Aussie expat reveals how Sydney really compares to world's most liveable city

While Melbourne and Sydney continue to rate well on the world’s most liveable city index, they still lag behind Austrian capital Vienna which has topped the list for the second year running.

A former Sydneysider who has lived in Vienna for the past five years has shared with Yahoo News Australia what makes the landlocked European city such an easy place to live, and explained just what the Austrian capital has over its Australian rivals.

Vienna received a near perfect score of 99.1 out of 100 to top the list in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (The EIU) Global Liveability Report for 2019.

Melbourne, the former titleholder, was again ranked the second most liveable city, while Sydney moved from fifth to third this year.

The Global Liveability Report rates cities on over 30 qualitative and quantitative factors, the five broad categories being stability, health care, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.

Innovation researcher, Andrew, from Sydney’s North Shore said it’s hard to beat Sydney’s natural beauty but explained there are several things Vienna does better.

A high shot of Vienna's historical buildings. The Austrian capital  has been dubbed the world's 'most liveable city' for the second year in a row. Source: Getty Images
Vienna has been dubbed the world's 'most liveable city' for the second year in a row. Source: Getty Images

Andrew, 36, has made a home in the Austrian capital and in July married his Viennese sweetheart Rosie who insists the couple will continue to reside in Vienna.

Renters looked after in Vienna

Andrew said the first thing Sydneysiders will notice about living in Vienna, is no one talks about property prices.

“There are lots of rights for renters in Vienna – you have permanent rental contracts and rent control. It is pretty impossible to kick you out,” Andrew said.

“Also you don’t mind spending time and money on renovating your flat because you could have it for decades.”

A stark contrast from when he lived in Sydney, where Andrew said he found himself moving “every other year”.

Picture of Spittelberg, a charming little quarter hidden behind the area of Mariahilfer and the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House.
Vienna has once again be dubbed the world's 'most liveable city' - but how does it compare to Sydney? Source: Andrea Pucci - Getty Images / Getty Images.

The 36-year-old said almost everyone rents in Vienna, the city has strong renter rights and good worker’s rights, in addition to social security.

It’s quite difficult to fire people, and not too easy to ask for overtime, so people are relaxed but often quite complacent.

Vienna ‘an easy city but stifling’

Andrew appreciates the well-run public transport and the fact you can get an annual pass for less than $600.

“You can pretty much get anywhere in 20 minutes,” he said.

After moving to Vienna, Andrew realised everyone takes Friday afternoon off and for five weeks in the summer, the city essentially shuts down while everyone goes away.

Andrew says for those who are ambitious, the city can be “stifling”, saying it’s not easy to run your own business or freelance over there.

“Sydneysiders work hard, often because you have to, but also sometimes because you want to. You have security in Vienna, but if you’re ambitious the city can feel a bit stifling,” he explains.

The Liveability Report had Sydney out performing Vienna in the ‘Culture and Environment’ category, however Andrew says although Sydney is substantially bigger, there’s a lot more happening in Austria’s capital.

Picture of Andrew in Vienna, Austria.
Andrew is from Sydney but has been living in Vienna for five years. Source: Supplied.

He said the arts were more respected and receive more funding. Of course, one glaring difference between the two cities would be the nightlife.

“You can smoke everywhere, it has one of the highest rates of smoking in Europe,” Andrew said.

“You can also go out all night, bars, cafes and clubs stay open, unlike Sydney, and drinks are affordable unlike Sydney.”

Sydney’s cafe culture more innovative than Vienna

However, Andrew says Sydney’s innovation and enterprise make the city more colourful than Vienna. He said the cafe scene is stagnant in Vienna, adding that it’s pretty impossible to get “a good milk coffee” in Vienna.

“There’s always new cafes, bars and restaurants opening in Sydney. This hardly happens in Vienna,” Andrew said. “Cafe culture originated in Vienna, but really not much has happened since.

“It’s probably nice if you’re a tourist to sit in 100-year-old cafe with a menu that hasn’t changed for a hundred years, but I really miss trying out new Sydney cafes.”

Picture of Vienna at sunset.
Vienna received a near perfect 'liveable city' score, only losing points in the 'culture and environment' section. Source" Getty Images.

According to an overview of the liveability report, it was Sydney’s improved culture and environment score that bumped it up a few places to third place this year, largely thanks to the ‘Sustainable Sydney 2030’ strategy.

Sydney’s beaches hard to beat

While Vienna may be more socially responsible and willing to help fund the arts, Sydney will always win with its natural beauty, Andrew says.

“Summer swims in the river barely compare to Sydney beaches, and although it’s nice to wander the woods outside Vienna, the natural environment is much more beautiful in Sydney,” Andrew said

In terms of quirks that may seem odd to Australians, people in Vienna love their formal titles – adding their degree initials to their names and forms of communication.

“I was a bit thrown during my wedding when they listed the degrees after my wife’s name, when they asked ‘Do you yadada...’” Andrew said.

“They didn’t mention my degrees when they asked me, apparently Australian ones aren’t recognised for official wedding vows.”

Andrew and his wife Rosie in front of Sydney's iconic opera house.
Sydney boy Andrew and his Viennese wife, Rosie, in front of Sydney's iconic Opera House. Source: Supplied.

Andrew said he misses how “genuinely open and friendly” people are in Sydney, opposed to Vienna, where people only warm up to you when you’re no longer a stranger.

Vienna being in the heart of Europe most definitely has its perks. Austria’s location is one of Andrew’s favourite things about living there. Enjoying a weekend in Paris, or jumping on a train to Venice for a single event is no big deal.

However great Vienna is, Sydney will always be home for Andrew.

“I love living in Vienna, but nothing compares with the magic of Sydney, and it will always be home,” he said.

“Sydney needs to get rid of the lockout laws, workout the public transport system, and somehow fix the affordable housing crisis and then it’ll probably be at the top of the list for quite sometime.”

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