“When will you move home?” is a frequent question to, as well as among expats. Since both my wife and I are native Swedes, there is a strong expectation that we will eventually go back again. Maybe we will, but that is not our plan.
And why would we? According to a recent survey, the area where we live offers the best quality of life to foreign professionals. For the tenth year in a row, Barcelona comes out on top, followed by Geneva and, third, Madrid.
There is a negative side to the same survey. Due to the appreciation of the Euro and the real estate price spiral, Barcelona has seen a fast increase in the cost of living. It is now the 31st most expensive business city of the world (Moscow is number one, followed by London, Seoul, Tokyo and Hong Kong) but was ranked number 56 as late as in 2006. To make matters worse, salary levels here are among the lowest in Western Europe. A small consolation for us is that Madrid is even worse off – the cost of living is higher than in Barcelona while the salary level ranks one position lower than that of the Catalan capital.
I interpret the survey as a proof that quality of life is not about money. At least our family can make do with less here in Spain. We do not feel the same pressure to wear new clothes, make fancy journeys or drive a BMW as we experience when we visit Sweden. The explanation probably lies in the high exposure to sunshine. Hopefully, it makes us happier and therefore less materialistic, but, who knows, maybe we have only become lazier.