian has borne previously and continues to bear today. Imagine the scale of the burden in India - where 1 Billion people, 50 times that of Australia, where people of all the major past and present world relgions and those with Mongol, Indo-Aryan and African ancestry (to use the outdated anthropological terms) have lived for over ten millenia. Nearly 60% of the 714M eligible voters recently went to the polls. It's nothing short of a miracle.

Octavio Paz, the ex-Mexican ambassador to India, compared India's approach to assimilation to that of a 'metaphysical boa constrictor' - slowly but surely digesting 'foreign cultures,' and being enriched in the process, too. When the Zorastrian Persian/Parsis fled the Islamic takeover of Persia, it is said that the Hindu king who lived in that border kingdom to which the Paris sought entry, sent an emissary with a bowl of milk filled to the brim to say that there was no more room in his kingdom. The Parsi leader mixed sugar into the milk and sent it back to the king - with the message that his community would assimilate in such a way to make his Majesty's society sweeter. The Hindu king was so impressed that he not only encouraged them to settle, but also allowed in future refugees. Today, India is home to the largest surviving community of Zorastrians and in turn, the Zorastrian community has benefited India - for example, the Tatas. In a similar way, there is a large Jewish community in India, and the 2nd largest Muslim community. One of their number, Abdul Kalam, was the father of the Indian nuclear program. India, needless to say, is the birthplace of Buddhism, Sufism, Jainism, Sikhism, and what became known to the Persians and the West as Hinduism. (Originally, the way of life known as Hinduism did not have a name. It took its name from the Indus river.)

I am, as you can probably tell, an admirer of the pluralist ethos, which, in India, has its basis in Vedic Hinduism. 7 millenia ago, its learned elders said 'the world is one family.' I actually learnt a lot of ancient India from an Australian professor, Arthur Lewis Basham, from Canberra's Australian National University, who wrote a book, 'The Wonder that was India.' I see that glacial process of gradual, and at times, painful assimilation, happening in Australia, NZ, Canada, UK, and the US, too, to a large degree despite resistance from retrograde forces. Equal opportunity is key.

I firmly believe that all pluralist societies need to unite. Australia, Canada, N.Z., the US, the UK and India are examples of pluralist societies, and are natural allies. When pluralist minded communities in Australia unite to tackle issues such as racism by a minority on another minority, it's not a far day when the Economist ranks Australian cities at the top.


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Vienna, although a fantastic city, is hindered by an undercurrent of xenophobia. Seems especially true for a Black person. It seems true in most every Centeral European country.

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Melbournians are finding some irony in being criticised as 'racist' by Indians.

Be that as it may, a key concern is that the current crop of 'racist' muggers are almost invariably of 'Sudanese/Somali/East Asian/Middle Eastern/Pacific Islander appearance'. Our local 'Skips' are pretty scarce among the offenders.

The plain fact is that a recent huge, and highly visible, increase in Indian 'students' (of 'hospitality' and 'hairdressing' and such-like) renting in poorer outer-suburbs is not helping community relations in these areas already bursting with high immigrant & refugee intake and fraught with ethnic 'territoriality'.

That high immigration is also why Melbourne, right now, is straining at the seams and fast catching up with Sydney's population.

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Being Indian, I am scared to go to any city in Australia (even as tourist) let alone live there because I don't want to get beaten up just because I am from India!!

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Calgary, Alberta is a metropolitan area of over a million people, but they retain an affable charm and courtesy. It's a "can-do" city that can achieve almost anything.

Vancouver, British Columbia is horribly affected by liberal drug policies that result in a profound rate of drug-related burglaries and crime, even though the visual setting is stunningly beautiful. Every visit promises more than it can deliver.

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@ politikstan. For a stated non Australian resident you are well informed. The sub saharan African equivalence claim is for the aboriginal life expectancy is not generally correct. Recent stats I saw showed a 10 year deficit to the general population which ranks at the high end of world standards. But 10 years is no good. The thing with aboriginal issues is that most here try hard and fail. We have gone the statist tough love route again now after a leftist self determination route failed. Assimilation and removing half caste kids from communities was a disaster for them, likewise though in many cases if we had left those kids there ostracised we would have seen them amongst the most abused. Giving aboriginal stockmen & farm hands and their families in regional Australia equal pay +40 years ago was also a disaster for them. Did they deserve equal pay - yes, was it a good decision for them - no.

