I love living in Washington, DC and I definitely love being an American and that’s why I never thought other countries would appeal to be on a more long-term basis. I’m not moving anytime soon, but if I had too these are the places where I’d most like to live.
1. Paris – My first true travel love, it’s a city I never get tired of visiting. The first time I left on an international adventure was when I was 17 and spent a month in the City of Lights. Ever since that amazing summer of my youth, the city has held a sentimental place in my heart. More than just nostalgia though, I’ve returned many times and have come to appreciate the city on its own merits. Paris has a certain spirit, a unique feel that I haven’t found anywhere else in the world. I realize that this is probably unique to me, but on some base level it strikes every chord with me. I love nothing more than walking along the streets, soaking up the sights and sounds of the city and letting the Paris-ness of it overtake me. One of my favorite experiences is to pick up some fresh bread, cheese, meat and wine for an impromptu picnic in any of the fabulous parks around town. If I could live anywhere in the city, it would either be in Saint Germain or the Marais, two classically Parisian neighborhoods that preserve the look and feel of an older city with all the conveniences of modern life.
2. Melbourne – During my trip to Australia I was generally underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great country and I had the trip of a lifetime, but in general I just didn’t connect until the last city on the trip, Melbourne. I expected it to be sort of like Sydney I guess, but I soon realized my error. Melbourne reminded me more of a city in Europe than anywhere else in Australia, thanks in large part to its architecture. At one point Melbourne was the richest city in the world following a gold rush and the turn of the century buildings and design reflect this gilded age. What makes Melbourne different is the unique personality stamped everywhere, from the lanes and alleyways to the many, unique neighborhoods. The atmosphere felt artier, more intellectual than Sydney and something clicked right away. One thing I liked in particular was how easy it is to escape the downtown core for more pastoral views. You can drive down the Great Ocean Road, or even take the tram to nearby St. Kilda for killer sunsets. I didn’t spend enough time in Melbourne to figure out which neighborhood would best match my personality, but I think I could be happy just about anywhere in this great antipodean metropolis.
3. Cape Town – I’m always hesitant to include cities where I’ve recently visited in ‘Best of’ lists, mostly because I’m easily influenced and I like to see how I feel about destinations after some time has passed. But Cape Town is different and I’m confident my newfound love for this great city by the sea won’t change over time. I once read somewhere that if you expect to find Africa, then don’t come to Cape Town. It’s an interesting statement and isn’t meant to diminish the allure of the rest of the continent, but it is true. Walking along Long Street in Cape Town I could’ve been in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, but certainly not Africa. Actually the city most reminded me of Seattle or Melbourne, not only for the sea views but also for the laid back, artistic vibe. The scenery can’t be ignored though. Whether it’s the omnipresent Table Mountain or stunning sea views from Camps Bay, this city has an overabundance of beauty. It also seemed to me that the quality of life was generally very high with lots to do, see and experience. If I could live anywhere in Cape Town I’d choose the ritzy Camps Bay area, but I may have to be more realistic should I ever actually move there.
4. Vancouver – I knew I’d love Vancouver long before visiting. For some reason, the Pacific Northwest has always appealed to me, including Portland, Seattle and of course Vancouver. In rereading this post I’m starting to notice a general theme, well except for Paris. Laid back cities near the water appeal to me, and Vancouver is one of the best. It’s hard not to fall in love as you stand looking at the harbor as seaplanes land and take off at regular intervals and the fog encircling the nearby mountain peaks. More than just a pretty face, Vancouver is clean, comfortable and easy to admire. It’s like that cool uncle you love to hang out with. The weather is also a selling point because although the famous ski runs of Whistler aren’t far away, Vancouver benefits from the same great weather of other Pacific Northwest cities. That also includes rain, which is a common occurrence in Vancouver but also creates one of the greenest cities I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure where I’d live in Vancouver, but I’m worried that thanks to its over abundance of popularity the cost of living may be a bit out of reach.
