I'm American but I've lived in six countries: the richest was easily Switzerland, the most frustrating was easily France, but for me, the best was easily the Czech Republic. Hands down; no competition. But that's me. And the only way you can ever know which one you'll like best is to live there and go native. If you listen to Diane Krall waiting for it to start turning into the Arctic Monkeys, you won't like it. Most tourists and expats keep expecting the new country to be their old country with a different language. It's simply a different beast, and until you can lose yourself, lose your expectations, you won't know.
Anyway, great to hear you like it there.
Second, I wouldn't call it low self-esteem but rather a cultural meme that abhors acting snobbish. It stems from Communism. When I first got there, and someone would ask, "Jak se mas?" (How are you?), I would answer "Great!" But that was the wrong answer. That's not their culture, because no one was great under Communism. So the right answer is something self-deprecating and slightly embarrassing like, "Just ok. I walked around town all morning with my fly undone." They're very sweet, down-to-earth people and these are their steps to keep it like that.
About expats, they're like that everywhere, for the reason I mentioned. Many come and go after a year or two and are just long-term tourists who never take off the goggles of where they come from. I know a huge number of expats there and almost all of them love it.
Whereas you hop just across to Baltic to Helsinki and it's like a museum, there is a city that believes in its heart that its glory days were in the past. Same with Paris or Stockholm or even Amsterdam. Right now those cities have a lot of accumulated wealth tho' they've lost the spark that created it in the first place. Work in Western Europe, party in Eastern Europe, it's the only way.
My story doesn't quite have the same ending as yours - after all, we eventually had to leave - but looking back on my trip to Europe, I can safely say that Prague left upon me the most significant impression. The streets are clean, the people kind, and the city... just beautiful.
Things that are great in Prague for a foreigner (expat):
* Most people speak English, specially young people and specially in Prague. They will tell you that they don't speak English, but they do.
* There are a surprisingly big number of IT jobs for English speakers available. Even at startups (like the one I work at, 360cities.net).
* If you want to be a freelance, the tax treatment is very very favorable. Adding all the payments that you have to make to the government (including personal income tax, compulsory health insurance, and unemployment insurance), you'll end up paying less than 15% of your gross income at the end of the year to the state, in one form of another. That compares with the ~ 50% that gets deducted from employees for the same concepts.
* Life is affordable. Having a good life, I mean, not just surviving. Even on a local salary, you can get a decent apartment not too far from the center, eat out every day for lunch, have dinner out a couple times a week, go to the movies/theater/clubs on the weekends, and still have money left to save a little. Of course, those savings will not amount to much out of the Czech Republic, but as long as you are living here, they'll provide a comfortable cushion.
If you get an English speaking job, you'll probably make significantly more than a local salary. You will not live like a king, but you'll life very very comfortably.
* The health system is good, efficient and cheap. So it is the public transportation (one of the best systems I've tried, and I've used a few in my life).
* The fact that even local salaries afford for a decent live means that you won't find extreme poverty in Prague. That also means that there's no dangerous areas that you should avoid (of course, in the touristic spots there are pickpockets, but I mean that there's no wrong neighborhoods that you have to avoid, like there are in Madrid or, as is said, in US cities, for example).
* Cultural life is rich and varied. There's a lot of clubs with life music, concerts, theaters, operas, … Of course, there's also thousands of pubs (almost one in every corner) that serve what I would argue is the best beer in the world. And very cheap (less than 1.5 euros per half liter).
* The city is gorgeous.
* The girls are even more gorgeous.
* You are in the middle of Europe, which means that there's a lot of places to visit within 4 hours (train or plain).
* The attitude of Czech people is very relaxed. Live and let live. Consumption of sof drugs, for example marijuana, although not strictly legal is not prosecuted by the police.
* Personally, I think another advantage is that the Czech Republic is the most atheist country in the world. 70% of Czechs declare themselves atheists when asked. That means that the interference of religion in the lawmaking or social attitudes is minimal.
There are also some disadvantages, of course:
* The hard long winters.
* Service in restaurants and pubs, although improving slowly, is still not comparable with more western countries. Unhelpful or plain rude waiters and shops assistants are very common.
* The food lacks variety, and specially vegetables, fruits and seafood (like most Central European kitchen).
* Some rules in the administration are plain stupid. And civil servants will be, generally, unhelpful. A lot of the old socialist mentality can still be found in the government's employees.
* The language is very difficult to learn. Most people speak at least some English, but really fitting in is difficult without speaking Czech.
* When you want to travel abroad, everything is suddenly very expensive.
Yes, let's blame everything on socialism. Because unhelpful civil servants never occur under any other kind of economic occupation.