In terms of the ethnic issues the starting point on the Lebanese front was the fact that Australia took in so many Muslim Lebanese refugees after the war. We had a community of Christian Lebanese that had emigrated 10-20 years earlier who assimilated well. But the last wave was of a traumitised people for whom assimilation was so much harder and their kids have issues derived of the experience of their parents and their displacement. I don't see it as a muslim vs christian issue but assimilation and retaining parental authority in an environment where the parent lacks social status and skills is far easier without another layer of cultural divide. Not taking refugees from conflict zones might help crime rates and the Indian students but I don't think you would have us head down that path like right wing Europe. There is a proud Lebanese Muslim guy that just got voted as the Rugby Leagues women's (supporters) choice of best role model for kids and this award is a choice for their kids. That betters any multicultural bureaucracy award by a thousand km.

And on the education dollar issue. This is a matter of leveraging high per capita spending on that sector. The overseas students buy the service in a global free market. If their own or other countries can do better they should walk. One thing that does get my goat is the likes of Lee or Mahatir from Singapore and Malaysia respectively who spent so long constantly spitting at us when they benefited from the Colombo plan deeeply subsidised education in Australia.

I feel your criticism on individual issues is largely valid but encourage you to look at the perspective that may uncover some mitigation on each.


I live in the Niagara region and am surrounded by Vineyards, lakes and beaches (freshwater) and excellent golf courses that were designed for American tourists who are now too poor to visit and have been left to the locals to play at discounted rates. Buffalo airport is closer than Toronto's Pearson and is roughly half the price to fly anyplace sunny in the USA when compared to Toronto's overtaxed terminals. In addition to the above mentioned attributes, a house in the heritage district will cost less than a house in Toronto that needs to be razed. The micro-climate allows us to grow bamboo, as well as privet hedges in our yard (I just thought I would throw that out there for all the people concerned about Canadian climate in the rankings). A visit to the Marina allows a view across the lake of the Toronto skyline, and it seems to be just the right distance away...

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1) Aborigines: Today, Aborigines live within a failed state within a state. Their life expectancies and other social indicators are just above sub-Saharan Africa. Thousands of them were forcibly removed from their parents, and their descendants are over-represented in crime, unemployment, alcoholism and drug abuse. As the writer Bill Bryson pointed out, you will not see an Aborigine postman, or grocer, mechanic or policeman.

The journalist Phillip Knightley summed up the Stolen Generations in these terms: "This cannot be over-emphasized—the Australian government literally kidnapped these children from their parents as a matter of policy. White welfare officers, often supported by police, would descend on Aboriginal camps, round up all the children, seperate the ones with light-coloured skin, bundle them into trucks and take them away. If their parents protested they were held at bay by police.

2) Indians: In the words of the Melbourne/Victorian Police Commissioner, 1447 (reported) attacks have occured this last calendar year, up 30% on the year before. Indeed, 30% of attacks happened against this 1% of the population - and the naive police labelled these attacks as opportunistic! It would seem the only time Indians see a Melbourne or Sydney police officer is when they protest. The message is: shut up and take it on the chin. We just want your education dollars. ($2B per annum at the last count) Note: It is worthy to note that the assailants are from many different races - Lebanese, White, African and Asian.

That said, there are many Indians in Australia who have done quite well. On the whole, they are as articulate as any. Their focus on education, and aversion to the dole, has seen them make great strides economically. Not having generational wealth, most Indians of the professional classes reside in the outer suburbs, where public transport is poor and do jobs for which they are vastly overqualified for.

3) Chinese: Australia has traditionally NOT been good for Chinese, and their immigration was severely curtailed till the 1980s. Though the White Australia policy has been disbanded, there are vestiges of Alfred Deakin's sentiment remaning today.

The chief architect of the White Australia policy, Alfred Deakin, believed that the Japanese and Chinese might be a threat to the newly formed federation and it was this belief that led to legislation to ensure they would be kept out: "It is not the bad qualities, but the good qualities of these alien races that make them so dangerous to us. It is their inexhaustible energy, their power of applying themselves to new tasks, their endurance and low standard of living that make them such competitors."

