I'm moving! I'm moving! But where to go?

I just thought I'd give an update as to what's up with me these days. I've talked about this a bit here and there, but the house that was on sale since sometime mid-last year finally sold a few weeks ago, and I am formally moving out of the house I have inhabited off and on, mostly on, for about 10 years on the 26th. (This is why there hasn't really been a lot of serious cooking around here lately.)

Now, I do not know yet where I am going to be moving. You might think this is a bit nuts, but I am in a very fortunate situation in that at this point the nature of my work, most of which can be done via online communication, allows me to live almost anywhere there is a high speed internet connection. So I do not have to stay in the Zürich area, or even in Switzerland. This freedom of choice has me in a mild state of panic and a deep state of confusion though. Where do I go? Where do I go? I keep on flipping through real estate ads in wildly different areas of the world, figuring out what is affordable. Invariably, I'm thinking like a food-obsessed person though.

Where in the world (where I have the right to live, or could easily get a working visa) should I go that will make my tastebuds happy and the cook inside me satisfied?

Anyway, let's pretend that there are no tiresome restrictions like visas and such. If eating well were the only criteria, where in the world would you move to?

Of course in reality, I do have to consider things like visas, bureaucracy, stability of governments, availability of affordable healthcare and such, not to mention a pretty tight budget for the move. But for the moment I'm just letting my imagination run free here. In March I'm off to a particular favorite corner of the world to see if living there is realistic...

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So, my first criteria ist language - I have spand last 12 years in three countries.

Well, if Japanese ingredients are important to you, then why not the west coast of America (like California or Washington) or even Hawaii?

What else is important to you?

How about Spain, Italy or France?

Food wise hknk's choices are great.
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and there is an incredible amount of choice in food here. Not only variety of ingredients and freshness of seafood and fruits and veggies, but in the amazing diversity cultures in restaurants and groceries.
Plus being the home of PC's, Silicon Valley and IT, finding a job shouldn't be a problem. Tons of companies have work from home jobs over the internet.

Now the but...$$$Prices$$$. It is one of the most expensive places to live, real estate and daily living. However it may not be that much more than Zurich.

On the plus side though, prices in Hawaii and Japan don't seem so bad after living here. LOL!

What a great opportunity though, but yeah, I do get how that can be overwhelming.

Well, I actually live in Sacramento and homes don't cost quite as much here. ^^; We have but one Japanese market (which recently relocated and upgraded), which I frequent, but there are many other Asian markets although I'm not sure if they carry any ingredients the Japanese market wouldn't.

Not that I'm suggesting this city, it's not exactly a dream.

I second BarbJ's comments! Lived in SFBA all my life and absolutely love the food choices and food culture there. I _especially_ love it now, because I've lived in China for the last 8 months. Really missing the variety and high quality of food back home.

Vancouver, Canada! Huge asian population, so there's tons of asian grocery stores and shopping. Though I s'pose it's not particularly exotic or anything..

Oh my frickin god. I wish they asked that question at job interviews. I'd have an easy time of it.

There is a little triangle (or not so little) in the East of Asia consisting of Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Seoul. My house will be a boathouse (or a whale, depending on what I'm reading at the moment) and I will travel between the three.


What a good problem to have. Not sure where I'd go, but maybe Italy or Greece.

SINGAPORE....where eating is a favourite pastime. The city is modern and charming. Easy access to Asia. Great weather.

If japanese ingredients are important for you, then the most obvious choice is living in Japan; and it doesn't need to be Tokyo, you can live in smaller cities and still have access to japanese ingredients.

I agree that if Japanese food and ingredients are crucial, there's nowhere else than Japan. Everywhere else in the world has such limited and/or expensive items.

BUT.. if that's out of account, I DEFINITELY say MONTREAL. That city has such good vibes, incredibly multicultural, and let's not forget: AMAZING & VARIED FOOD. There's an ENDLESS choice of restaurants, tapas bars, dessert shops, artisan patissieres/bakeries. Most of them are little cute family-owned ones, which means that they're usually really warm and welcoming! For grocery shopping, there's so many authentic European delis. Chinatown is also really nice! Everyone is also veeeery friendly! Commuting and using the transit is never a bore, it's always a nice time to walk outside (maybe not as much in the winter). BUT YEAH, I love that city. I was born there and I miss it soooo much! I'm getting bored of Vancouver..