The paperwork and incommunicado government officials are like something out of a Kafka novel. My wife applied for her entreprenuer license six months ago. (We thought it would take two weeks.) Nothing has happened. It took two months to get internet connectivity after six or seven scheduled meetings where they just didn't show up. Open a company? Forget it. There's a lot more I won't go into. At first we put it down to that we are not native French speakers but after talking to some others, it seems that's not the case. So, in a word: frustrating.
That's just my personal experience; YMMV.
There are plenty of quantitative metrics that might be relevant to an individual's lifestyle, or more general metrics that could at least be correlated to individuals' preferences and choices. But this site is only comparing aggregate metrics of one country to those of another.
The site asks the question "if you were not born in the country you were, what would your life be like?", but the answers it provides have little to do with my life.
I expected to fill out a questionnaire about my lifestyle and see results that estimated how the details I provided would play out in a foreign country.
Would be nice if we could learn from others' experiences to help us make a better decision right off the bat, rather than moving all over the world to try and experience everything first hand.
To the credit of the website though, it is cleanly designed and pretty interesting to play with. Cool.
It'd be nice to get some user contributed/voted on facts as well on the website... for example (some of my own):
US: You can't buy good cheese or chocolate
GB: You can't buy good milkshakes or burgers
I like the idea of adding the "what is good where" point as well. For example, they don't discuss things like access to beach, or frequency of bone chilling blizzards.
(1): Somewhat large PDF... https://www.mahealthconnector.org/portal/binary/com.epicentr...
Thanks for the recommendation
Shame you have to go to a high class restaurant/cocktail bar for it though.
When chocolate factories were set up the milk couldn't be kept cool in transport and so went off before it could be used in the chocolate. They remedied this when the process had been improved but people wanted the traditional flavour and so they went back to off-milk flavoured chocolate.
It was a great lecture they handed out pouches with about 14 different samples including chocolate at different stages of production and, the quite frankly disgusting, original style of Hershey chocolate.
There is no "lack of state provided health care" in the US.
Walk into a hospital - they're obligated to treat you. If you're poor, you can ignore the bills. (Or you can go to a public hospital and they likely won't bother if you fill out some forms first.)
Of course, better treatment costs money, but that's true everywhere.
This is simply incorrect. Hospitals are only obliged to treat emergencies. They will not treat anything else if they think you cannot pay them.
Do you have evidence that this occurs to any significant degree? 
Her study is deeply flawed. The biggest problem is that it doesn't address causality or even correlation - for all we know, 62% of statistically similar people who did not go bankrupt also had a "major medical cause" of their non-bankruptcy. She doesn't address this at all.
Here is the study: http://www.scribd.com/doc/16155232/Bankruptcy-2009
Here is a more detailed critique of it: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2009/06/elizabet...
Here is Megan McArdle's followup, based on a prediction she made (she was correct): http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2010/12/will-hea...
Seriously, try again. I still have yet to see any source making this claim besides Warren.
As of January 1, 2011. Happy, healthy, planning a couple ski trips.
As of January 18, 2011. Happy, healthy. $3,000 in medical debt.
It wasn't a really hard road to get from 0 to $3,000 in 3 weeks either. I currently work for one of the top 20 largest companies in the US. I have a United Healthcare PPO (the largest carrier in the country) and Delta Dental (also the largest dental carrier). So I don't work for some fly by night startup with an off brand insurance, this is blue-chip benefits at the most stable kind of job you can have.
I had previously scheduled my wisdom teeth to be removed, had them removed no problem. They paid 80%, I paid 20% plus the deductible. Total cost to me was $450 out of pocket. No big deal and expected.
Not a week later, couldn't breath, thought it was either an asthma attack or allergic reaction to something I just ate at a restaurent. Go to the hospital, its not either. After a cat-scan, x-ray, a couple hours with a GI and another doc I find out it is something completely different and previously unknown. Controllable, not a big deal, but the symptoms were quite scary.
Get the bill, $2,100. My insurance declines $1,900 worth of charges since it was an "illness" and they don't cover that in the ER unless you must stay overnight because they don't want people using the ER as their primary care physician (understandable). So apply my $500 deductible, and I'm on the hook for basically the whole thing. Call it $2,000. (this is pending appeal). Mind you, if they approved it they would have paid 90% and I would have paid my $500 deductible, so I should have sandbagged it and stayed overnight apparently (while running up twice the bill).
C) Had to get some additional dental surgery. After the last experience expected to pay 20%, but for whatever reason they only cover 50% (since it was damage to my gums from retainers as a child, which apparently is not their problem) and I'm on the hook for an additional $925.
