Of all the world's cities, is Melbourne really the friendliest? And Brussels! Do you need to worry?
So they (media talking heads) 'announced' Melbourne the world's friendliest city. Paris and Brussels also in the hunt!! So is that 'reality' or 'off the mark'? We dissect the concept to save you time.
So, in case you missed it, our friends in journalism (well the ones with teleprompters) have been breathlessly repeating a 5 data point model ranking 23 cities as an acclamation of Melbourne as the world’s friendliest city.
Is that true?
Should you take this new ranking seriously as it stands?
Should you include it in those rankings you watch?
Short answer: No, Not now, Not yet.
Laudable - World’s Friendliest Cities
On the pluses, yes noble concept to measure friendliness, and thus fresh thinking… which is laudable. I like the idea. Well done.
Round of applause.
But given some of the questions I have answered from journos, this looks a little bit like a puff ‘panda piece’.
(A ‘panda piece’ is the cute animal story journalists stick into a bulletin to ensure you still watch while they tell you the ‘it bleeds it leads’ stories of depression and world ending drama. As in - stick in a panda story, and we all go ‘awwwww’.)
So do you have to consider ‘friendliness’?
But is this the metric for you?
Do you need to appoint a ‘Chief Friendliness Officer? ‘ (CFrO) :)
Hold your horses. Yeah. Nah. Not quite yet.
We will unpack this - so your team don’t have to.
Does Melbourne pass the pub test*?
The ‘pub test’ is a test of the truth of something around the pub (bar). Do people believe it? Americans often refer to this as the ‘water cooler’ test. Similar thing.
And having lived extensively in the Melbourne of 2001, 2004 and the Melbourne of 2010 and 2019, and visited in 2022, I would argue different.
Melbourne was one of the world’s friendliest cities in 2004, when it was closer to 4M population and still felt like a big town.
Now, not so much.
Is ‘Friendliness’ measured right?
Many migrants from genuinely warm places (like cities in Latin America or island states where everyone knows everyone) would argue that ‘saying hello’ to strangers, and random acts of ‘friendliness’ are more common in smaller towns in their region.
Sri Lanka was pretty friendly. So is Fiji. I think Cairns would be up there. Some Mid-East cities would be in the mix, strangers invite you into their home and feed you!
Personally I think the Sunshine Coast is way friendlier than Melbourne, and anywhere else in Australia. That’s an opinion a lot of folks share. That’s just my opinion… but it’s also a word most folks say when describing the Coast.
Hard to measure I know, put it’s possible to improve this ranking dramatically.
Having worked alongside many migrants, they never perceived Melbourne as super-friendly. Some actively said it was too ‘cold’ a place where people ‘aren’t friendly’ unless they know some one you know.
That would be a majority of migrants I know…
You don’t talk to local strangers much now in Melbourne without a ‘stink eye’.
Like most larger cities.
Now while less true in the outer suburbs…. most Australians describe Melbourne as a place with a ‘clique’ and a very stong ‘in-crowd’… outside of loosening up at the races (horse racing) and the AFL (football). Where folks are friendly.
Or, when drinking. But you don’t drink 24/7. And many folks do not drink at all.
A brief analysis on the ranking
You can see the analysis here on another of our ad hoc occasional newsletters (this gazette is the main one so subscribe to this), which links to the study, and does a basic analysis:
Below from our occasional - City Rankings Wrap
“23 Cities Ranked for Friendliness
Surprisingly to some Melbourne came first for friendliest, followed by Paris, based on the 5 indicator methodology used by the authors, covering 23 cities. Our quick analysis below. What do you think?
Ad hoc posts on the world's city (and sometimes country) rankings.
As experts on city data since 2007, and place data, we list results, and briefly analyse them. Add some insights. Then we let you make up your own mind.” …
“Note we have our own 'big daddy' master ranking - the Innovation Cities Index of 500 cities on 162 indicators - right here
This time some fine insurance folks at William Russell are setting out to measure friendliness in 23 most visited cities worldwide.
The friendliest cities in the world (from 23)
according to Author: William Russell
"We recognise that some cultures may have different expectations when it comes to friendliness, so we looked at a number of factors, including:
from the page.
"Wherever you travel or relocate to, knowing that the locals are welcoming and friendly makes the endeavour much easier. The buzzing sense of adventure and curiosity in a new city, as well as being surrounded by happy people can take your visit to new heights. After all, travelling is all about expanding your horizons and ultimately, boosting your mood. So, which cities in the world are considered the friendliest?"
from the page.
