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Has the quality of life really tumbled in Paris?

Paris has seen an big drop in the new quality of life global cities index and it's all due to the 2015 terror attacks. But is that really fair?

Has the quality of life really tumbled in Paris?
Enjoying the sun at the Buttes Chaumont park in north eastern Paris. Photo: AFP
Tuesday saw the publication of the latest world city rankings for quality of life for expats – and unfortunately for those in Paris, the French capital is a long way from the top.
 
In fact, it dropped ten places to 37th – the biggest fall in this year’s rankings. 
 
The study looked at life for expats abroad over a host of 39 factors including the medical help on offer, education opportunities, and recreational options (such as theatres, restaurants, and cinemas)
 
Paris (and indeed France) is famously good for most of the above, and Mercer said that the city scored well across the board in almost every category.
 
“The Quality of Living in Paris remains very high with a very good rating for most criteria,” Mercer spokesperson Mags Andersen told The Local. 
 
“Choice of a wide selection of international and private schools, excellent consumer goods facilities and variety of recreational and entertainment facilities. However, as for London, Paris still has lower scores for traffic congestion and air pollution.”
 
But what let Paris down was the safety. Indeed, the consultancy said that the ten-place drop was “essentially due” to the terror attacks in 2015. 
 
“However, it is important to highlight that safety issues are a very highly weighted factor within the 'basket' so any small adjustments can have a big impact on the ranking,” Mercer said.  
 
Photo: AFP
 
Paris was shaken to the core by the two major terror attacks from 2015, which saw 17 people killed in January and 130 in November. 
 
Indeed, the entire country remains under a state of emergency and tourist figures have taken a hit.
 
But the vast majority of Parisians will testify that life goes on more or less as normal.
 
Almost anyone in Paris will tell you that the only change to things like education and recreation is that you may get your bag checked before you enter the building. 
 
At most, you might have to line up a little longer to gain access to somewhere that has beefed up its security, like a museum or a concert. But few would say that the quality of life for an expat has really plummeted. 
 
In any case, it wasn't only bad news. Tuesday's study saw Paris outrank London and Barcelona (equal 39th), as well as New York and Tokyo (equal 44th).
 
Lyon in central France also performed well, finishing just behind Paris in 38th place (and if you're thinking about leaving Paris for Lyon, here are seven reasons why you're onto something good).
 


(A restaurant in Lyon. Photo: David Basanta/Flickr)
 
France could also boast that the cities of Pointe-A-Pitre and Port Louis in its overseas territories of Guadeloupe and Mauritius came in at 72nd and 83rd. 
 
Out of 230 cities worldwide, it was the Austrian capital Vienna that topped the table, followed by Zurich in Switzerland and then Auckland in New Zealand.
 
Seven of the top ten cities were in Europe, with Germany snagging fourth, sixth, and seventh places with Munich, Dusseldorf, and Frankfurt respectively. Australia's Sydney rounded out the top ten. 
 
Management consultants Mercer conducts its Quality of Living study annually to help multinational companies and other employers decide on how much to pay employees posted abroad.
 
The survey looked at dozens of different factors of life in a city grouped into categories such as crime levels, performance of local law enforcement, and the home country’s relationship with other countries. 

READER INSIGHTS

‘Painful’ – is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Following a survey that said Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was the best in Europe, we asked Local readers what they thought...

'Painful' - is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Recently, Paris Charles de Gaulle was voted the best airport in Europe by passengers.

The 2022 World Airport Awards, based on customer satisfaction surveys between September 2021 and May 2022, listed the best airport on the planet as Doha, while Paris’s main airport came in at number 6 – the highest entry for a European airport – one place above Munich. 

READ ALSO Paris Charles de Gaulle voted best airport in Europe by passengers

Given CDG’s long-standing reputation doesn’t quite match what the World Airport Awards survey said – in 2009 it was rated the second-worst airport in the world, while in 2011 US site CNN judged it “the most hated airport in the world” – we wondered how accurate the survey could be.

So we asked readers of The Local for their opinion on their experience of Europe’s ‘best’ airport. 

Contrary to the World Airport Awards study, users erred towards the negative about the airport. A total 30.8 percent of Local readers – who had travelled through the airport in recent months – thought it was ‘terrible’, while another 33.3 percent agreed that it was ‘not great’ and had ‘some problems’.

But in total 12.8 percent of those who responded to our survey thought the airport was ‘brilliant’, and another 23.1 percent thought it ‘fine’, with ‘no major problems’.

So what are the problems with it?

Signage 

One respondent asked a simple – and obvious – question: “Why are there so many terminal twos?”

Barney Lehrer added: “They should change the terminal number system.”

In fact, signage and directions – not to mention the sheer size of the place – were common complaints, as were onward travel options. 

Christine Charaudeau told us: “The signage is terrible. I’ve often followed signs that led to nowhere. Thankfully, I speak French and am familiar with the airport but for first time travellers … yikes!”

Edwin Walley added that it was, “impossible to get from point A to point B,”  as he described the logistics at the airport as the “worst in the world”.

And James Patterson had a piece of advice taken from another airport. “The signage could be better – they could take a cue from Heathrow in that regard.”

Anthony Schofield said: “Arriving by car/taxi is painful due to congestion and the walk from the skytrain to baggage claim seems interminable.”

Border control

Border control, too, was a cause for complaint. “The wait at the frontière is shameful,” Linda, who preferred to use just her first name, told us. “I waited one and a half hours standing, with a lot of old people.”

Sharon Dubble agreed. She wrote: “The wait time to navigate passport control and customs is abysmal!”

Deborah Mur, too, bemoaned the issue of, “the long, long wait to pass border control in Terminal E, especially at 6am after an overnight flight.”

Beth Van Hulst, meanwhile, pulled no punches with her estimation of border staff and the airport in general. “[It] takes forever to go through immigration, and staff deserve their grumpy reputation. Also, queuing is very unclear and people get blocked because the airport layout is not well designed.”

Jeff VanderWolk highlighted the, “inadequate staffing of immigration counters and security checkpoints”, while Karel Prinsloo had no time for the brusque attitudes among security and border personnel. “Officers at customs are so rude. I once confronted the commander about their terrible behaviour.  His response said it all: ‘We are not here to be nice’. Also the security personnel.”

Connections

One of the most-complained-about aspects is one that is not actually within the airport’s control – public transport connections.  

Mahesh Chaturvedula was just one of those to wonder about integrated travel systems in France, noting problems with the reliability of onward RER rail services, and access to the RER network from the terminal.

The airport is connected to the city via RER B, one of the capital’s notoriously slow and crowded suburban trains. Although there are plans to create a new high-speed service to the airport, this now won’t begin until after the 2024 Olympics.

Sekhar also called for, “more frequent trains from SNCF to different cities across France with respect to the international flight schedules.”

The good news

But it wasn’t all bad news for the airport, 35 percent of survey respondents said the airport had more positives than negatives, while a Twitter poll of local readers came out in favour of Charles de Gaulle.

Conceding that the airport is “too spread out”, Jim Lockard said it, “generally operates well; [and has] decent amenities for food and shopping”.

Declan Murphy was one of a number of respondents to praise the, “good services and hotels in terminals”, while Dean Millar – who last passed through Charles de Gaulle in October – said the, “signage is very good. [It is] easy to find my way around”.

He added: “Considering the size (very large) [of the airport] it is very well done.  So no complaints at all.”

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