Geographies in Depth

This is the country that most Europeans think has the best quality of life

A hot air balloon flies above the city of Geneva April 10, 2011. Thirty balloons took part in the 5th Montgolfiades balloon festival which takes place from April 8 to 10. The balloons took off in various parks in the city center and landed in the nearby countryside.

Citizens from nine European nations have rated living conditions in their home countries and those in neighboring countries on a scale of one to 10. Here are the results. Image: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Marta Cooper
Reporter, Quartz
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Europe had a tumultuous 2015: two terror attacks hit France, Greece’s economy dropped into a deep depression, and a record number of refugees arrived on the continent’s shores. And with the prospect of a British exit from the EU next month, no one’s quite sure what 2016 has in store.

On the back of all this drama, how do Europe’s citizens think of life elsewhere on the continent? A survey (pdf) by a research group based at the University of Geneva asked citizens from nine European nations to rate living conditions in their home country and those in neighboring countries on a scale of one to 10.

 Perception of quality of life
Image: Quartz

Interestingly, the one country that comes out top the most is not even a member of the European Union. Switzerland has long built up a reputation as a tax haven and one of the world’s wealthiest nations (to say nothing of its chocolate, cheese, and mountains). It also has restrictive refugee policies, which came under criticism from the UN last year.

As for Greece, its bankrupt economy has been teetering on the edge of catastrophe since 2010, despite three massive bailouts in five years. The country has the highest unemployment rate in Europe, with a quarter of people out of work. It has also been the biggest victim of the refugee crisis—at its height, hundreds of migrants were arriving on the Greek island of Lesbos daily. (Other Europeans seem to be ignoring the appeal Greece’s beaches and weather, though.)

The survey also found that only about a third of respondents in Greece and Italy believed that their living standards were better than those of their parents, contrasted with a majority of respondents in northern European nations such as Germany, Sweden, and the UK.

When it came to considering whether the economy would improve in the future, the most optimistic nations were the UK and Spain. The most pessimistic? France.

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