Vienna unfriendly? San Francisco a hell-hole?

Robert Pimm
Robert Pimm

Respectable Austrian news service APA has published a report saying, and I quote, “according to employees sent abroad by companies, Vienna is the third-most unfriendly city in the world”.

Could this really be true?  How did they work it out?

I looked at the statistics more closely.  It turned out that the report was based on a survey of expats carried out by the “InterNations” network.  You may have heard of them before: two years ago I examined their “Expat Insider 2017” survey, which also rated Austria as one of unfriendliest countries (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site).

Many Viennese are friendly – here at Zum Schwarzen Kameel

Let’s look at a few more statistics from the 2019 report:

  • the InterNations survey rates Milan and Rome as the second- and third-worst cities on earth for expats – behind Lagos, Jakarta or Moscow.  In fact, of the 82 cities measured, Rome comes 81st, Milan 80th.  Just ahead are Paris (78th) and the awful city of San Francisco, ranked 77th.
  • in fact, US cities score terribly in the survey: New York, LA and San Francisco rank 74th, 76th and 77th of the 82 cities rated worldwide.   This seems hard to square with the fact that the United States is a magnet for immigration from around the world.
  • the survey rates Taipei and Kuala Lumpur as the best and second-best cities on earth for expats, narrowly ahead of Ho Chi Min City – the third best city on earth for expats, apparently, and way better than the best US city (Miami, ranked 27th).
  • InterNations members score Vienna as the 23rd best city on earth for expats, just behind Luxemburg City and Manama (in Bahrain).  Vienna comes in fifth out of 82 on the “quality of urban living” index, dragged down by an odd 31st place in the “safety and politics” measure (crime rates suggest Vienna is one of the safest cities on earth).  Under “getting settled”, Vienna scores a poor 68th place, dragged down by coming 80th out of 82 on “local friendliness“.   Hence the headlines.
  • the figures jump around: Vienna came 8th overall in the InterNations survey in 2016; 28th in 2017; 34th in 2018 (must have been a bad year); before soaring to 23rd in 2019.

What conclusions can we draw from all this?  My post on the 2017 InterNations survey noted that the statistics on which the survey were based were not necessarily representative.  In other words, it is impossible to say whether the views expressed by expats who responded to the survey were typical of expats in those cities.  Indeed, although the survey is said to have “polled more than 20,000 people”, this is less than a half of one per cent of the 3.8 million members InterNations says it has world-wide.  Only fifty people in any given city needed to respond for a city to be included in the survey.

No wonder the figures are odd.

My conclusion?  InterNations may be a wonderful organisation and its survey is a clever way to generate publicity for itself.  But the figures it publishes are not necessarily statistically significant (British understatement – Ed).  If InterNations disagree, or can show why I’m wrong, I shall be delighted to publish their thoughts.

If you are an expat and stay in a hotel from time to time; or if you simply need cheering up, take a look at my book Seven Hotel Stories.  I defy you not to smile!

P.S. If you enjoy fresh, original writing, please sign up for my weekly newsletter (you can unsubscribe anytime you wish).  Or I would be delighted if you would like to friend me on Facebook.

P.P.S. Look at this link for some real, hard statistics which show that the world is a much better place than you might think.

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