5. Anywhere in New Zealand – Ahh New Zealand, how I love thee. My one and only trip to the land of the hobbits may not have lasted long, but it was enough to instill in me a deep and unabiding love of the Land of the Long White Cloud. The star of the show is of course the rich natural diversity found everyone on the islands. From glaciers to rainforests and green rolling hills, this place has it all. The people are also mostly fantastic; similar to Australians but not as extreme in their personalities. The problem is that except for Christchurch, I didn’t spend much time in the cities of New Zealand, where I’d almost have to live if I wanted to call it home. From the very little I saw of Auckland and Wellington, my gut tells me that Wellington is more my style. Like many of the other cities on this list it’s on the water and the proximity to the mountains makes it visually stunning. I guess I’ll just have to visit again to figure out the best city and neighborhood for me; a chore I’m willing to accept.
These are some of the places I would consider living around the world – what are yours?
37 thoughts on “Five Cities Where I Could Be An Expat”
I’d have Kuala Lumpur quite high up on my list – There is such a mix of cultures but the city still seems familiar to a European. I spent four days there and thoroughly enjoyed exploring the city and meeting the people living there. It would just be a case of getting used to the humidity!!
I love visiting Paris, but I don’t think I could live there. A few of my friends have, and they all hated it. The experience of moving there is incredibly complicated – this is France, we wouldn’t expect anything else – and kind of dampens the experience of being an expat in Paris. It really is not about getting a fresh baguette every morning or strolling along the Seine. From what I’ve seen and heard, daily life in Paris is very hard!
I would definitely pick Vancouver. I could never leave Canada :)
Wow, great choices. I wholeheartedly agree about Vancouver. We visited there this past summer and just fell in love with the whole area. Very friendly people, too. I actually preferred Victoria – smaller city, more my style – but both cities really grabbed me. My current choice for where I want to be an ex-pat is Freiburg, Germany. Such a charming town in the warmest part of Germany. University in the heart of the city, lots of great restaurants, excellent farmer’s market, cool cathedral, and close to excellent wine areas of both Germany and France. The Black Forest is nearby and offers many recreational opportunities. Freiburg’s rhythm and pace really matched mine and completely stole my heart. Happy Travels!
Vancouver is also high on my list. I also really love London, Ontario which is a quaint little city. It helps that I have a lot of family up in that part of Canada.
Paris is wonderful to visit, but I don’t think I could live there. I tried back in 2002. Finding an apartment was a nightmare. I went so far as to secure a rent guarantee from a local bank, and even that opened few doors. I eventually gave up and decided to study in Montpellier instead. I’d live there again in a heartbeat. Less congestion, lower rents, better food, better wine, better weather, and fifteen minutes from sandy beaches.
We just returned from 2 weeks in Iceland and absolutely loved it. I thought I couldn’t live anywhere colder than Palm Springs, CA but we’re seriously considering spending our summers in Akureyri. It’s that beautiful!
Great Choice on Melbourne! I’m originally from Canada, currently living in Bangkok, but I did spend about a year in Melbourne and cried when my visa was up. I think though that Luang Prabang would need to be on my list.
Very interesting selection! My list would be Paris, Barcelona, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Moorea
Ugh, never been to Moorea but I REALLY want to! :)
I think you would really like Napier in NZ, and Dunedin. If your into architecture those two cities I reckon are the best for it. Napier is very art deco because it was destroyed like Chch by an earthquake and got rebuilt during that period. Dunedin is one of the oldest cities and the churches and university buildings are stunning.
As I was going through these I thought, “WHAT? No New Zealand?” Then I got to number five. Nice list and a good idea for a post, Matt.
Oh you know me too well :)
Nice suggestions. I posted something similar a few months ago because I am planning to move abroad again but have a hard time choosing where. I’ve always wanted to live in Florence but I think the logistics would be too hard. Maybe Amsterdam or somewhere in Spain.
Fab post. As soon as I arrived in New Zealand I thought “I could live here”. I visited Auckland, Rotorua, Wellington and Christchurch. Wellington is definitely my favourite. Its a stunning city but small so feels like a town really. Loved it. Then I arrived in Melbourne and fell in love. I lived in the city centre for 5 months and would go back in a heartbeat. There are so many places around the world to live I can’t imagine living in one place forever.
Its fun to think like that! Where would I go??? Munich, Innsbruck, somewhere near Wiesbaden Germany and maybe a small village in Provence or the Dordogne.
I’ve started my own list like this, though I know I need to travel a lot more in order to make a decision!
My list so far includes: Wellington, Ljubljana, Budapest, and London.
It’s romantic to think of cities we’d like to live in but a lot of the times the dream is crushed after the honeymoon period. I thought living in Vancouver would be great but it’s not all mountains and ocean.
