What’s my ideal city?

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Bangkok. While there are some positives like the food and low cost of living, I’m not a fan of the pollution (be it noise, light or air), lack of access to green space, extreme heat, traffic jams, lack of concern for environment, high corruption rates, … Okay, you get the idea. The list goes on.

This brings me to a fun question: What’s my ideal city?

The OECD Better Life Index runs a pretty neat customizable index tool that lets you rate cities based on the relative importance (decided by the user) of each of these topics: Housing, Income, Jobs, Community, Education, Environment, Civic Engagement, Health, Life Satisfaction, Safety and Work-Life Balance. Check mine out here. According to this, the top 5 countries for me are Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Australia and Switzerland. No surprises here.

However, I find it rather backwards that you have to rate the importance of topics like life satisfaction and health, since these are the goals you strive for, not the basic characteristics of the city. Anyway, it still makes sense that if one of your main goals is to have a high life satisfaction, you look for cities where the citizens report high life satisfaction. They still seem counter-intuitive to me though. Here’re the things I look for in an ideal city:

  • It’s walkable: Extensive public transportation system, bike lanes, large footpaths, low traffic jam
  • It’s not so chaotic: I suffocate in overly crowded cities. If I have my way, my cities will have an open and orderly feel.
  • It’s green: The city should be dotted by large (and well-maintained) green spaces, with plenty of room for R&R
  • It’s civic-minded: The citizens should be actively engaged in the state of affairs of their own city and the betterment of the community and beyond it.
  • It’s safe. Self explanatory.
  • It’s got a good welfare system: Healthcare for everyone, sufficient vacation days, flexible working hours, safety nets for the low income community. Yes, I’m willing to pay a 50% tax for this.
  • It’s not so hot like Bangkok 🙂

Too much to ask for? I don’t think so. Although it’s a far cry from where I currently reside, I believe such places exist in the world. I hope to eventually make my way to one of them.

Winston Churchill once said this: “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” In a similar way, I believe that we shape our cities; thereafter they shape us. Although my true destination is to find the happy place for my soul, being in a city that’s more aligned with what I consider to be ingredients of a good life will make the journey smoother.

What’s your ideal city?