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Eastern Europe expatriate quality of life scales


As Eastern Europe experts in our field, we are often asked for our assessments of different Eastern European cities as places to live. There are numerous quality of life indices for expatriate living but virtually all of them are too broad brush for our specific purposes. Here we attempt a much more detailed analysis, albeit for only a small range of capital cities in one part of the world. The score is from 0 (truly appalling) to 10 (superb) on each index.


Interestingly, in our assessment this year's war in Ukraine has not substantially changed the assessments for the region's capital cities. Some cities on the war's front line have become much worse places for expatriates to live. But very few skilled expatriates were living in such places anyway.


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Here are our categories:


Accommodation - large apartments / houses? Is there good clean running water? Is it easy to buy and fix out your own accommodation?


Agency - freedom of movement. Can you wonder around everywhere without being arrested and/or followed?


Authorities - are they easy and straightforward, or aggressive and hostile? Do they demand bribes? 10 indicates perfect, invisible authorities; 1 indicates intrusive, corrupt and unfriendly authorities who impose difficult rules upon expatriate foreigners.


Beach and sea - how far away is it? 10 indicates a good quality beach in the centre of town. 1 indicates that it is extremely difficult to travel to any beach or seaside resort at any time of the year.


Cost of living - 10 being the cheapest, 1 the most expensive


Culture - museums, theatre. Will you find things of cultural interest?


Excursions - trips out of town. Are they easy? Is transportation easy?Are the roads navigable? Is there usable public transport?


Food - is it fresh and tasty? Is it freely available? How are the restaurants?


Freedom of speech - can you, as an international person, say / publish anything you want and/or transmit messages, without adverse consequences?


Friendliness of local people - are they easy to get to know as friends? Will they try to steal from you?


Healthcare - are there good doctors and hospitals?


Hotels - are there good, reasonably priced, western hotels? Or are they all local dives 'full of character'?


Meetings - is this a good place to arrange agency meetings? Will you find plenty of your counterparts?


Nightlife - can you drink and dance away the small hours?


Politics - is the country a functional democracy? Is there domestic freedom of speech? Will you be harassed for expressing your opinions in public or online?


Rip-offs and scams - are local people likely to try to cheat foreigners in the ordinary course of business? A higher score indicates a lower propensity to cheat.


Safety and crime - how likely are you to be mugged? Can a woman walk the streets safely at night?


Schooling - can you find decent international schools for your children? Or is this a posting that precludes regular family life?


Shopping - is a full range of consumer good available? Does Amazon reliably deliver?


Social conservatism - how conservative are people in the underlying society? Will you find it difficult to find a partner or spouse?


Travel in and out - How busy and we'll serviced is the local airport? Are there any other tolerable international options, such as trains?


Other expatriates. Is there a large expatriate community within which you will be able to make friends?


Vacation destination - will your friends and relatives want to come and visit you?


Weather - how warm is it for how much of the year?


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Now we provide a list of Eastern European destinations in, and we score each one under each category. We do not attempt to rank the cities in order, because each expatriate wants different things and what is sauce for the goose may not be sauce for the gander.


The list is incomplete; we welcome all additional contributions in any category, or any new city, by email to thepaladins2021@gmail.com with the title 'Eastern Europe expatriates'.


Athens

Accommodation

Agency - freedom of movemment 10

Authorities 4 (tax demands!)

Beach and sea 10

Cost of living 5

Culture 10

Excursions 10

Food 8

Freedom of speech 10

Friendliness of people 2

Healthcare 4

Hotels 3 (notorious for fleapits)

Meetings 3 (nobody is there - it is a backwater)

Nightlife 6

Politics 5

Rip-offs 3

Safety 6

Schooling 8

Social conservatism 3

Travel 4 (Athens is a hub but it's airline and public transport are generally diabolical)

Other expatriates 7

Vacation 9

Weather 10


Belgrade

Accommodation 5

Agency - freedom of movemment 10

Authorities 9 (totally uninterested in wealthy foreigners)

Beach and sea 6 (Montenegro is not far)

Cost of living 7

Culture 4

Excursions 3

Food 8

Freedom of speech 8

Friendliness of people 5

Healthcare 10

Hotels 7

Meetings 9

Nightlife 10

Politics 5

Rip-offs 3

Safety 7

Schooling 2

Social conservatism 1

Travel 7

Other expatriates 1

Vacation 7

Weather 7


Bucharest

Accommodation

Agency - freedom of movemment

Authorities 6 (a bit fascist)

Beach and sea 6 (Romanian Black Sea isn't great; Odessa is close in peacetime)

Cost of living 9

Culture 7

Excursions 9 (northern Romania is beautiful)

Food 3

Freedom of speech 4 (see Authorities)

Friendliness of people 3

Healthcare 8 (good private service)

