France is world’s best place to live, U.S. drops to #7

France is world’s best place to live, U.S. drops to #7

Ernest Hemingway did it. So did Julia Child and patriots like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

Humorist David Sedaris is doing it now, as are Johnny Depp, and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, along with their six children.

These famous Americans all found the “good life” in France. And, it seems, so are many other less-famous Americans, including retirees and families.

Nearly a decade ago, Elizabeth Bonner moved to France with her husband and children. She’s never looked back, and the family has now renovated two historic chateaus in the French countryside.

“It has turned out to be a glorious undertaking,” Bonner says. “We sit on our veranda on mild nights and are amazed by the brilliance of the stars. And we find ourselves continually amused, enriched, and surprised by the experience of French life.”

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The “bon vivant” that France offers has led to its # 1 ranking as the best place in the world to live. That’s according to International Living magazine (www.internationalliving.com), which has been analyzing data and publishing its annual Quality of Life Index for 30 years now.

For the fifth year running, says publisher Jackie Flynn, France has again earned the top spot as the best place in the world to live.

“In France, life is savored,” says Flynn. “I don’t think anyone will argue that France is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, where there is so much pride in all the small details. The French love little window boxes filled with flowers, tidy gardens, pretty sidewalk cafes, and clean streets. Cities are well tended and with little crime.”

This year once again, says Flynn, all the number-crunching, rating, and ranking landed France at the top of the Index. France scores high marks across the board, from health care (100 points) to infrastructure (92 points) to its safety rating (100 points). But the main appeal of living in France, she says, is arguably its overall lifestyle. (It scores 81 points in the Culture and Leisure category.)

And despite high scores in nearly every category, France remains an affordable place to live, including for retirees on a budget. Flynn says that although Paris offers the best of everything, services don’t fall away in Alsace’s wine villages, in wild and lovely Corsica, and in other provinces like lavender-scented Provence or seaside Languedoc.

And in fact, she says, provincial French properties are often quite affordable and lifestyles are less expensive than Paris. “The Southwestern Midi-Pyrenees region is a particularly good hunting ground for village homes for less than $100,000 and classic three-course lunches for $14.”

Following France in the number one spot are Australia (#2), Switzerland (#3), Germany (#4), New Zealand (#5), Luxembourg (#6), the U.S. (#7), Belgium (#8), Canada (#9), and Italy (#10).

“It’s evident from our compilation that the British Commonwealth countries of Australia, New Zealand and Canada are doing very well, and despite the bumps in the road have managed dependable economic performance,” Flynn says. “Australia moved from fifth place last year into second place this year, largely thanks to its remarkable economic recovery. It’s already officially out of recession.”

Overall though, European countries slipped a little in International Living’s rankings this year, Flynn says, with the exceptions of France and Germany.

“Germany is taking giant strides toward economic recovery. And as for France, it ranks well in every category. It has a stable economy, top-notch health care, and an overall wonderful quality of life. No one can dispute its dominance in cultural offerings.”

Why did the U.S. fall from its rank at number three last year to number seven this year?

“Although the U.S. remains in the top 10,” says Flynn, “We can’t ignore the state of its economy. In this category, the U.S. scored 67 points in 2010 up from 57 last year but it’s still mired in recession, and in sector after sector the cost of sustaining the ‘American Dream’ has escalated out of the reach of many. The U.S. remains an excellent place to live, especially in terms of convenience, but it’s generally more expensive to live there now than it has been in years past.”

In 2010, Flynn says International Living will continue to focus on several countries, where you can achieve both a high standard and a low cost of living. In addition to France and Italy (#s 1 and 10 on the Quality of Life Index), these countries include Ecuador (#39); Panama (#34); Uruguay (#19); Belize (#63) Costa Rica (#33) and Mexico (#46).

To compile the Quality of Life Index, says Flynn, International Living editors compare almost 200 countries in nine categories: Cost of Living, Culture and Leisure, Economy, Environment, Freedom, Health, Infrastructure, Safety and Risk, and Climate. Data from government sources and resources like the World Health Organization and The Economist, are analyzed, and information is gathered from International Living’s many editors and correspondents around the world.

To see the complete scores for every country in every category, go to: www.internationalliving.com/qofl-data