World’s Safest Cities for Expats Revealed


When moving abroad, you definitely shouldn’t neglect the practical aspects amongst the general excitement — living expenses, housing, healthcare, and especially personal safety. In a 2014 study, over six in ten expats (62%) rated their safety as an “extremely important” factor of life abroad. No other aspect of everyday life in their destination was as essential.InterNations Expat Blog_The Safest Places for Expats_Pic 4

Thus, it’s hardly surprising that Mercer, the international HR consulting firm, has now published a Personal Safety ranking, in addition to their annual Quality of Living survey, for the first time. Just as unsurprising are the five global cities with the best quality of life worldwide. All of them have defended their exact rank for several years in a row: Vienna (1 out of 230), Zurich (2), Auckland (3), Munich (4), and Vancouver (5).

Are these most livable cities also the five safest expat destinations? Not quite. There’s indeed an overlap between the respective “winners”, but they are by no means identical.

All Snug and Safe — Luxembourg

Squeezed into a strategic location between Belgium, France, and Germany, the tiny country owes its very existence to its medieval origins as the strongest fortress in Europe. However, the last time the world’s safest expat destination saw any large-scale violence was over 70 years ago, during World War II.

Sunny view of Abbey de Neumunster in LuxembourgWhile military history buffs can find out all about the Ardennes Counteroffensive at the “Battle of the Bulge” museum in Diekirch, the world’s last Grand Duchy is now completely peaceful. Its constitutional sovereign, Grand Duke Henri, is the nominal commander-in-chief of around 800 troops, who sometimes serve in UN or NATO missions abroad.

But as far as crime is concerned, being a police officer in Luxembourg must be a less-than-stressful job: the biggest warnings issued by travel guides refer to panhandling in Luxembourg City and luggage theft on the train to and from Brussels. Let’s toast this with a Mirabelle plum schnapps!

A Swiss Tie on Second Place — Berne and Zurich

Switzerland seems to live up to its cultural stereotype of housing an extremely orderly and well-organized people. Both Berne, the capital city, and Zurich, its most populous metropolis, fulfill the criteria for the second-safest expat destination across the globe.

Less than 25 years ago, Zurich used to be infamous for its out-of-control drug scene, where a couple of thousand heroin and coke addicts would gather in Platzspitz Park and along the River Limmat. Doctors and paramedics would sometimes need to resuscitate 25 people per day. Swiss Flag on Berne StreetFortunately, that’s a thing of the past: the restored Platzspitz has become a family-friendly park, and the river quays harbor swimming pools, beach volleyball courts, and café-restaurants.

Considering Zurich’s population size (405,000 residents in the city proper), as compared to picturesque Berne’s (140,000), the crime rate is about equally low in both cities. Statistics register the highest absolute numbers in property crime, such as vandalism, pickpocketing, or purse-snatching. In 2014, the Zurich police received nearly 4,000 reports concerning vehicle theft — but 98% of cases involved stolen bicycles.

Expats in Switzerland mostly run the risk of fainting on the spot when they realize just how much everything costs. If I had to pay 42 CHF (42 USD) for one plate of Zürcher Geschnetzeltes (veal strips in cream sauce), I’d probably choke on my grated potatoes!


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