Oh well, Maki! I hope you find a good place to move to soon! I can't wait to resume serious cooking!

Montreal is a fantastic city, and I certainly couldn't ask to live anywhere better, but for the sake of fairness I'm going to have to point out that Japanese ingredients aren't nearly as easy to come by as they would be somewhere like Vancouver or San Francisco. Montreal doesn't have a sizeable Japanese community (I'm not sure whether that's important to you, Maki) and the majority of its asian groceries are either Chinese or Korean (although the Korean ones do tend to have a decent supply of Japanese ingredients). But you probably would have access to about the same or slightly better variety of Japanese ingredients that you currently do in Switzerland. And, as mika has said, for many many different kinds of food, Montreal really is a gastronomic paradise. We also host a large number of different festivals in the summer (Jazz Festival, Comedy Festival, Film Festivals, etc. etc.).

I should also point out that you need to have a decent command of French (or rather, Quebecois French, since the French spoken here bears little resemblance to what you'd be used to in Europe) to live in many areas, but there are still a fair number of areas where you can get by in English.

If you were interested in Montreal, I'd be glad to show you around. :)

For food, I think few places can top Hawaii, especially if you like to garden, I've never tasted produce as fresh and delicious as I have there. The farmer's markets are enough for me. They sell papayas as though they were apples most places. I daydream about having my own garden in that rich volcanic soil. They also have such variety of cuisines and access to other fresh ingredients like seafood.

Japan, especialy Kyoto, seems awesome in terms of food quality too. The produce and seafood can't be beat. I also daydream about living on a green tea farm.

What a great question to be able to ask oneself. I feel tied to the place we're in because of our children's school. (Not unhappy about it, just it would seem daunting to change a really great thing.) Is your partner's work as flexible, or have I missed something?

What a great question to be able to ask oneself. I feel tied to the place we're in because of our children's school. (Not unhappy about it, just it would seem daunting to change a really great thing.) Is your partner's work as flexible, or have I missed something?

Hawaii is great, but I don't think many of these suggestions come from people who live here and know how expensive it is D: Though I still love it here (just gotta live away from Waikiki, but you know how that is since you just visited)!

If I could live anywhere I'd probably go to Korea or China.., I love Japanese food, but I'd like to try another Asian culture out! Or Italy, Canada, or Russia.. mmm.

Vancouver you must move to vancouver... it's great town..

If you have the time do go and look, take one look on Berlin. I do like it here and it is quite "mulit-kulti" you will find food from almost everywhere but maybe adopted to the european eater

Right now, I live in France, Strasbourg. But I just got a job offer in San Francisco. I'm still debating whether going or not, as it seems like a great city. Langage is crucial for me, so I would suggest moving in a country where this is not an issue, so you have friends quite quickly.

So yeah, New York is awesome, so is San Fran and Berlin and Montreal. But weather wise....

For food alone, I would go with San Francisco, NYC, or Hong Kong, all of which you can easily find Japanese/Asian ingredients. Very excited to see where you are moving...

Although I live in Los Angeles, I would agree with those who recommend San Francisco! Fantastic food city! There is a food blog called Hedonia. Check them out! http://hedonia.seantimberlake.com/ Good luck in your search. Is there a possibility that you can take a little vacation to your chosen spot before you actually move there? I wish that I would have done that before I moved clear across the country. Good luck Maki, it's a big world! Yippee!

I've been living in southern Calif. (O.C.) for almost 10 years now, and I like it a lot. I used to live in SF for 8 years, and I wouldn't move back. It's a nice city for eating out and going out. But if you're more of a homebody, like to cook at home, relax and enjoy the sun, then it's not the place. Sure there are tons of Japanese restaurants (I question the authenticity though), but there are rarely any Japanese markets...well, there are in Japan Town with no free parking (if you can find parking). There are mostly Chinese markets. I'm not Japanese but I love eating and cooking Japanese food. Mitsuwa and Marukai are easily accessible. And there are far more authentic Japanese restaurants in southern Cal. I'm not actually promoting O.C., I just wouldn't recommend SF ^_^

The food is one of the main reasons why I would move to Japan immediately - if I was given the chance...

