23rd Jul 2021


Where would you live in Europe?

  • Where is home? (Photo: EUobserver)

If you could live anywhere in Europe, where would it be?

Latest OECD migration figures show Germany rose to become the top migration destination after the United States in 2013, as recently reported by EUobserver.

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Germany recorded a double-digit increase - its fourth annual rise. Numbers migrating to Italy, Portugal, Spain and the US fell.

But responses to the ING International Survey on Homes and Mortgages 2014 suggests the answer to where people want to live in Europe may also depend on stage of life.

Germany was popular when respondents focussed on work, however, Sweden came out top for raising children and Spain for retirement in the survey of almost 13,000 people in 13 countries in Europe.

Some headlines on migration paint an extreme picture. Readers could be forgiven if they conjured mental images of great swathes of new arrivals turning up at boarders en masse.

However, the reality illustrated in our study is that the majority of respondents gave their home country as their ideal place to live – for work, for raising children as well as for retiring.

Likewise, market researchers Gallup last year calculated that about 13 percent of the world’s adults would like to leave their country and move somewhere else permanently, meaning – of course – that 87 percent did not want to do this.

Love thy neighbour

Our findings show the French pick the UK as the top country – other than France – to make a career. Austrians and Germans have a particular affection for Switzerland as a place to work, retire and, among Austrians, raise children.

It seems many people don’t simply love their neighbours, living “next door” also appeals. For Austrians and Germans, the language barrier in Switzerland is likely to be low.

Ways of life may also be familiar and that can appeal as well. Add to that the ease of travel home to visit friends and family (which researchers say has a large influence in determining happiness) and neighbouring countries look even more attractive.

In Turkey and Spain, however, next door neighbours are not as enticing as Germany, a country whose economic heft has been central to the region’s recovery from the global financial crisis and the most important destination for migrants in Europe by the OECD measure.

The OECD study finds that tertiary educated immigrants are less likely to be in work than their native born counterparts. And when employed, they are 50 percent more likely to be overqualified for their jobs.

These cold facts can be important to consider when weighing up whether to relocate. People are often struck by a confirmation bias thinking trap in which they tend to look for evidence that supports the decision they want to make.

Human nature can lead people who want to move to look for evidence that supports the choice (rather than more objective evidence or views that counter the choice).

If the choice being made is where to go for dinner or on holiday, the implications may not be of much consequence.

But if looking to make a much bigger choice, such relocating to live elsewhere, it is worth testing if visions of joining Frankfurt’s sharply tailored business set or the creative hub in Berlin will really come true.

Martha McKenzie-Minifie is Editor of International Consumer Economics, ING


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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