I have great news which I’m finally allowed to blog about. Some of you may have observed that in the last week or so my mood has improved. But then, maybe this isn’t so noticeable. I’m not sure.
Anyway, here’s my news:
I am delighted to report that we have a ticket out of the Franchise. Yay! And before I say where to, I must give a warning to Kit and Denise who had somewhat negative things to say about this place. Yes, that’s right. We’re moving to Aberdeen! Ben has been offered a job at the University of Aberdeen and has accepted. We move in October.
We spent our last few days in the UK in Aberdeen, exploring the city and trying to decide whether we could live there. After the first day there I was not so sure. I had spent the day walking about and was not sure that I liked it. This was partly because I had wandered into a strange part of town which was not all that appealing and then later walked along an incredibly blustery and unwelcoming esplanade by the sea.
The following day we walked through the centre of the city and it started to grow on me. It is not as quaint and characterful as York, but it does have some unusual and attractive architecture which included some Gothic Revival stuff – Marischal College – as well as some more fairy-tale-looking structures like the Town House. Then on our last day we visited the Cairngorms and I was sold. The thought of living so close to the spectacular Cairngorms was enough to convince me that I could live there.
I know that people will think I’m crazy to want to swap Auckland for Aberdeen, especially when Auckland has just come third in the latest Mercer quality of life survey. But my reasoning is very simple and worth explaining. I don’t think Auckland offers good quality of life. Certainly not compared to York where our quality of life was much better. Why is that and what does quality of life mean to me?
These are the things that I think are important for good quality of life (in no particular order): housing affordability, housing quality, commute times, walkability, cyclability, climate, public transport, natural beauty, culture and history and cost of living.
On housing affordability, the 10th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey: 2014, ranks Auckland the 7th most unaffordable city among 85 major markets.
Housing quality in Auckland is also poor with the leaky homes crisis, a general absence of adequate insulation and very few homes having central heating and double glazing.
Commute times in Auckland are long. The central city is too expensive for most people to buy a home and the urban sprawl of the place combined with the lack of public transport and cycleways means that commute times are long and traffic is bad. Maybe not compared to somewhere like London – where I know people can spend two hours each way commuting to work – but compared to York, where Ben’s commute time was only 10 minutes by bicycle, Auckland performs poorly. Ben’s Auckland commute time is close to an hour each way.
Auckland is not walkable or cyclable. It’s a car-city. Indeed, the central city has been raped by a spaghetti mess of motorways cutting right through its heart. I’ve never lived in a city with this before – although now that I think about it, Brisbane had something of this too.
There is some natural beauty in Auckland. I will give it this much. The volcanoes and the bush and the many beaches do offer some nice scenery. This is very subjective though and I’m more of a mountains and lakes person than a sand and sea person. There is some culture here and some history but not in soulless suburbia where most people live. My day-to-day sights are faceless and I find them depressing.
Climate is very subjective too. Many people would choose heat and humidity over crisp and cold but I am not one of them. I like the grey British days, the not having to smother myself with sunscreen and staple sunglasses to my face, the opportunity to exercise at any time of day without sweating and the absence of insects. I am a cold climate creature.
And finally, the cost of living. I have already mentioned housing affordability and Auckland scores poorly on this one. The cost of groceries is also very high here. I would say it costs about twice as much to feed a family of four here as it did in York.
So, how does Aberdeen compare on my quality of life scale? It’s hard to say when I haven’t lived there. But when I visited, I found the city to be compact, walkable and cyclable, had a climate I liked, history going back thousands of years (humans have been in Aberdeen since the Stone Age), natural beauty in the Cairngorms, better and more affordable housing than Auckland, a lower cost of living, shorter commute times and perhaps best of all, the people living there have a fantastic accent. They also get to see the Northern Lights from time to time – a sight I would love to see – and very importantly, the city is not sitting on top of an active volcano.