However, in recent times, the Chinese government has used its economic strength to safeguard its interests in Australia quite well. And Australia is toeing the line as its economic livelihood depends ever larger on China.

Like the Indians, the Chinese who are not businessmen also congregate in outer-suburban 'ghettos,' and have long commute times. To use a broad brush, due to their poorer language skills, the Chinese in Australia that arrived in the 1980s were mainly businessmen or well-heeled 'refugees' from Hong Kong and Singapore. As recipients of business visas, their wealth took them into the posh suburbs with the best schools. Their children (who are as articulate as any) swell the ranks of the professional classes. And after the generationally wealthy Anglo-Saxons, these Chinese have the best liveability. Naturally, there is an undercurrent of feeling threatened.

I'm not saying Australia is not a liveable country today - it is better off than most - but a first world country has a higher standard to meet. When regressive issues such as police inaction on racial violence, the debacle that is the public transport system, high taxes, and the vestiges of a 70-year old 'whites only policy' still lingering, though not always overtly expressed for fear of political correctness, Australia is certainly not so liveable for some. For example, you are more likely to get a good job if your name is Alfred Deakin than if you are Albert Namitjira, Alfred Lim, an Ali Rashid or an Anand Das.

Liveability depends a lot on who you are. And isn't that what liveability is? Liveability for all, and not just some. Perhaps an equality of opportunity factor should be added to the rankings. Then it will be a lot more representative than the opportunities for liveability that the latte-sipping residents of Perth's Peppermint Grove, Melbourne's Toorak or Sydney's Point Piper have.

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Americans put up with Canadians' sometimes sanctimonious attitude. Although I felt I may be punched by a cowboy at any moment while in Calgary, I also had the feeling that he would buy me a beer afterward. In Vancouver you could almost feel a lecture coming on, wherever you went (or a drum circle spontaneously forming).

The point of this little diatribe is that the attitude of the locals or, 'corporate culture' if you will, should factor into any city ranking. Is the Economist getting referrals from the local real estate agents?


It all boils down to personal likes and dislikes but I for one agree with the rating that Auckland, New Zealand, received at # 12. Mercer ranks Auckland as the 4th best city to live for quality of life - something that I also agree with. The city ticks most of the boxes for me and when I read the news and see what is happening in other countries and cities I am very grateful to be living in this small but dynamic and cosmopolitan city which finds itself in a remarkably beautiful country.


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I find it hard to believe the Economist ranks Sydney that high. The city has some major issues, for one it’s the hardest hit with the economic down turn, infrastructure problems, escalation in crime,(racist & other) and these are a few issues. I lived there for 12 years and found it to be the most impossible city to live in! people, transport, city council, , convenience getting around, everything is hard ‘yakka’.

I lived in London, JHB and now in US. So I do know what I’m talking about. But then again it is a POM magazine what the hell do they know. They think ‘anyfink’ with a beach and sunshine is paradise mate!


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This is one of the most BS index. I have no doubt that Vancouver is a lovely city (besides its lack of a decent transit system and jobs), but Toronto?

What happen to San Francisco? The northern birds who fly from Canada every year should be good proof that it is more livable than theirs, you can't find many Bay Area people wanting to migrate, if not because of its housing cost.

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Even though Austin (Texas) was not on the list (I assume), it's a great place to live! Small enough to easily commute, a great downtown, great all-year weather, low crime, and low cost of living.

You can have those large, drug infested cities - and I'll keep my medium-sized city any day.


there are details that don't show up in these type of surveys, like someone already wrote how it wouldn't be fun to live in vienna [or geneva] if you're not white. toronto needs a footnote about the very real chances of lunacy from boredom. vancouver is weird as 6 out of 10 people you meet there don't have a job they can legally tell you of. from my experience, melbourne is by far the only gem on the list.

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Even the hockey team is leaving Phoenix!


A year ago, my wife and I spent a couple of weeks in Chile. I absolutely loved the countryside and beaches. I found Santiago to be a very friendly and comfortable place, although it was about as expensive as the US.