Hotels 9

Meetings 3 (strong NATO member state)

Nightlife 8

Politics 5

Rip-offs 4

Safety 10

Schooling

Social conservatism 4

Travel 7 (large airport but regional links are poor)

Other expatriates 3

Vacation 7

Weather 8


Budapest

Accommodation 10

Agency - freedom of movemment 6

Authorities 4 (authoritarian)

Beach and sea 9 (proximate lake)

Cost of living 7

Culture 9

Excursions 10

Food 9

Freedom of speech 3 - be careful

Friendliness of people 4

Healthcare 8

Hotels 9

Meetings 9

Nightlife 8

Politics 3 - pretty dire for an EU country

Rip-offs 9

Safety 8 (drunks are the only danger)

Schooling 9

Social conservatism 4

Travel 10

Other expatriates 7

Vacation 9

Weather 8 (even the winters aren't bad)


Bratislava

Accommodation 5

Agency - freedom of movemment 7

Authorities

Beach and sea 2

Cost of living

Culture

Excursions

Food

Freedom of speech

Friendliness of people

Healthcare

Hotels

Meetings

Nightlife

Politics

Rip-offs

Safety

Schooling

Social conservatism

Travel

Other expatriates

Vacation

Weather


Chisinau

Accommodation 2

Agency - freedom of movemment 9

Authorities 4

Beach and sea 8 (when Odessa is at peace)

Cost of living 6

Culture 7

Excursions 7

Food 5

Freedom of speech 8

Friendliness of people 9

Healthcare

Hotels 3

Meetings 9

Nightlife 3

Politics 9

Rip-offs 9

Safety 10

Schooling

Social conservatism 3

Travel 2

Other expatriates 6

Vacation 0

Weather 5


Istanbul

Accommodation 7

Agency - freedom of movemment 9

Authorities 8. As long as you renew your residence permit, no problems

Beach and sea 9

Cost of living 7

Culture 10

Excursions 4

Food 8

Freedom of speech 2

Friendliness of people 6

Healthcare

Hotels 10

Meetings 9

Nightlife 7

Politics 2

Rip-offs 3

Safety 8

Schooling

Social conservatism 2

Travel 10

Other expatriates

Vacation 10

Weather 5


Kyiv

Accommodation 3

Agency - freedom of movemment 1

Authorities 2 (have become dictatorial since the war began)

Beach and sea 4 (Odessa in summer - but better at peace)

Cost of living 10

Culture 9

Excursions 2 (unless you like war crimes sites)

Food 3 (was always poor)

Freedom of speech 0 (be incredibly careful)

Friendliness of people 10 (it was always so)

Healthcare 1 (always bad; war made it worse)

Hotels 1 (wartime conditions)

Meetings 0 (heavy security force presence)

Nightlife 8 (some things never change)

Politics 1

Rip-offs 9

Safety 0 (war risks)

Schooling 0

Social conservatism 10

Travel 0

Other expatriates 10

Vacation 0

Weather 1 (very cold for much of the year)


Minsk

Accommodation 6

Agency - freedom of movemment 8

Authorities 3 (restrictive but predictable)

Beach and sea 0 (impossible to travel to any proximate seaboards)

Cost of living 10

Culture 7

Excursions 8

Food 2

Freedom of speech 0

Friendliness of people 9

Healthcare 3

Hotels 1

Meetings 7

Nightlife 8

Politics 0

Rip-offs 10

Safety 10

Schooling

Social conservatism 9

Travel 0

Other expatriates 1

Vacation 0

Weather 3


Moscow

Accommodation 6

Agency - freedom of movemment 1

Authorities 1

Beach and sea 5 (when flights to the Black Sea are operative)

Cost of living 3 (rather expensive)

Culture 10

Excursions 10

Food 4

Freedom of speech 0

Friendliness of people 1

Healthcare 8 (but do NOT attend the Moscow Central Clinical Hospital)

Hotels 2 (tolerable but absurdly expensive)

Meetings 6

Nightlife 9

Politics 1

Rip-offs 5

Safety 7 (Police presence heavy in central Moscow)

Schooling 10

Social conservatism 9

Travel 5 (not to Europe!)

Other expatriates 8

Vacation 0 (sanctions)

Weather 2


Podgorica

Forget Casino Royale.