Now, writing checks for $3,000 won't bankrupt me by any stretch. (mind you, I'm actually writing more like $4,000 but a bunch of it is fair and expected, the $3,000 is the amount above and beyond what I think I'm supposed to be paying). But it would for a lot of people. Even for me it sucks, I had planned to use that money for something more interesting than papering over the holes in my insurance policy.
I can completely understand how people end up in bankruptcy. In my opinion, if the plan says it will cover 80% and I have to cover 20%, with a deductible and a maximum out of pocket expense for me annually, then thats what should happen for non fraudulent charges. I went to the hospital for a good reason. All of the dental work has been recommended to me by a general dentist, seconded by an periodontist, and concurred by the oral surgeon who actually did it. None of this stuff is me running up unncessary bills. So I have the max out of pocket put aside in an account every year, and all of sudden my bills blow that by 4x because they are declining charges, and I'm sucking money out of my general emergency account, it sucks.
I can handle it, I'm glad I planned for emergencies and saved money and live within my means, but I can understand how this doesn't work for people living paycheck to paycheck and its not their fault. Not long ago I was getting by with the max out of pocket in an account, no emergency fund, and saying if shit happened I'd put it on my credit card while I pumped all my spare cash into paying down student loans. So I'm just lucky this is all happening Jan of 2011 and not Jan of 2010. And anytime you can make a statement like that, it is hard to blame the people where the dates didn't work out for them.
You "forget" that the folks who actually can't afford $3k are also the folks who get subsidized care AND who are bankruptcy proof.
> Even for me it sucks, I had planned to use that money for something more interesting than papering over the holes in my insurance policy.
The "holes" in your insurance policy were your choice, a choice that saved you money on that policy. If you'd made a different choice, that money wouldn't be in your pocket to spend on "something more interesting".
There is no free lunch. Health care costs money. Having the US govt pay for it doesn't make it cheaper.
I know that many of you think that govt healthcare in other countries works well. Do you really think that the US govt is likely to do as well?
It's true that medicare doesn't spend much money cutting a check, but the total expenses are another story. (The low-ball estimate of medicare fraud is an order of magnitude higher than the profit of health insurance companies.)
Oh, and you're more likely to win a dispute with a for-profit provider than you are with a US govt service.
What about US current govt healthcare convinces you that the US govt will do well? If you think that it will do better in the future, why?
Whether that's reproducible in the US is an open question. But the fact that US citizens accept third-world level healthcare is baffling to me.
ps: I have first-hand experience with European healthcare, US healthcare and third world healthcare. I'd pick European first, third world second (depending on the country though) and US third, if I had to choose.
US healthcare, even the free stuff, is well above third-world level. The typical is very comparable.
Yes, the US life-expectancy stats aren't fantastic, but healthcare isn't the only variable. (Look at the disease cure rates - we do very well on cancer for example.)
You had a major medical cause but you didn't go bankrupt. Lots of people do. To properly estimate the number of medical bankruptcies, you need to do the following calculation:
# Medical bankruptcies = # of bankruptcies x [P(bankruptcy | medical cause) - P(bankruptcy | no medical cause)] x P(medical cause)
Your anecdote cuts against Warren's conclusions  because it suggests we increase our estimate of P(no bankruptcy | medical cause) and thereby reduce our estimate of P(bankruptcy | medical cause).
 I'm not suggesting a single anecdote proves much of anything. I'm just pointing out the direction it's infinitesimal value points.
At least that was true a few years ago.
EDIT: I only had links in Swedish to sources, but here's one in English:
But do note that Sweden has seen a very strong growth the last year while the US has slowed somewhat.
EDIT 2: for those downvoting, see my response below.
#7 : Sweden
#9 : United States
I hate to reduce this to numbers, especially GDP per capita which is even more of a joke, but in any sensible form of measurement, Sweden has been richer than the US for a long time.
Still, the links in my previous post are about purchasing power, not GDP/capita. But you're right, they are at least much closer now.
Actually, this is pretty good news for the US, because Sweden was in a terrible mess in the mid 90s but managed to clean things up in a relatively short time (less than a decade). Of course, the US economy is much, much larger, but it's worth noting that things can get better rapidly once you're on the right track again.
EDIT: here's a graph from 2009 showing GDP/capita where Sweden is still far behind the US:
EDIT: purchasing power adjusted figures:
Sweden still far behind the US.
Also, size and population don't figure in to the comparison. You have to divide by population or the result is that the richest countries are countries like China and India, and the poorest are countries like Monaco and Luxembourg. And that's silly. If you can choose portions of countries, such as a state, it's too hard not to cherry-pick.
