“I spent a weekend here last spring,” a newbie expat told me, “and I loved Seville so much that I just flew right home to San Francisco, sold everything, and moved here!” Six months later, deeply disappointed that Seville didn’t match her glorious, sun-drenched, wine-soaked memories, she was gone.
The antidote to Syndrome de Paris is, of course, doing some less-superficial research before dashing off to foreign lands. The process of discovery is enlightening when planning your vacation and essential when considering a move abroad. One rich resource of information is the just-released survey, Expat Insider 2014, sponsored by the expat club InterNations. Nearly 14,000 respondents from more than 160 countries described how their new homes measure for overall quality of life, weighing such factors as career opportunities, family life, romantic possibilities, personal finances, and what kind of reception you’re likely to receive from the locals. If you’re looking for the best quality of life (and who isn’t?) here are their top ten countries.
This is a mild version of something that’s become known as Paris syndrome. First diagnosed in 1986, this condition most famously strikes Japanese travelers who become prostrate with shock upon discovering that the City of Lights has a darker side.
“Watching movies set in Paris leaves one with an image of the city that is quaint, friendly, affluent, and likely still in black-and-white,” wrote the Atlantic. “We imagine the whole city just smells like Chanel No. 5 and has a government-mandated mime on every corner. And nowhere is this narrow view of Paris more prevalent than in Japan, where the media portrays the city as one filled with thin, gorgeous, unbelievably rich citizens. The three stops of a Parisian's day, according to the Japanese media, are a cafe, the Eiffel Tower, and Louis Vuitton.” The shock of discovering the real Paris – a fabulous city, but one with plenty of rough edges – has sent some Japanese tourists into such a psychological and physical tailspin that they required hospitalization and some serious hand-holding by members their embassy.
Interestingly, the three most popular expat destinations weren’t among those quality-of-life leaders.
That’s right, the top favorite turned out to be – who would have guessed? – Ecuador! The high personal happiness ranking and tremendous affordability made foreigners living there decide they could let a few of the other quality-of-life indicators slide. Luxembourg stood out as a great place to advance your career but not your social life. Mexico provided a warm welcome and comfortable lifestyle; although career opportunities were more modest, many expats said they hoped to live there forever.
Clearly, no one destination is right for everybody, and you’ll want to decide what matters most to you before taking the plunge. And what about the places you’ll want to avoid?
2. Saudi Arabia
If your boss is talking about sending you to one of those three countries, you’ll want to negotiate a much higher bonus and do plenty of research about what to expect. You don’t want to be the one to launch an epidemic of Athens Disease or Kuwait City Syndrome.
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I'm an American travel writer based in Spain and currently living in California.
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