The variety and quality of japanese food is amazing and a lot of things are just tough or impossible to get outside Japan. Each region or town has its own delicacy and in each season you eat food only available or especially delicious that time of the year - e.g. fresh bamboo sprouts in May, rice cakes around New Year, etc..
And this is only the food, let´s not talk about hot springs...

Can´t we just switch lifes and I move to Japan in your place ;-)

I think another country in Europe would be nice. I absolutely love Europe, so many different kinds of buildings and food and fashion! Since food is a main concern, I suggest France! Anywhere in France is fine. There are lots of pastries and desserts and dishes to be savoured in France.

My personal favorite place though, is London, England. In central London, there are many many small but very very nice restaurants of food from all places. I've had some great Italian, French, Indian, Thai, Moroccan, and even Lebanese food! It's a lovely city.

If I was able to move anywhere in the world without any of the restrictions I would move to Japan, other than that I would not want to leave Australia.

Come and live in Australia for awhile. ^^

vancouver, british columbia. so close to seattle, washington. such a beautiful area - you will fall in love with the pacific northwest. easy trip to san francisco - you can go on food trips to that amazing city. you can stay there for longer vacations and walk to farmer's markets and visit nijiya (japanese grocery). but then you can go back to your home up north which is a little more wild and spacious and has a bustling asian community and all the treats that go along with that.

Very interesting comments...lots of uh, food for thought :)

There are a couple of things that concern me about a few places suggested:

- San Francisco: The price of housing is, I think, still outrageous? (This also speaks against NYC and London)
- The US in general: The lack of affordable health care options is a real deal killer for people like me (e.g. freelance type income making up a big bulk of my income, not old or infirm enough to qualify for Medicare etc, not rich enough to pay full price). Honestly, and without making this political, the US health care system really needs to be fixed.
- Japan. This may sound odd coming from a Japanese person, but Japan is a great place - to visit. To live there, for a Japanese person who has spent way too much time outside of Japan, can be very tough on many levels entirely unrelated to food. On the other hand I do plan to spend more time there, like at least a couple of months a year if possible. (the move and things are all about simplifying our lives and having more freedom etc without being tied down financially too much, etc)
- Canada could be interesting (have to see about the visa issues) though Montreal in winter is COLD...
- I have to visit Australia, Singapore, etc for sure!
- I would seriously consider Hawaii...but see above re: US health care :(.

Also, I have realized that my criteria for what makes a great place to live food-wise may differ a bit from some other people's. The availability of Asian ingredients is not that big a deal - I've learned to adapt to what I have on hand, and there's always mom and mailorder. The number of restaurants etc. is not such a big deal either. I guess what makes a great place to live food-wise would be a place where fresh, top quality ingredients are readily available, especially produce and fish. Here in Zürich the one thing lacking for me is the ready availability of really fresh (and reasonably priced...) seawater fish. (There's excellent freshwater fish in season though.)

If the availability of seafood and housing costs were an issue, I would highly recommend Australia. I personally wouldn't live anywhere apart from Sydney, and given how weak the Australian dollar is now, you'd get a great deal. Plus there is a great immigration policy for skilled professionals, universal health care and mild temperate weather with plenty of sun in summer! It's close to Asia too. You should take a trip to several Australian cities if you have the chance to.

My top three choices of where to live if food was the only factor involved in my decision:


Montreal is a good choice for food variety, and there are some good places for asian foods on the south shore.

Maki, you may want to look at individual state-sponsored health care options in the USA. Some states have decently priced medical coverage for self-employed people.

I can understand your concern about housing costs in San Francisco and the surrounding areas. Health care is a concern too.

Umi is correct about some of the state sponsored plans, but I don't think California has them. I've heard some of the larger insurance companies have group plans for self employed persons, I think they pool you in with other self-employed people, to get the better group rate that employers get, but not sure about the details.

Since my husband and I grew up here, we bought a parent's house when they downsized. They gave us a better deal, but yeah a lot of my friends from high school have moved away because of the housing cost. It's too bad though, because the weather is wonderful!

VANCOUVER. If you want good food and decent housing, not too cold and not too hot, beautiful nature and just every amenity you need-Vancouver.

