How should you decide where to live in Spain? Barcelona and Madrid both offer world-renowned museums and art galleries that house priceless pieces. One has a beach, the other an enormous palace. They are regularly listed as two of the most desirable cities to visit for their food, music and history, but according to the data, you’re better off living in Malaga or Oviedo than either Madrid or Barcelona.
Urban Audit, a research group from the European Commission, earlier this year released the results from its 2012 Perception Survey. Its aim was to measure the “quality of life” of 79 European cities, including 4 in Spain. With questions ranging from how satisfied residents were with their public spaces to the presence of foreigners the survey makes for some interesting reading.
According to the survey we should all be on the next flight to Malaga. 96% of those surveyed from the southern city agreed that they were “satisfied to live” there, placing Malaga in the top-fifteen of the 79 European cities surveyed. 10% fewer said the same about living in Madrid (86%). Malaga was pipped to top-place by Aalborg (99%) Hamburg (98%) and Zurich, Oslo, Copenhagen and Groningen (97%). According to the results you should think twice about moving to the Greek capital as last place went to Athens (52%) trailed by Athens Surroundings (59%), then Napoli (65%) followed by Palermo (71%).
While the southern city came top on the big question, Oviedo took the most individual top-spots in the survey, and is high on the list of Spanish cities with a high quality of life. According to the survey, a resident of Oviedo is more likely to be pleased with their city’s “public transport, “schools,” “public spaces,” “streets and buildings,” “sport” and “health care services,” than someone living in Madrid, Barcelona or Malaga.
Also in Oviedo, with its 225,000 residents, you are most likely to “feel safe” in both your city and neighbourhood. 94% of respondents agreed they felt safe in their city, while only 68% feel safe living in Spain’s capital. One reason why people in Oviedo feel safe may be that this year Asturias witnessed a 6% drop in crime, whereas Madrid and Barcelona witnessed reductions of a much smaller rate.
Trust in public services and the belief that they run efficiently elicited some of the lowest levels of agreement of the entire survey nationwide. 50% of residents in Malaga in the survey agreed, “the administrative services of the city help people efficiently.” In Madrid it was only 38%. Two figures that have both decreased since the same study was carried out three years ago.
If you’re looking for job satisfaction however, Malaga isn’t the place to go, as it comes out bottom of the four. Oviedo comes first, with 63% satisfied with their “personal job situation.” Barcelona is second with 62%, Madrid third with 56% and Malaga with 55%.
As for health services, Malaga, the sixth largest city in Spain, is the least satisfied coming bottom at 63%, however respondents did claim to be most pleased with their “retail shops.” The other three cities score lower on shopping but higher on “public spaces.” The residents of Oviedo are so happy with their public spaces that they recorded the second highest level of satisfaction out of all 79 cities.
What about how foreigners are perceived? These results also make for interesting reading.
The four cities agreed that “the presence of foreigners is good.” They are however less likely to agree that foreigners who live in their city are well-integrated. While Barcelona has seen an increase of 18% in respondents agreeing that foreigners are good for their city since the 2009 survey - the second largest positive change in perceptions of foreigners of all the European cities surveyed - there was a lower level of agreement that these foreigners “are well integrated.” Barcelona and Madrid scored 50%, Oviedo 59% and Malaga 64%. These statistics on foreigners integrating are however up in each city since the 2009 survey.
To live in a city that is satisfied with its schools, transport, streets and buildings and agrees that both their city and neighbourhood is safe and its people trustworthy, Oviedo will be the city for you. Your job satisfaction will be one percent higher than Barcelona if Oviedo is your home, but satisfaction with the “life you lead” will be two percent lower.
Looking for a city to set up a home in Spain can be a tricky affair but marshalled with the facts it is evident you should book a flight to one of only two Spanish cities, and they aren’t Barcelona or Madrid.
You can follow Christopher Finnigan @chrisjfinnigan