Accommodation 8

Agency - freedom of movemment 3 (smaller than you think)

Authorities 3 (not particularly friendly to expats unless you are a Russian buying a beachfront mansion)

Beach and sea 10

Cost of living 7

Culture 3

Excursions 10 (loads to do)

Food 4

Freedom of speech 3

Friendliness of people 3

Healthcare 5

Hotels 8

Meetings 2 (be very careful in so small a place)

Nightlife 7

Politics 2

Rip-offs 4

Safety 5 (nighttime aggressiveness can be a problem)

Schooling

Social conservatism 1

Travel 3 (not particularly easy to get to)

Other expatriates 1

Vacation 10

Weather 10


Prague

Accommodation 10

Agency - freedom of movemment 9

Authorities 6 (can be bureaucratic)

Beach and sea 1 (nowhere near)

Cost of living 9

Culture 10

Excursions 10

Food 9

Freedom of speech 10

Friendliness of people 9

Healthcare 7

Hotels 9

Meetings 4 (not many make it here)

Nightlife 9

Politics 8

Rip-offs 9

Safety 7 (drinks)

Schooling 9

Social conservatism 6

Travel 8

Other expatriates 8

Vacation 9

Weather 6 (cold winters)


Sarajevo

Accommodation 4 (remarkably poor)

Agency - freedom of movemment 10 (everyone can crawl around Sarajevo)

Authorities 3

Beach and sea 4 (Split / Dubrovnik)

Cost of living 10

Culture 9

Excursions 6

Food 6

Freedom of speech 3 (terrible place for this)

Friendliness of people 8

Healthcare 3

Hotels 6

Meetings 5 (no hindrances but small and gossipy)

Nightlife 4

Politics 0

Rip-offs 2

Safety 9

Schooling 4

Social conservatism 2

Travel 1

Other expatriates 8

Vacation 4 (too hard to travel to)

Weather 3 (misty valley)


Sofia

Accommodation 8

Agency - freedom of movemment 6 (not as straightforward as you would think)

Authorities 3 (corrupt and difficult)

Beach and sea 9 (Black Sea coast has something for everyone)

Cost of living 9

Culture 4

Excursions 6

Food 7

Freedom of speech 5 (be more careful than you think)

Friendliness of people 8

Healthcare 6

Hotels 7

Meetings 9

Nightlife 8

Politics 2

Rip-offs 3

Safety 4

Schooling 3

Social conservatism 7

Travel 3

Other expatriates 1

Vacation 6

Weather 10


Warsawa

Accommodation 8

Agency - freedom of movemment 3 (more surveillance than you think)

Authorities 2 (exceptionally difficult)

Beach and sea 0 (Kaliningrad for a beach holiday?)

Cost of living 8

Culture 7

Excursions 2 (Warsawa is in the middle of nowhere)

Food 4

Freedom of speech 2 (strict NATO country)

Friendliness of people 7

Healthcare 9

Hotels 9

Meetings 3 (see Freedom of Speech)

Nightlife 4 (surprisingly boring)

Politics 3 (grim for an EU member state)

Rip-offs 10 (Poles are pretty honest)

Safety 7 (drunkenness the only risk)

Schooling 9

Social conservatism 1

Travel 8 (good airport and railway travel)

Other expatriates 7

Vacation 5

Weather 2 (too cold)


Zagreb

Accommodation 7

Agency - freedom of movemment 5

Authorities 5 (bureaucratic)

Beach and sea 10 (the best in Europe just a short flight)

Cost of living 4

Culture 8

Excursions 10

Food 7 (good seafood)

Freedom of speech 10 (EU standard)

Friendliness of people 4

Healthcare 6

Hotels 9

Meetings 10

Nightlife 3

Politics 8

Rip-offs 9

Safety 9

Schooling 9

Social conservatism 3

Travel 9 (small airport but many places a mere trainride away)

Other expatriates 5

Vacation 7 (more likely the coast)

Weather 7


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Final remarks


We include some less mainstream candidates, for interest's sake as a sample of some of the more quixotic Eastern European cities with which we have some familiarity.


Awaza, city of Turkmenbashi, Republic of Turkmenistan

Accommodation 0 (impossible to live there)

Agency - freedom of movemment 0

Authorities 0 (Turkmen government problematic)

Beach and sea 1 (giant beach adjacent to enormous oil refinery and associated Russian riversea vessels)

Cost of living 2 (hugely expensive)

Culture 1

Excursions 1 (e.g. oil refinery)

Food 5

Freedom of speech 0

Friendliness of people 0

Healthcare 0

Hotels 6 (nothing else there)

Meetings 0

Nightlife 0

Politics 0

Rip-offs 10

Safety 10

Schooling 0

Social conservatism 0

Travel 0 (there is a thru-train to the rest of Russia)

Other expatriates 0

Vacation 0

Weather 4 (warning: not good in winter)


Grozny, Chechen Republic, Russian Federation

Accommodation 8

Agency - freedom of movemment 0

Authorities 0 (do NOT interact or you may be dead)

Beach and sea 1 (there is a beach on the Caspian Sea near Grozny but we don't recommend it)

Cost of living 4 (more expensive than you think)

Culture 6 (dripping with cultural artefacts of a kind)