I dunno if you feel comfortable with moving to a developing country but your money will go a much longer way if you do. I live in Ecuador and while I wouldn't pick Ecuador of all the countries there are to go to (hubby works here) I want to stay put for numerous reasons. I am a freelance web writer and my salary goes waaaaaaay farther here. I can save a lot more money here and enjoy luxuries not possible in Japan or the US with my salary (such as hiring a full time nanny while I work at home). Ecuador is actually a lot pricier than other parts of Latin America since it's dollarized but even so it's cheap. You can get plenty of exotic fruits and veggies in L.A. and the land and housing are very cheap. Good meat is also cheap. Some people freak out and say it's dangerous but so far I haven't had any problems and I've been around. I guess it depends on your overall experience in poorer countries.

Asian food is scarce here which sucks but in Peru and Brasil there are large Japanese immigrant communities.

For lots of fresh fruits, veggies, and seafood, Chile is a good place to go.

Panajachel, Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala is a great place. Spring-like weather all year round, a gorgeous lake with volcanoes, and plenty of tourism and foreigners around to stay entertained. Beautiful Mayan textiles, lots of culture. Just google Lago de Atitlan. It is full of hippies though so you won't like it if hippies bug you. There is ONE Japanese guy retired there who owns a hostel in Panajachel and I occasionally saw groups of Japanese tourists pass through when I was living there. Panajachel is a small village but the biggest one the lake... there are many small ones around the lake that you can take a small boat to visit. San Pedro is REALLY full of hippies (too many for my tastes because they all seem to be wacked out on drugs) and San Marcos is a new-agey place where they have all these yoga retreats and massage joints (not the sleazy kind).

In Pana, there is a gringo supermarket that sells miso, curry, and all that stuff. I love that place. We want to retire there. It's gorgeous and you can get all the fresh food ingredients you want. And it is DIRT cheap. Lakeside property is expensive though because of all the retired gringos.

Oh yeah and medical care in these countries is cheap. You can get insured with a private company. We pay $150/month or so for a family of three. I just got surgery at one of the nicest private clinics in the city and they covered every penny.

Have I sold you yet? lol :)

Okay, if you were only going for the food... Morocco! Lamb tagine, couscous t'faya, fresh mint tea... Holy cow, I ate better there on a four-day trip than I might have in several weeks at home!

However, the standard of living and availability of jobs in Morocco what it is in say, Switzerland, so I would say realistically - Seattle!

There are a MILLION ways to go, food-wise. Authentic Mexican taco-stands, Vietnamese pho restaurants everywhere (Than Brothers is best), excellent Japanese food, a ton of Asian markets, most notably Uwajimaya, which I could spend days in, fine French and Italian cuisine, absolutely fresh seafood, readily-available & reasonably-priced organic meat, produce & dairy... It really is all here. And, one decent part of a down economy is that housing prices are extremely reasonable, especially in comparison to several years ago.

It's a great place with a thousand foodie reasons to live here, especially if you're wanting to stay attached to your Japanese roots while still living in another part of the world. In any case, good luck with your decision!

Another vote for Vancouver, Canada!

Friendly people, multi-cultural population, wide range of outdoor activities and a great jumping off point for visiting Asia and the Western US.

Well if you want good food and good health care, I would have only one suggestion : France of course ... you can find very safe and high quality food, and for sure health costs almost nothing with high standing hospital

As a SoCal native, I feel compelled to mention that southern California has some of the best, freshest produce in the world. Our mild weather makes it possible to grow a really wide variety of things in your own yard, plus we have a great mix of nationalities represented, which leads to a lot of culinary choices. And hey, California real estate is definitely a buyer's market right now!

If I had to leave SoCal, though, I'd go with Italy or Greece. I felt like the people of both countries have a positive, relaxed attitude toward food. Also, Mediterranean cuisine is among the healthiest in the world.

It's not THAT cold in Montreal! But I'm from Toronto, so I guess I'm used to the cold.

So I vote for Vancouver, for all the reasons others have already pointed out.

I would also advise against France. I'm living in Nice right now - maybe that's the problem - and it's a veritable desert, food-wise, especially for a poor student like me. The quality of produce is low to mediocre, it's hard to get really good meats here (except I guess seafood), the selection of Asian products is pretty slim and the restaurants, well...I find that the view/decor is always better than the food, which is very pricey.

Also, time stands still here, which is good if you need to relax, but infuriating if you want to get anything done. People work very, very slowly, and they will lie or give you false information if they're unsure of something - even in government offices! Plus customer service is often very bad. So don't move to Nice!