Like all lists this one is monumentally flawed and will fuel nationalistic newspaper headlines that will make me gag for weeks. Especially the ones that will appear in that bloody rag, the Calgary Herald.


I suspect that most people only live in cities because they have to for economic considerations. I did live in Vancouver for a few years.The crime is high and getting worse . Air pollution is significant , the yellow haze is visible when flying in and from up the coast.The rainfall is close to 100 inches. Space is limited the Us border to the South , the suburbs have spread 50 miles up the Frazer valley , The mountains are to the north. The congestion is considerable and getting worse, because of the rising population. Many plot on how to leave for the smaller towns in B.C and how to get a living in those. I think now it is too large for a high quality of life. The Economist does seem to have a city fixation , rejoicing in that most of the worlds population now lives in cities and this is good , because it enhances economic growth. I suspect though that the staff live in exquisit cottages and villages, in the home counties and commute on fast trains to London.


Having lived in 4 of the top cities: Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, and Melbourne, I'm surprised how high both Calgary and Melbourne rate despite the horrible transit systems found in both cities. Melbourne's public transit is a joke and consists of trams just like Calgary. The cost of living is much higher in Melbourne than Vancouver and significantly higher than Toronto. The most culturally lacking and boring city in the world - Perth, which does not have a reliable transportation system either, should be excluded as well. Neither of these 3 cities deserves to be in the top 10. What perplexes me is the fact that Barcelona which has excellent standard of living, excellent transit, great weather and plenty of cultural events does not crack top 10.


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Other than scenery, Vancouver is a pretty drab place to for one to find themselves stranded. Jobs are hard to come by, youth join gangs in record numbers, violent crime violent crime (written twice, because it is out of control), most expensive real estate in all of Canada, pretty much every mafia under the Canadian sun, oh and how can we forget, crackheads passed out on the streets, usually in higher numbers the day after the welfare cheques have been administered.

Calgary, Toronto, and Halifax, all top Vancouver in livability in more than one way. Ha! Vancouver, you must be having a laugh!


I live 6 months in Vancouver and 6 months in Sydney. I still don't know why Vancouver ranks first as it is not the same city it was even 5 years ago. Gang killings and police corruption are rampant. Crime is everywhere, maybe not USA bad, but should be enough to drop from #1 spot unless the rest of the world is a cesspool! The home prices are not at all expensive if you're comparing to other world class cities, but as you can tell from the other comments, there are too many socialist low-income earners. The biggest problem with Vancouver is the unfriendly people who think Vancouver is the best, bar none. If you want quality of life you're much better off in Sydney.


I suspect that most people only live in cities because they have to for economic considerations. I did live in Vancouver for a few years.The crime is high and getting worse . Air pollution is significant , the yellow haze is visible when flying in and from up the coast.The rainfall is close to 100 inches. Space is limited the Us border to the South , the suburbs have spread 50 miles up the Frazer valley , The mountains are to the north. The congestion is considerable and getting worse, because of the rising population. Many plot on how to leave for the smaller towns in B.C and how to get a living in those. I think now it is too large for a high quality of life. The Economist does seem to have a city fixation , rejoicing in that most of the worlds population now lives in cities and this is good , because it enhances economic growth. I suspect though that the staff live in exquisit cottages and villages, in the home counties and commute on fast trains to London.

I wonder why Ottawa is not in the list. I lived in both cities for years. Ottawa is far better than Toronto: nicer, cleaner, friendlier, better services and climate-wise it is the same, maybe less stuffy than T.O. You can safely put it above Toronto in the ranking.

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I currently live in Calgary and lived in Vancouver. They also happen to be the most expensive cities in Canada to live in (home prices are highest in Vancouver, followed by Calgary, then Toronto). If you are not wealthy, having the mountains or ski resorts close by have no bearing on you.

Unfortunately these surveys really should be taken with a grain of salt, yet it becomes a 'hard fact'.


Calgary, located at 51 degrees 3 minutes, the northern most Canadian city in your article is south of London located at 51 degrees 30 minutes north. Vancouver is slightly south of Luxembourg and Toronto at 43 degrees 4o minutes is south of Florence.

So much for the Great White North...


