According to the annual Readers’ Choice Survey conducted by luxury travel and lifestyle magazine Condé Nast Traveler, the following are the world’s friendliest cities:
11 (tie). Salzburg, Austria
11 (tie). Budapest, Hungary
9 (tie). Seville, Spain
9 (tie). Savannah, Georgia, U.S.
8. Cape Town, South Africa
7. Siem Reap, Cambodia
5 (tie). Sydney, Australia
5 (tie). Dublin, Ireland
4. Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.
3. Victoria, BC, Canada
1 (tie). Melbourne, Australia
1 (tie). Auckland, New Zealand
You can read the consensus review for each selection in the first hyperlink of this post (although the site was acting a bit wonky for me, hence why I could not reproduce the details here). Respondents allegedly based their choices on a range of factors, although CN notes that the survey is ultimately subjective. It appears most of the top cities tended to share a valuable combination of hospitality, beauty, great amenities, and overall character (unique, historically rich, etc).
Additionally, the majority of friendly cities are medium-sized, temperate in climate, and fairly wealthy (which is reflected by good infrastructure, low crime, lots of public attractions and spaces, etc). This is especially true of Australia and New Zealand, whose cities were dual winners for being warm and welcoming places (they also tend to rank high in indexes of livability, although interestingly, there is little correlation between quality of life and friendliness to outsiders, perhaps because the priorities and focuses of residents and visitors differ).
Siem Reap, hardly as well known as the other contenders, also stands out for being a relatively poor place in a poor country; however, it is apparently a well-established and popular resort-town that recently ranked as the world’s fourth-best city for tourists, so it is clearly a hidden gem of sorts. Budapest did a good job of giving lie to the stereotype of dour and unfriendly eastern Europeans, while Savannah and Charleston seem to confirm the endurance and appeal of southern hospitality.
Anyway, aside from the most pleasant places to visit, respondents also selected the least friendliest ones:
10. Nassau, Bahamas
9. Monte Carlo, Monaco
8. Milan, Italy
7. Frankfurt, Germany
6. Beijing, China
5. Marseilles, France
4. Paris, France
3. Moscow, Russia
2. Cannes, France
1. Johannesburg, South Africa
An interesting mix of cities across the world, although France stands out with a plurality of three spots, including two among the top five. As with the previous list, this is all based on an aggregate of factors beside the hospitality of residents: for example, Beijing was given bad marks for its “terrible pollution” and “dirty streets and hideous traffic”, while Johannesburg made the list (despite being “one of the most beautiful” cities in the world) for its crime and staggering inequality.
Overall, however, it seems that most of the cities that ranked as unfriendly did have an attitude problem: Marseilles was described as “threatening”, Monaco as “overcrowded and ostentatious”, Frankfurt as “rude”, and Paris as “cold and aloof” (which in fairness can be said of many cities its size).
You can read the original summaries and judge the fairness of these assessments yourself, although those of you who are familiar with these locations in any way are more than welcomed to share your two cents. My own traveling experience is sadly limited, and none of the places I have been too (such as Orlando, Florida or Prague, Czech Republic) made either cut.
I do feel there are three big caveats to take into account when going over this list: one mentioned earlier is subjectivity — what is rude or cold behavior to some people may seem perfectly normal or even polite to others, depending both on one’s own personality and the sociocultural norms in which they were raised.
This leads to the next issue: the backgrounds of these respondents plays a role in how they interact with, and are perceived by, the cities they visit. Given the target demographic of this high-end, American-based magazine, I imagine most respondents represent a rather limited socioeconomic and cultural group that may have differing experiences in certain areas than people of other groups (would speakers of French or another Romance language feel the same coldness from Paris as those who do not know the language? Would someone who is used to living in big, polluted cities find Beijing so objectionable?)
Finally, a lot of these assessments are based on ultimately limited sample sizes. I do not just mean the number of respondents — although that, too, applies — but how much they experienced, how long they were there, and how often they have gone. Perhaps I missed this factor in looking through the criteria of those participating in the survey, but who is to say they got a good picture of the city they are visiting? Where you go within the city, when you visit, and even how you travel through it all influence one’s experience and overall impression.
As a resident of Miami, I can tell you that sticking to Miami Beach is very different from visiting the duller suburban areas or experiencing the grinding poverty of peripheral areas).
Still, this is nonetheless an interesting pair of lists to look at or consider, although I would much prefer to see these cities and judge them each for myself!