Mercer Quality Of Life Survey: Why It’s Complete BS To Most Expats


Last week, American HR consultants Mercer published their annual quality of life survey. And we think it’s bulls**t.

The 2018 Mercer Quality Of Living Survey takes into account a whole range of factors which they evaluate to come up with the best cities in the world for quality of life.

Now, while this is all well and good for how Mercer earns its money. Their business is advising corporate clients on what to compensate their employees when they are sent on expat assignments. But what is important to an executive level employee on an expat assignment is going to be less relevant for the expat life experienced by the average foreigner living abroad. Is a quality of life survey really useful to the average expat?

Most of us are not on temporary expat assignments. We’re just foreigners who moved abroad chasing the rainbow for that perceived better life, whether that be for which reasons economic, career prospects, romantic or lifestyle related.

At Live Work Germany, we think that this quality of life survey is complete and utter rubbish for anyone considering moving abroad. What Mercer may think is important when it comes to quality of life is not necessarily what we do.


In the video, we make the case that really it’s all down to 3 key things, over and above anything else:
  1. % of net salary spent on housing (rent or mortgage). Because you want enough money left over to enjoy your weekends, travel a bit, be able to experience the city you are living in without having to live off bread and lentils.
  2. Climate: Because if the weather sucks based on your preferences, you’re going to be miserable. Finland may have great schools but if it’s winter for 8 months a year and dark for 18 hours a day in January, how will that affect your mental well-being?
  3. How much net you get from your gross. Because you absolutely MUST know this but hey, jobs are never advertised with a net monthly salary, are they? Do your homework before making the leap!


Now, i know a whole lot of other factors also come into play. Especially if you have kids in tow and you need to consider schools and the socio-economic environment they will grow up in. But what I’m basically saying is that these 3 key factors above will probably trump most other considerations when you’re looking to move abroad. You don’t need a complex expat quality of life survey from an international consulting firm to tell you this.

It isn’t rocket science.


Let’s take some simple examples:


Safety is important.

But is it really more important than the cost of rent when you really think hard about it? Cape Town for example has a huge violent crime problem, but if you earn enough to afford to live in one of the wealthier suburbs, then relatively speaking, it’s safe. And you get to see Table Mountain every day and have a beach on your doorstep.

Now let’s contrast that with London.

Looking at statistics, it’s considerably safer than South Africa. But if you’re struggling to make enough to afford more than a room in a shared house in a dodgy part of town, there is a not insignificant chance you may get mugged or suffer a break-in. Combine that with the miserable weather: It’s windy and damp in winter, and windy and damp in summer too.

Everything is relative.

That nice Swiss salary you’ve been offered to move to Zürich? Great, but how much is left over at the end of the month, when a nice meal costs €50 and a beer €8, and you’re paying almost €2,000 in rent for a decent 2 bedroom apartment.

So what do you guys think? And how do you like the format of a much shorter blog post but with a video embedded in there? Please let us know!