Thursday, October 06, 2005

Montreal = Paris = Tokyo. Yay!!

According to The Economist Intelligence Unit, Vancouver is the best place in the world to live. Calgary and Toronto are in a six-way tie for fifth place with Zurich and three Australian cities. Montreal is in a four-way tie for 16th place with Paris, Hamburg and Tokyo.

No U.S. city is in the top 25.

Before I pop the champagne (I live in Montreal), I have to remind myself that this ranking is based on some very specific standards. Says the Unit:«With low crime, little threat from instability or terrorism and a highly developed infrastructure, Canada has the most livable destinations in the world... In the current global political climate, it is no surprise that the most desirable destinations are those with a lower perceived threat of terrorism».

This type of classification reminds me of the methodology used by UN agencies to calculate the perdiem rate for their experts on mission, which is based on the cost of items such as a bottle of coke or a hamburger. I'm not saying that their analysis or their calculation is technically wrong, but the measure of a good place to live is a bit like IQ tests, in the sense that there are no intrinsic, universal values for happiness. Each individual has his or her own priorities. When I started to think about my values, I realize that what I thought was most important to me: my children, my dog, my books, would still not make me happy unless I have my freedom. For me to live in Vietnam, for example, would mean putting up with a lot of petty regulations and interdictions, loss of privacy, traditional social pressures, etc. while for most male members of the Vietnamese diaspora, there is no higher dream than to go back to Vietnam and live like a king, since their non-resident «ngoai kiêu» status and their access to US or Canadian dollars would make them irresistible to the local young, pretty and desperate gold-diggers.

The two toughest cities in the world are Algiers and Port Moresby, both of them places "where many aspects of daily life present challenges," the study says. Among the challenges: high crime rates, corruption, instability, low availability of entertainment, goods or services and a dilapidated infrastructure.

Come to think of it, I'll open that bottle of champagne, after all.


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