I nodded in agreement at every selection on your list, but I’d add either Zurich or “Anywhere in Switzerland.” I love the scenic beauty, the orderliness, the reliability, the outdoor activites, the Continental culture, the, the multilingual aspect to a small country and its ethical people. I enjoy the enrgy when I visit developing countries, but I like the place where I live to function — and Switzerland does that better than anyplace else I have been.
It is amazing!
Interesting selection. Do you have any experience of obtaining visas for these countries? I would include Buenos Aires in my list; European influenced but still very much a South American capital, excellent climate, great food and nightlife, and also lenient towards long-term tourists.
Your comments regarding Paris could not be more in sync with my sentiments towards the spectacular city – down to your favorite arrondissements. Marais is by far my favorite area. Gays, Jews, and the most scrumptious falafel I’ve ever had, what is there not to love?!
It’s a magical place : )
As a Maryland alum (go Terps!) who now lives on the South Island of NZ, I’ll vouch unreservedly for the joys of living here – the mix of mountains, sea and rural lands is amazing, as are the Kiwis. Even though we are the most isolated country on the globe, most New Zealanders hold passports and don’t hesitate to travel around the planet, but most of them are happy to return home to raise families and enjoy the pace of life here.
We are going to take a year in Paris (via a house exchange) to expose our 11 y/o daughter to Europe and she is likely to go to university in Australia, but NZ is home for us now.
Hey, Maryland resident here too :) That’s so great you’ve been able to start a new life in NZ and might I say I’m jealous? :)
There is life beyond the Beltway! (You obviously already know that).
After 15 years in Boulder, CO we felt that the next move was going to have be really special to warrant the pain of packing etc, so anything less than NZ wasn’t going to pass muster ;-) Our 4th anniversary here just passed so I think we are committed.
Your appetite for travel around the globe is great – I wish I was that brave!
Oh I don’t know, I think pulling up stake and leaving everything and everyone you know is a whole lot braver than traveling for a couple of weeks at a time. Regardless, this has made me want to return to NZ ASAP. LOL
I love all of those places but call NZ home. If you want to be an expat in NZ – check out this place. https://youtube.com/watch?v=k6TjjNjeJME
or http://www.taranaki.info/visit. Lots of great jobs for skilled people!
I’m currently an expat in Italy. And I think about where I might want to be an expat next, but honestly have no idea! I love Iceland but its just too expensive. I would also love to live in Longyearbyen for a year and maybe somewhere in South America for a while.
We’re so glad Cape Town made the list! I honestly think it’s the best city in Africa but its quite likely that I’m biased since I live here ;)
An interesting choice of cities Matt. I think this article really drives home the point that there is no one city or country that’s “the best in the world”. We are all different, and all feel the pull of different places for reasons personal to us, and often for reasons that we cannot explain.
Having lived in London for 3 years, I fell in love with the city and could easily have spent my whole life there if it wasn’t for circumstances drawing me back to Australia. Saying that, when I knew that I had to move back to Australia, Melbourne was the only choice for me. What you say about the city is very true – it’s got something special about it.
Other cities that I could see myself living in on a more permenant basis would have to be NYC, Singapore and possibly Madrid.
Interesting choices and all so different from each other!
Paris would be my dead-last choice. Buenos Aires is my No. 1 and, no, it’s not the “Paris of the South.” “New York of the South” is far closer to the truth, or perhaps New York is the “Buenos Aires of the North.”
I’m with you on anywhere in New Zealand! Kiwis are special people. Another favorite place is the Netherlands, especially Amsterdam.
San Francisco, Leh, Vancouver, Dubai, Singapore for me
I love this post, such an original idea :)
Where would I live? Hmmm. Definitely Paris, and possibly Barcelona, San Diego or New York. Although I wouldn’t mind turning down a French Cote d’Azur villa either.
I thought I could live in Paris but after moving to a city near there, Tours, I don’t actually believe I could ever be an expat in France… the French bureaucracy is notorious and I just got fed up with it really quickly. It was an awesome experience, but my frustration with the French way of life has me thinking I could never actually live in France again. It’s great to visit, but not to live. One city I would love to live in is Amsterdam… I never expected to like it as much as I did, but I found it had so much more than the coffee shops and the red light district.
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