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We’ve selected some often-overlooked cities that offer just as much, if not more, as better-known cities that many expats choose to live in.
Valencia, Spain – a peaceful alternative to Spain’s major citiesA recent list put together by InterNations, revealed that Valencia, one of Spain’s most stunning port cities, was the best city to move to for expats seeking a city lifestyle. 15,000 respondents concluded that the city’s vibrant local life, sustainable environment, and quality of living was top notch.
The study revealed that expats were happy with Valencia’s healthcare system and “plentiful leisure options and great weather”.
According to the Valencia City Hall Statistics Office, in 2019 there were over 100,000 thousand non-Spanish nationals in the city of Valencia, making up about 13% of the metropolitan population. So, it’s little wonder why this topped InterNations’ list – it seems to be a favourite with expats.
But why isn’t this shouted from the rooftops? It seems Valencia gets eclipsed by more famous and well-known Spanish cities – Barcelona and Madrid.
One of the major perks of living in Valencia, according to Globexs, is the peace and quiet compared to the busy, hustle-and-bustle of more major cities.
“Traffic jams are very rare, the cycle paths are excellent, and the weather is perfect for cycling.” Globexs reports. “This creates a city centre with a nice quiet feeling. Around the large squares there is a nice buzz of conversations without the constant beggars and drunks like in the Ramblas of Barcelona.”
Lisbon, Portugal – a higher quality of life with a great sense of communityPortugal’s capital Lisbon is growing in popularity among expats. It has always tended to fall off many expat’s radar in the past but that is all set to change as the city is benefiting from an economic revival and its creative start-up scene.
Growing interest in Lisbon owes itself largely to the quality-of-life indices which are improving all the time, making it worth including in a list of under-the-radar destinations.
Also, if you’re thinking of moving on a budget, the cost of living is comparatively low, especially if you’ve been looking – or living – at northern European prices.
A quick look of a cost of living overview will give you a sense of just how much money you could save. For instance, a 3-bedroom apartment in the city centre would cost around €1,491 while basic utilities average around €113.
Marek, a regular blogger at IndieTraveller, celebrates Lisbon, contrasting it to his previous life in London: “Lisbon is big enough to have all the big city things, but still small enough to have a great sense of community. I lived in London before which I came to really dislike mostly due to its sheer size, but in Lisbon you can easily reach most places within 30 minutes and will often bump into people you know by accident.”
So, if you’re looking for a place on a budget and want a suitably urban yet not overwhelming place to live – like London or some of Europe’s larger cities – Lisbon might be exactly what you’ve been looking for.
Johannesburg, South Africa – a perfect climate with job opportunities galoreSouth Africa’s largest city is sometimes overlooked as an expat city. However, its green, attractive expanses and great work-life balance makes it one of the most balanced and charming cities on this list.
Again, like many in this list, it has a great mix of cultures and languages – but the added benefit is that English is widely spoken.
Also, if you’re looking to work abroad, there are plenty of opportunities in South Africa.
Although there’s a high level of unemployment in the nation, there are also major skill shortages as local professionals emigrate to seek opportunities elsewhere. This means that any foreign workers will benefit should they have the right attributes.
If you’re looking for a relaxed way of life in an emerging and growing economy, then South Africa’s Johannesburg might be just what you’re looking for. The climate, too, is near-perfect, not too hot and an abundance of sunshine.
Vilnius, Lithuania – a city “surrounded by living forests”The Baltic is often left out of lists of expat locations, even though Lithuania’s booming tourism industry, and the capital city Vilnius, are rapidly growing. The nation’s history is immediately noticeable in Lithuania’s capital – its bewitching and extraordinary architecture sits alongside its bustling, almost 24/7 café culture.
Vilnius has the feel of a large town, and it’s neatly split into two. There’s the old city, easily accessible on foot, and the bigger street - Gedimino Prospekt – which is never overly busy like many other towns or cities in central Europe. Also, there’s always something to do or see both day and night; the whole city seems to function 24/7.
Brendan, an expat living in Vilnius, formerly from the Republic of Ireland, described what he likes so much about Vilnius:
“I adore the fact the city is surrounded by living forests. From my home, I can be watching eagles, wild boar, foxes, pine martens, and deer within thirty minutes of leaving the house. In fact, on occasions, I’ve even had wild boar, fox, squirrels, and a huge array of birdlife visiting my garden, in the city centre.”
This captures the spirit of much of Lithuania – it is so green and full of wildlife. Additionally, it is relatively sparsely populated, making Vilnius – despite being a capital city – feel more like a town situated among rolling hills of fields and forest.
If you’re looking for somewhere peaceful, affordable, and promising, Vilnius is an excellent choice. Often below the radar, this Baltic gem offers a mixture of history and urban nightlife.
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