Excursions 0 (likely to result in death)

Food 3 (a little distinctive; apparently the President of Chechnya likes his bear flown in by helicopter. Warning: do not eat dinner with him)

Freedom of speech 0

Friendliness of people 4 (however talking to local people may result in your death)

Healthcare 1

Hotels 6 (stay in one of them)

Meetings 0

Nightlife 0

Politics 0

Rip-offs 10 (nobody will be ripping anyone off in Grozny unless they wish to be murdered)

Safety 1

Schooling 0

Social conservatism 0

Travel 3 (about the only good thing about Grozny is the direct train to Moscow - if you consider such a thing to be good which after being in Grozny you will do. Hence 3)

Other expatriates 0

Vacation 0

Weather 7. The Russian Caucasus has very nice weather


Kaliningrad, Kaliningrad oblast, Russian Federation

Accommodation 5

Agency - freedom of movemment 0

Authorities 0

Beach and sea 5 (there is a beach but it's not great)

Cost of living 7

Culture 2

Excursions 1

Food 3

Freedom of speech 0

Friendliness of people 0

Healthcare 2

Hotels 3

Meetings 0

Nightlife 5

Politics 0

Rip-offs 3

Safety 2

Schooling 0

Social conservatism 10

Travel 1 (there is a thru-train to the rest of Russia)

Other expatriates 0

Vacation 0

Weather 2


Makhachkala, Republic of Dagestan, Russian Federation

Accommodation 0

Agency - freedom of movemment 0

Authorities 0

Beach and sea 1 (city has a beach but there is a strong risk of murder)

Cost of living 10

Culture 0

Excursions 0

Food 4

Freedom of speech 0

Friendliness of people 0

Healthcare 0

Hotels 0

Meetings 0

Nightlife 0

Politics 0

Rip-offs 10

Safety 0a

Schooling 0

Social conservatism 0

Travel 0 (you probably won't make it to the railway station without being shot / otherwise murdered)

Other expatriates 0

Vacation 0

Weather 9. Makhachkala has good weather


Nalchik, Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, Russian Federation

Accommodation 7

Agency - freedom of movemment 5 (obscurely anonymous but take care)

Authorities 2

Beach and sea 0 (Makhachkala has beaches, seven hours' train ride away)

Cost of living 5

Culture 0

Excursions 0

Food 1

Freedom of speech 0

Friendliness of people 4

Healthcare 1

Hotels 1

Meetings 0

Nightlife 1

Politics 0

Rip-offs 4

Safety 5 (just don't freeze to death)

Schooling 0

Social conservatism 2

Travel 0 (34 hours by train to Moscow; 5 hours by bus to Grozny; airport closed due to war in Ukraine)

Other expatriates 0

Vacation 0

Weather 1 (up mountain)


Stepanakert, (a/k/a Khankendi), Republic of Artsakh, Disputed Nagorno-Karabakh breakaway region

Accommodation 0

Agency - freedom of movemment 8. No apparent problems

Authorities 2. There is a government of a sort

Beach and sea 0

Cost of living 10

Culture 8

Excursions 7

Food 8

Freedom of speech 9

Friendliness of people 8

Healthcare 0

Hotels 1

Meetings 8

Nightlife 1

Politics 1

Rip-offs 7

Safety 2

Schooling 0

Social conservatism 2

Travel 0 (public bus through open mountain roads to Yerevan; liable to drone strikes or ballistic missile strikes)

Other expatriates 0

Vacation 0

Weather 3 (quite high up which spoils the summers)


Sukhumi, Republic of Abkhazia

Accommodation 2

Agency - freedom of movemment 0

Authorities 1

Beach and sea 10

Cost of living 10

Culture 2

Excursions 0

Food 6

Freedom of speech 0

Friendliness of people 1

Healthcare 1

Hotels 5

Meetings 0

Nightlife 5

Politics 1

Rip-offs 5

Safety 3

Schooling 0

Social conservatism 7

Travel 0

Other expatriates 0

Vacation 0

Weather 8


Tiraspol, Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic

Accommodation 2

Agency - freedom of movemment 0

Authorities 3

Beach and sea 9 (Odessa in peacetime)

Cost of living 10

Culture 8

Excursions 10

Food 2

Freedom of speech 0

Friendliness of people 3

Healthcare 2

Hotels 1

Meetings 0

Nightlife 7

Politics 1

Rip-offs 10

Safety 10

Schooling 0

Social conservatism 4

Travel 0 (two hours' taxi ride down bumpy roads from Chisinau)

Other expatriates 0

Vacation 0

Weather 7


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We have a lot of experience in some very unusual places. If you would like us to profile a destination commonplace or obscure, please don't hesitate to contact us as per the details above and we will do our best.


--- The PALADINS Organisation