Is It Time To Learn German And Move To The Continent?

Last week I was contacted by a reader who has been living in Vienna, Austria, for a number of years and is “loving it”. Not that I didn’t take him seriously, but, having just read a Business Week article about the World’s Best Places to Live 2008, I wonder if he actually made the right choice, and whether more of us should follow in his footsteps.


According to the survey, the top best city to live is Zurich, Switzerland, which also came at no. 1 in 2007. It is followed by Vienna, Austria, which was no. 3 in 2007. There seems to be an interesting competition here between the two cities, considering that their Mercer indexes stand very close: 108 for Zurich and 107.9 for Vienna. The life expectancy in both cities is over and just below 80 years for Zurich and Vienna, respectively.


The cities are ranked against New York, which rank is taken as 100. The comment from Mercer about the actual life in these cities hints at the inherent difference between nice life and pleasure. Mercer acknowledges that cities with a high quality of life are not necessarily the most exciting. “There are a lot of ‘sleepy’ towns that got high ratings,” said Rebecca Powers, a principal consultant in human capital for the company. “But if you were to judge them on something like nightlife, there are some that probably wouldn’t have rated as high.””

So, the list (which you can view and read in Business Week’s slide show, if you follow the link above) goes, as follows:

1. Zurich, Switzerland
2. Vienna, Austria
3. Geneva, Switzerland
4. Vancouver, Canada
5. Auckland, New Zealand
6. Dusseldorf, Germany
7. Munich, Germany
8. Frankfurt, Germany
9. Bern, Switzerland
10. Sydney, Australia
11. Copenhagen, Denmark
12. Wellington, New Zealand
13. Amsterdam, Netherlands
14. Brussels, Belgium
15. Toronto, Canada
16. Berlin, Germany
17. Melbourne, Australia
18. Luxembourg, Luxembourg
19. Ottawa, Canada
20. Stockholm, Sweden
28. Honolulu, USA

Just a glance over the list will explain why in the title of my blog post I asked, if it may be the time to learn (or to brush) our German and think of exploring the Germanic countries. German is the official language in 7 countries out of the first 10, and, bearing in mind it is one of the world’s most spoken languages, it makes every sense to think of picking it up.


However, the story is different when we look at Business Week’s report on Europe’s Best Cities for Business for 2007. This gives us a further insight into whether it is possible to find all that life can offer in a single city. Zurich comes at no. 13, and the first three places are occupied, respectively, by London, Paris and Frankfurt – of these, only Frankfurt is in the first 10 of Best Cities to Live in 2008. Neither London or Paris were even in the first 20 in 2007.

This makes you think again if the German language course should be on your “to-do” list for the near future.


Still, where business is concerned, I and all of my Mancunian readers, friends and acquaintances, we live in a very promising city. As Business Week notes, “Manchester, which jumped from 21st to 18th place in the rankings, has opened a business center called Spinningfields that boasts 30% to 40% lower property and labor costs than larger agglomerations such as London’s Canary Wharf and Paris’s La Défense. The northern English city is now encircled by fiber optic cables for a “broadband capacity that’s unthinkable in most other places,” says Colin Sinclair, who heads Manchester’s economic development agency”.

“The Bank of New York (BK), Credit Suisse (CS), Yahoo! (YHOO), and Google (GOOG) all have opened new operations in Manchester. And the BBC plans to move more than a quarter of its staff there in 2011 when a new riverfront media center is scheduled to open”.

The last phrase is obviously puzzling, not only because BBC Manchester has for a number of years been a creative hub for all things BBC, but also because the staff have been relocating to Manchester and farther to Salford for a couple of years now.

Last but not least, Moscow, my native city, gives many a promise (although it’s not in the Top 20): “Moscow, another pricey metropolis, attracts business because it’s the hub of a fast-growing market. Of the 500 companies surveyed, 63 had plans to open offices, manufacturing sites, or retail outlets in the Russian capital within the next five years—more than in any other European city”.

Europe’s Best Cities For Business (according to Business Week):

1. London
2. Paris
3. Frankfurt
4. Barcelona
5. Amsterdam
6. Brussels
7. Madrid
8. Berlin
9. Munich
10. Milan
11. Dublin
12. Geneva
13. Zurich
14. Prague
15. Lisbon
16. Dusseldorf
17. Lyon
18. Manchester
19. Warsaw
20. Hamburg

Still, even this list is strongly influenced by the German-speaking countries and cities. I used to study German at the University. The state of my German after nearly 5 years in Manchester has become pretty poor. Nonetheless, I am happy to revise it, if only to make travelling more enjoyable and insightful. Where Russian is concerned, I am able to use it in a variety of ways, not only for creative writing, but also as a translator/interpreter. I guess, if I am to follow the Business Week findings in any way, I should brush my German and move to live on the Continent (to use George Mikes’s euphemism for describing the part of the Europe that isn’t England). But we’ll see. So far I am happy in Manchester.

All images in the post are courtesy of Business Week.


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