PPP seems like a good idea. It was devised to reflect that ten dollar buys a giant meal in Kiev but barely a BigMac in Zurich. But once you research it you'll find PPP seems specifically formulated to make Americans feel better about themselves. The basket of goods used to compose PPP is so American-centric that instead of de-skewing the results, it skews them further. The result is a joke.
But to be fair, it's easy to agree to disagree on this. Which country is richer is impossible to quantify in a meaningful way because it has to take into account quality of life, and being qualitative, will change per person.
All the comparisons I mentioned do.
>once you research it you'll find PPP seems specifically formulated to make Americans feel better about themselves
>Which country is richer is impossible to quantify in a meaningful way because it has to take into account quality of life, and being qualitative, will change per person.
I was responding to your post, in which you asserted that Sweden is richer.
HIV rate in Singapore is 0.2%
The app tells me I am 100% more likely to get HIV in Singapore... which I guess is technically right but it certainly doesn't sound very inviting...
It seems like a better wording might be something along the lines of "You're 2x more likely to be unemployed", or something to that extent.
If The United States were your home instead of Israel you would...
- spend 2.3 times more money on health care
- use 97.95% more electricity
- consume 96.7% more oil
+ make 63.38% more money
- be 5 times more likely to have HIV/AIDS
- have a 47.24% greater chance of dying in infancy
- have 29.11% fewer babies
- have a 25.68% greater chance of being unemployed
- experience 14.8% more of a class divide
- die 2.62 years sooner
A) No. I would simply try to find a way to "make 63.38% more money" where I live now, as the rest of list seems like US is not a better place to live.
But US is not San Francisco or New York right?
So perhaps, the comparison should not be made country-wide.
As I would definitely rather live in the bay area than in Tel Aviv where I live right now.
By the way, I know I'm being a little cynic here, but "experience 14.8% more of a class divide" is not necessarily a bad thing for an individual. I would argue that if you're on the better end of this divide and won't experience its implosion (i.e. people revolting) in your lifetime that it may be a plus.
If you are a "white" person the stats are as good or better.
This post is not racist; other countries have relatively homogeneous populations, the US does not.
Democratic Republic of the Congo spends 99.39% less on health care = good...?
Within developed countries, the marginal utility of extra health care is close to zero. Spending more on health care is as likely to harm you as it is to help you. Since the benefit of extra spending is nil, it makes sense to focus on the cost.
As you note, once you get into the regime where marginal utility of extra health care is positive, this method of comparison makes little sense.
Would have been a good domain name (IsTheGrassGreener .com) but that's not to criticize on the content or presentation, very well done (and seems to be dealing with quite a load this morning).
Fascinating. Must be a very old expression.
More importantly it mutilates statistics. The unemployment rate for western countries is very different to the unemployment rate for 3rd world countries. Can't really compare them.
eg go to the US if you want money, UK if you want quality of life.
Surprised at this though "The number of adults living with HIV/AIDS in The United States is 0.60% while in The United Kingdom it is 0.20%."
Don't you think that is just a bit of a sweeping generalization?
From the app description:
"We're born into our native countries by the luck of the draw. The Homeland Re-Assigner uses world population data to simulate this process. It produces statistically accurate representations of where else you might have ended up. Countries are weighted according to their current populations. So, for example, you're more likely to end up in a country with a large population, e.g. China, India, or the United States, than a country with a smaller population."
Obviously, though, IfItWereMyHome.com is a lot more robust and much prettier.
Also, http://www.ifitweremyhome.com/compare/US/FI recommends Tom of Finland books to learn more about Finland.
What would be interesting would be, given my present wealth and general status, how would life be for <me> in that country if I moved. In Romania for instance, I live (taking into account all the factors whioh matter to me) a much higher quality of life than I did in the UK.
You can move from one *class* to another in USA(e.g Obama could become President)
You must not move from one *caste* to another in your life time in India(e.g. Ambedkar could not become Prime Minister)
It would be interesting if you could enter some of your demographic data and get a more specific comparison (e.g. gender, sexual preference, age, race, education level).
That might bring up some more drastic and surprising comparisons.
Especially for hackers.
PS: the site states that the less income inequalities, the better. Quite contrary is actually much better option for any country.
Also, the "more information sections" are written well - anyone know the source?
experience 28.67% less of a class divide
use 27.2% more electricity
have 25.67% more fewer babies
25.67% more fewer babies? Awesome! But whoever let that phrase through wasn't exactly the quickest zergling in the control group... if you catch my meaning.
I /think/ that the way likelihood of HIV/AIDS is calculated needs to take population into account in a better way. Fun comparison, though!
Says there is 18.22% less of a class divide in India - but IMO, India has a way higher class divide than in the US.
I dont buy a lot of these stats.
It's missing YCombinator :(
I'm sure that could have been implemented better. Cool idea, though.