Now, personally, I'd love to move to Tokyo. I was there for two weeks for Christmas and now it's my favourite place in the world. The produce is amazing, and the restaurants are out of this world! I also adore Japanese candy. Customer service is consistently fantastic, and so is the efficiency of people. But it wouldn't be a new experience for you, and you already mentioned that there are a bunch of cons you wouldn't like to deal with, so Vancouver is my vote!

I live in Vancouver.. and if you don't mind extremely high priced houses/condos/apartments, then sure! I STILL THINK MONTREAL IS AMAZING! The cold is not that bad! You just need to get a really warm coat/jacket and you'll be used to it quickly!

I second Singapore. As a Malaysian, I feel rather dishonest, but Singaporean food is essentially the same as Malaysian food and culture, and you can get nearly any food (Italian, American, Japanese, Korean) in this part of the world. And Singapore has better internet connectivity than Malaysia. And the sun... i miss the sun. T_T

i had the same choice and I ended up in san francisco! I always think of moving to singapore when the time comes, it seems a perfect base for treat hunting all over asia. I moved to sf many years ago after wandering around eating treats all over the world; I knew it was the only place in the US I could find all the flavors i needed to keep me content if I had to settle somewhere. For me SF if its in the usa, just for the ingredient availability, the weather, the ability to have no need for a car, and the beauty all around this area. Its the best time to come here too for housing.

But, close to the TGV for making daytrips to Paris easily and with no stress. (I love when we head down to Marseille and it takes less time than when we go to Brest.)

French property values are sliding downhill (especially "au province")...although in the large cities like Paris, rental rates are escalating.

Maybe Marseille? It's pretty cosmopolitan (and fresh fish is easy to find)--although I think it's sort of grungy, too.

As for me, I live in Paris and have no desire to be anywhere else. (Except to have a second home in the southwest of France. The people are friendly, truly authentic french cuisine, and the region is warm and sunny...which means I could have a reasonable vegetable garden of my very own.)

wherever you go, just don't forget your loyal followers, we will always be here! needless to say go where your heart leads you, I can advise you if you like, as I am a spaniard of birth, raised in japan in an international school, and now living in switzerland... in any case, good luck ;)

I'm going to give myself the month of March to make a decision :) Also, I haven't ruled out Switzerland by any means! There are a LOT of good points for staying here. I guess the one thing I do want is to be in a warmer climate, where I could conceivably grow vegetables year round. There are many different climates here in this small country...like around here we can't really grow tomatoes without protection, but just a few hours away they have palm trees...so who knows? I may end up staying here. (I know some of you insist Montreal is not 'that cold' but I've been there in mid-October when I thought it was too cold...then I was there in January and February, when my eyelashes froze together and I had icicles hanging out my nose, and I thought I was going to DIE. :P I lived in NY for a long time and January to February there was way too cold for me too...and I seem to even spend every winter here grumbling when the temperature drops below zero centigrade. I'm just not very cold-proof! Then again, I do love different seasons, so...I'm weather-picky!)

Of course for actually moving somewhere there are practical issues to consider, like visas and stuff, so I can't really just whiz over to Australia or something and settle in.

Anyway, this question was posed half-rhetorically, and I hope it's gotten you all thinking about where you'd want to live yourself! It certainly has gotten me thinking very hard about the advantages and disadvantages of living somewhere.

Looking at what you've said in the comments, I'd have to second Australia.
But not for a visit. DEFINITELY NOT for visiting. For tourists, Australia (unless you go to a very touristy town - such as the Gold Coast) can be a very boring place.
This is coming from a Sydney-sider, so...

In most of the big cities (big doesn't really include Canberra), there are many different communities there, and most of the suburbs aren't too far away. The housing isn't a problem, it's actually dropped a few actually, and the food definitely isn't a problem.

Since most of the main Australian cities are coastal cities, (we are, after all, a very big island), you'll find fish, basically, anywhere. And in most cities you'll always find a 'marketplace' of some sort. The whole farmer thing.

But then again, this is the one country I can tell you about, so, take your pick. You've got most of the world to pick from.

And uhh, you seem to have your English down pat.

My suggestion is to head south, to Brazil or Argentina or Peru. The more I think about it, the better Brazil sounds for what you're looking for.

