Capital of Hope or Despair?

Expensive Dump?
Expensive Dump?

As much as I dislike the methodologies put to use in most polls and surveys nowadays, one can’t help wondering if there’s any truth behind them at all. This is especially true of the latest survey which seeks to assess the quality of living in various cities throughout the world. I took a good look at the whole list and was horrified to learn that Warsaw is 85th out of a possible 215 (with Bahgdad being last). Our Eastern European neighbours also did poorly – Ljubljana came 78th, Bratislava was 88th whereas Zagreb was 103rd. What does this say about Eastern Europe? What does this say about Warsaw? Mercer, who conducted the survey, seems to think the living standards in Eastern Europe have gone up but this survey will do little to advertise our little corner of Europe.

Reasons to Despair
Mercer looks at 39 factors when they ranked the cities. These roughly form ten categories. Namely:

  1. Political and social environment (political stability, crime, law enforcement)
  2. Economic environment (currency exchange regulations, banking services)
  3. Socio-cultural environment (censorship, limitations on personal freedom)
  4. Health and sanitation (medical services, sewage, waste disposal, air pollution)
  5. Schools and education (standard and availability of international schools)
  6. Public services and transport (electricity, water, public transport, traffic congestion)
  7. Recreation (restaurants, theatres, cinemas, sports and leisure)
  8. Consumer goods (availability of food/daily consumption items, cars)
  9. Housing (housing, household appliances, furniture, maintenance services)
  10. Natural environment (climate, record of natural disasters)

Points to Consider
It’s pretty easy to see what Warsaw is doing wrong and what the city authorities might do in the future to improve the living standards of its inhabitants. Most denizens of Warsaw will agree that points 4, 5, 6, 7 need to be addressed sooner than later. The number of hospitals and clinics of a high standard is far too low for a member of the European Union. Parents are having increasingly more problems with finding adequate kindergartens for their children in the capital. Much to the chagrin of Warsaw’s authorities, the metro is laughable. An underground with one line and a handful of stops is most certainly not sufficient for a city the size of Warsaw. Finally, Poland’s capital may seem to have a rich assortment of cultural events but these are miniscule compared with cities like Prague, Vienna or Berlin.

Things to Do
What is most important is the fact that Varsovians, Warsawites, call them what you will, can have a big say in how Warsaw will look in the future. Even though I’ve only lived in this city for a few years I’ve been visiting Warsaw since I was a child. This city is completely different to the one I remember as a young lad. First of all, there was nothing to do in Warsaw a few decades ago. The city was a mass of grey and dirty blocks of flats. Now, at least, a whole palette of different colours has splashed onto the cityscape; cinemas, restaurants and bars fill the streets and there are more smiling faces around. All it takes is for people to care. Communism meant that nobody gave a damn. Now, people want to put flowers in their balconies and keep the streets tidy. It may not be much, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Top Ten Cities
For those of you who are interested, the top ten cities in the world with regard to living standards are:

  1. Vienna, Austria
  2. Zurich, Switzerland
  3. Geneva, Switzerland
  4. Vancouver, Canada
  5. Auckland, New Zealand
  6. Dusseldorf, Germany
  7. Munich, Germany
  8. Frankfurt, Germany
  9. Bern, Switzerland
  10. Sydney, Australia

Note how many are in Europe!


6 thoughts on “Capital of Hope or Despair?

  1. Maybe good old Huahua is just a little more subtle in its charms than other places. Sure, it doesn’t have the look-at-me anime-film bright colours of Tokyo, the Disney-goes-to-Habsburg stage-set look of Prague, the every-culture-on-earth-in-a-pressure-cooker feel of London or New York.

    But there are things to do and places to go here, you just have to work harder to find them. I spent the weekend in the Botanical Gardens and Park Skarzyszewski, both lovely places, and – lacking in other countries’ attempts to SELL SELL SELL the experience to the visitor – they had a feeling of genuine public places.

    Wwa has its charm, you just have to do some research, put aside yr prejudices, learn to appreciate the different. Yes, Virginia – Warsaw is the Susan Boyle of Europe’s capitals.

    I thank you. 😀

  2. I agree with Jim. May not rank highly in “quality” stakes but I’d rather live here than Munich, Dusseldorf or Zurich, to name but three!

  3. I think the weighting in this survey is suspect. Atlanta as the top US city for infrastructure? Puh-leeze. Especially laughable since the rating is stated to include availability of water. Atlanta has well-known water issues and even with a decent metro system (for the US) is largely car-based. Another comparison that comes to mind is Vancouver and Sydney. Both fantastic cites and I would love to live there. But neither is nearly as easy to move around as Berlin which is further down the list. Berlin’s local transit is top-notch.

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