Maybe Chicago is ranked higher because in Chicago, one can afford an apartment in a vibrant urban area without making 150,000 USD a year. \]

I live in Toronto & I can tell you our public transit system is great! Everything runs on time, from buses to trams to subway, we do have have cold & long winters but as a city we "rocks" not to forget we are a "polite" bunch!! Come & see yourselves! We have short SPRINGS & SUMMERS, but it's great!! We also drive respecting the others not like in AMERICA (lol)


Bet you wish you hadn't turned your back on the Commonwealth back in the Seventies in order to sign up with the Common Market! The UK has been in freefall ever since, and is only just beginning to see the light. It's never too late though ....


Dear fellow writers, next time you're in Helsinki there's actually plenty of excellent restaurants around, you just have know where to look. Eat.fi is a pretty good resource to start with... in case you really have the patience to walk past your McD.

What comes to living in "tundra"– the coldest winter I've spent is somewhere below Denmark, mainly because sea, rain, bad infrastructure and buildings with lousy insulation/energy-efficiency.

Otherwise I quite like my clean air and the fact I have to commute max 30 minutes a day to get to work and back. And summers with midnight sun just rock, the winter is quite welcome after that.. time to work & enjoy culture and all that. But if life's just a beach, you probably won't get it anyway.


I agree with Justed about the European climate bias--those of us who reside in the sub-tropics and tropics do not consider the tundra to be "liveable." We prefer to sail and surf without dry-suits or even wet suits. And I don't see hordes of pasty-white tourists with glow in the dark complexions annually invading the "liveable" beaches of...Helsinki. Or residents of "liveable" Calgary daydreaming about someday retiring in Toronto. All I know is that yearly about 10% of the Canadian population visits my home state of Florida and drives 10 mph below the speed limit in the fast lane.

Recommend (13)Report abuse Sydney Guy wrote: June 9, 2009 14:09 The rating scale is designed by the Economist:

"Each city is assigned a score for over 30 qualitative and quantitative factors across five broad categories:

stability health care culture and environment education infrastructure"

I think the inherent biases and subjectivity in such rating scales are always going to provoke controversy, which I suspect is part of the aim of surveys like these.

Recommend (9)Report abuse Shadab Khan wrote: June 9, 2009 14:07 What rubbish.

Melbourne has been ranked 3.Just check out any news website to find the appalling number of racial attacks taking place in this city on a daily basis.

Recommend (10)Report abuse Brusselsisrainy wrote: June 9, 2009 14:07 I must agree with apowers7. I think you would need to be in the upper-middle class - at least possessed of a car, or better, with enough money to pay exorbitant prices or rent on real estate close to the CBD - to have a really 'livable' life in Sydney, Vancouver, or Toronto - otherwise it's living in some tiny rat-hole, or with a bunch of roommates, or commuting on poorly planned public transportation for hours in a day - not really conducive to an ideal family life.

Frankly, as a young, working middle-class family, we can get a better quality of life than that here in Brussels. And Brussels is a sh!thole.

Recommend (14)Report abuse weathervain09 wrote: June 9, 2009 14:05 Dear Economist, why is a report dated February news?

Recommend (2)Report abuse Patagon wrote: June 9, 2009 13:39 This rating is rather absurd and pointless, especially the one on the least liveable cities. Is there a coincidence that they are located among the poorest countries in the world? No rocket science needed to figure this out ... Thank you The Economist for this trivia ...

Recommend (6)Report abuse JimLondon wrote: June 9, 2009 13:30 My Zimbabwean colleague assures me Bulawayo is far worse than Harare

Recommend (7)Report abuse thobi wrote: June 9, 2009 13:19 well, is vienna situated in canada or australia now? or could it however be central europe ? ;-)

Recommend (3)Report abuse apowers7 wrote: June 9, 2009 12:48 I saw the full rankings and they donæt seem only to provide quality of living conditions for the rich or upper middle class. for example I have lived in both New York and Chicago and how they rank Chicago above New York is beyond me. Chicago has far worse poverty and crime and living conditions in the Southside are considerably worse than in Harlem. Also another thing is that considering the fact that Norway has the highest standard of living in the world it is surprising that only one city in the list made the top 25.

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