Moving is never an easy prospect. Not only do you have to be concerned about all of the different pros and cons about the house, apartment or flat where you’re going to live, but you also have to worry about the community and whether it’s one of the best places to live. How safe is the neighborhood and what’s the crime rate? Are there other people around in your age group and with your interests? And if you have kids – how good is the school system and are there family things to do in the area?
The prospect of trying to learn all of these things about a new community, no matter where you’re moving to, can feel like an overwhelming task. There’s just too much information to collate and from too many different sources. Many times in the past, MakeUseOf has had you covered when it comes to moving, from finding a decent flat to live in, to mobile apps that will help you find an apartment. In fact apartment hunting articles are a bit of a specialty here at MakeUseOf.
However, it’s one thing to find a house or an apartment to live in, but learning about a State, town or a community where you’re planning to live is a whole different story. At least if you currently live within driving distance, you could always drive into the area, hang out at the local businesses and talk to the folks that live in the area to learn a little more about what it’s like to live there. But, if you live too far away, getting the real story about a place becomes a whole lot harder.
Luckily, there are a number of useful websites that can really help you out when you’re looking for a new place to live.
Finding the Best Places to Live That Suits You
The bottom line is that when you’re looking the best place to live, you’re really looking for not only the comforts of a decent home or apartment, but you’re looking for a community of people and a general culture that meshes well with your own values and interests. Obviously, if you’re an avid golfer and you live in a community where there are a lot of fellow golfing enthusiasts, you’re a whole lot more likely to make friends and really enjoy living there.
The same can be true for religion, income level, available jobs, gender makeup, and a whole litany of other demographics that can mean the difference between finding a community where you fit in and thrive, or entering into a nightmare situation where you feel like an outsider in the community.
Research the Statistics
The truth is, almost every region of the world has some organization that is keeping track of the demographics and statistics for a particular area. For example, if you’re looking for a place to live in Europe and you’d like to know what areas suffer from pollution issues, what communities struggle with not having enough resources, or whether there are public health concerns, the European Commission is the place to go.
The European Commission regularly conducts research on everything from GDP per capita and growth rate for countries, to where climate change is having the biggest impact, how dramatically demographics are changing in some areas, and other important social issues that will ultimately have an impact on whether or not you like where you choose to live.
The Commission provides very useful information in simple formats, so at a glance you can see the statistics that matter. For example, click on the link for reports on Socio-economic development throughout Europe, and you’ll find a table showing the change of GDP per capita and growth rates from year to year. Seeing the trends can help you identify a country that offers a lot of promise when it comes to economic opportunities.
You can also click on “Graph” to see details by country at a quick glance – a lot easier than trying to pour over the numbers in the table to figure things out.
Actually, my favorite tool at this site is the color-coded map, which lets you select the data that you want to see as a comparison between different areas. This shows you how living in a certain region may put you in a location with moderate economic growth, but if it borders on other areas with a poor economy, it could result in increasing crime rates.
So there are a lot of factors you have to consider, but the Commission offers a whole lot of that information all in one place on their website. It’s definitely the first place to go if you’re researching the best places to live in the world.
If you live in the U.S. and education is a primary factor for you when house or apartment hunting, then the Department of Education Dashboard is definitely the first place you’ll want to go. This dashboard – similar to the European Commission website – provides links to graphical tools that’ll show you important indicators of a good or bad school system for certain states in the U.S.
For example, one map gives you a quick glance at which states have the higher percentage of 3 and 4 year old kids enrolled in preschool (an indication that the community values education).
There’s a lot of other data you can research here, such as states with the highest percentage of 8th graders proficient in Math or Reading, states with the highest percentage of Freshmen that graduate high school in 4 years, and more. All of these things are indications of a strong school system, and can help you choose what state you may want to live in if education is a top priority for you and your family.
Another great international resource is a website called the OECD Better Life Index. This is a very creative online tool that lets you rate about 11 indicators of things you value the most in life. As you select options, an ultra-cool graphical symbol for each country shows you how the countries “measure up” in those areas by displaying a color-coded petal for that particular value.
I believe by “measure up” the creators meant which countries have the highest number of respondents that selected a setting for that value that was closest to yours. As those country settings are more aligned with yours, you’ll see the position of that country’s “flower” float higher or lower on the screen, indicating that country is a better choice for you.
Another site that gives you an interesting breakdown of issues surrounding certain countries that may matter a great deal to you if you’re moving internationally is a site called Earth Pulse. Earth Pulse is really interesting to explore, because it gives you a much higher-level view of what’s going on in the world versus many of the other tools.
You can see where most of the growth is occurring for things like urban populations, how plentiful natural resources are in the area, what sort of impact people are having on the natural environment there, and how wide the gap is between the rich and the poor in that part of the world.
Some of these things matter to some people, while other people really may not care about a lot of them. The great thing about tools like this is that you can hone in on exactly what issues matter the most to you, and see what areas of the world seem to deal with those issues better.
One tool that is more focused on the United States is an online tool called Find Your Spot. This is actually a very thorough quiz that will gather a wide assortment of information about you, in preparation for matching you with your ideal “spot” in the country. It’s sort of like a dating site, I guess. Except you’re looking to date, you know, a community.
Okay, that didn’t come out quite right.
Anyway, start on the first page and just power your way through the Find Your Spot quiz. It really isn’t all that time-consuming, but if you want the results to be accurate, you’ll want to take the time to make sure you’re being completely honest with your answers.
You’ll be asked everything from your climate preference to your religious beliefs. It isn’t really 100% clear how the algorithm ties a specific city or town in the U.S. to your particular answers, but it’s either a very complicated and brilliant calculation, or it’s a gimmick. Either way, the results that I ended up with were pretty much spot on I think. I’d love to live in any of the places listed in my results (mostly in California, mind you).
When you click on any of the locations, you can see a pretty useful breakdown of the statistics for that city, like average rainfall and snowfall, housing costs, and the cost of living.
I don’t know if I’d base my entire decision about moving on just the one tool, but it’s certainly a great place to start.
The final tool to mention here is one called Maps Of The World. This is actually a website focused on all kinds of maps in great volume, but there’s one particular map that deserves mention here, and that’s the Top Ten Countries by Highest Quality of Life.
I don’t know if you’d want to go so far as to buy the map to post it up on your wall as inspiration for your move, but it does have a useful color coded legend that displays the general “quality of life” for different countries. Dark blue is the highest quality of life, and light yellow is the lowest.
In case you’re curious about the best places to live in the world, Norway tops the list on this map, and interestingly enough, Germany and Sweden round out the bottom (at least for the short list of countries rated on this map.
So, are you in the process of looking for a new place to live? Have you used any of these or other tools out there to help you figure out where you want to go? Share your own resources and experiences in the comments section below!
Image Credit: Young Woman Moving Box via Shutterstock
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