Are they measuring actual friendliness here? Are there better ways to measure friendliness? Or are they measuring what is easy to measure?
Interesting concept to measure friendliness of cities
New metric for cities
Fresh thinking by fine folks at William Russell.
Debatable methodology always to determine 'friendliness'
Is Melbourne really that friendly?*
*It was once. But I would have to say many islands and smaller cities worldwide are friendlier. Strangers say hello to each other and chat with each other - not something that happens in Melbourne outside of alcohol and sport.
**Gut reaction -
And since the lockdowns, I would have to say most Melbournians would dispute Melbourne is a very 'happy' city, ditto most Parisians any time. (Talk to a French person.) Vienna, ok. Brussels? Really???
What would be better ways to measure friendliness?
While hotels are easy to measure this is 'paid friendliness' not actual friendliness. And goes some way to explain why Melbourne and Paris do well.
What would work better?
They also rank least friendliest cities and Lisbon(!!) is on that list behind Buenos Aires? That is not what hard data on people migration patterns or tourism say.
Is this optimally measuring friendliness?
Make Up Your Own Mind
Heres' the study:
Here's a news story about it from Australia:
What do you think?
Create your own alternate ranking of Friendly Cities
Reach out to us and our analysts will help you pull together data to create your own ranking of friendly cities. Or better inform your understanding of your definition.
We can also benchmark your city against 50, 100, 500 cities or just peer cities same population range, on friendliness. Anything your city government needs. Ask.
See our city data here
Above from our occasional* - City Rankings Wrap
That ‘pub test’ of reality
Melbourne does float at times on a sea of alcohol and good times, and it is a great place to go drinking with the world’s coolest bars. And that can make you more friends. But it’s a stretch to say that is ‘friendliness’. At least for a majority.
But day-to-day friendliness, it’s not the worst. So it’s not totally wrong.
But it sure as heck isn’t number one. Not by a long shot. Not in Australia even!
Australians would not regard Melbourne as ‘most friendly’.
Paris and Brussels, most friendly?? Ask Europeans.
(Personally I find Paris friendly, but I am very much an outlier. That is an opinion not from any data model. Most French people I have met describe Paris as unfriendly. And I have talked to a lot of French people who have said that. It’s not my opinion, as I find Paris friendly. But top #2? And it’s one thing to be a visitor, and another a local. So other’s experience counts more than mine here.)
Modelling Friendliness of Cities
So, next question. What’s the data model?
Well friendliness includes the ‘number of 4 star hotels’ for which I see no correlation.
Also arguing the LGTBQ+ policy somehow is a metric for friendliness is a stretch. There is ‘policy’, then there is being actually friendly.
Most of the 5 quoted metrics are a profound ‘stretch’ for the purpose.
You can be ‘safe’ in a city, but it can be unfriendly.
Lisbon unfriendly? Not on numbers
Because they also have ranked Lisbon one of the least friendly cities. Along with Buenos Aires! Seriously!
Lisbon is one of the more friendly European cities I visited. And that was during a pandemic! With face masks on. And people asking for covid tests.
Lisbon also is one of Europe’s most popular migration destinations.
And people moving to a city counts.
As I said, great idea, but the data model is seemingly not there yet.
How to improve the ranking?
We could substantively improve the metrics for friendliness, and would be happy to do so if someone is interested in publishing a counter ranking.
As a start - a better starting measure would include people inflows and outflows.
People are flooding out of Melbourne, and flooding into Lisbon.
While Melbourne will recover, it is not the same as it was. At this time.
The market for people relocating has spoken.
Now people migrate for many reasons, so we would suggest a variety of different metrics. Not just inflows/outflows (that would have issues).
Reach out to us if you want better metrics for friendliness, or to have a chat about what we could do for you.
Lisbon remains one of the most popular places to migrate to. (As Melbourne was in the past).
As I said Melbourne is not the ‘worst’, but it cannot be #1 globally.
So, while Melbourne is a great place for sport, community spirit, one of the world’s best sports cities (go Socceroos), makes close to if not the best coffee worldwide, has enviable restaurant variety, one of the world’s best CBD grids, and I could go on…
But that’s all well and good. It’s not most friendly.
Sound idea, just not there yet.
We would suggest other ways to measure Friendliness.
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