Brazil has the largest Japanese community outside of Japan, mostly centered around Sao Paolo. Brazilian food is a mix of Portuguese, African, indigenous, Italian, and Japanese influences, and they have seafood aplenty (think of all that coastline). Brazil is also my absolutely top pick for fresh produce -- the year I lived there, I literally turned orange from eating so many papayas and mangoes! As for health care, there is a socialized medical system in Brazil, and even private health care is much more reasonably priced than in the U.S. It is much less expensive to live in a Brazilian city than in a major U.S., Canadian, Japanese, or European city. And Brazilian Portuguese is a relatively easy language to learn. And did I mention the beaches? The rainforest? The music? There's so much more beyond the belly in Brazil...

Want to know more? I lived in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, for six months; feel free to email if you want more info.

Good luck with your search.

~Ai Lu

Maki, in your opinion, what are the cons of living in a city in Japan? Many of the people who commented, including myself, would want to live there.

There are some obvious disadvantages to living in Japan, especially in a city, like overcrowding, small living spaces, and so on. But that is not what deters me. And, for any non-Japanese person living in Japan (provided they don't encounter racism...which is another issue) the experience is going to be completely different, though with a whole other set of issues to contend with.

A Japanese person living in Japan is expected to conform totally to the expectations of people around them. If you have lived for 'too long' outside of Japan, and you dare to be even a bit outspoken or non-conformist, you are going to get bashed down. At the very least people might whisper behind your back about you. There are countless stories of people returning to Japan after many years and having a hard time re-assimilating. (For what it's worth all members of my family went through this to varying degrees.)

This applies to children who have been living overseas too. This is why many families who are sent overseas for a while send their kids to all-Japanese schools instead of local schools, so the re-assimilation process once back in Japan is a lot easier. There are also schools in Japan that specially cater to returnee children (帰国子女).

This kind of prejudice against people who have spent a lot of time overseas extends to younger people too, to a lesser extent. (And the prejudice is worse in areas in provincial cities). For instance a young girl who spends time overseas studying or something is just a bit suspect. The longer she stays overseas, the more suspect she is. She must have led a fast and loose 'non-Japanese' life out there, the reasoning goes.

These kinds of attitudes are very slowly changing for the better, but they do still exist. Japan may seem like a cool, hip place with only good things going for it but like any society it has a lot of problems, maybe just not so obvious. And to repeat, your experience as a non-Japanese person would be very different.

Wow I never knew about that prejudice in Japan. I grew up in Bangkok and came to the US when I was 10. It seems like in Thailand, people tend to respect you more if you were educated overseas...you'd get better jobs and such. My non-Japanese bf really wanted to move to Japan after college. He was so upset that I was against it. Because of his interest in the language and culture, he started working for a Japanese company. Soon after that, he longer wishes live in Japan (haha!). It's funny...he told me that the girls at his office would gossip in Japanese about how another co-worker annoys them (typing too loud, etc.)...and he just thinks "geez, why don't you just ask him to stop!?!" They don't dare to be outspoken. ^_^
I guess during my visits there, I was drawn to the delicious foods, public transportation, cleanliness, and how safe it felt walking around at night. Not like in Thailand where I'd fear for my life. =)

As an ordinary Japanese who felt somehow confined to live in my own country for various reasons, I envy you for having so many choices in your way of living!

Vancouver, Seattle and Sydney would always be ranked high, obviously for their high standard of living, nice foods, friendly people and relaxed atmosphere.
I myself would go for Vancouver.

But for you Maki-san, my vote goes to OKINAWA!
That laid-back island with lots of interesting food culture will amaze you!

Love, from Kyoto

I second South America, specially money-wise: with a "swiss" income you'll have plenty of room for luxury (or for working less and enjoying/traveling more). Of the places I've been in South America, I'd suggest Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires, which are great in terms of food quality and diversity. The only downsides, in my opinion, are those related to living in big cities: pollution, traffic (not so problematic for freelance working, though), safety (not as bad as people usually imagine it, though).

I assume I'm biased, however: I live in Sao Paulo...

I´m staying in Amsterdam, for its wide variety of restaurants... japanese, chinese, even one tibetan, thai, italian, indonesian, vietnamese, ethiopean, surinamese, you name it...but of course I might choose Jakarta or Bali, for their authentic Indonesian dishes...Ah!

If you're considering the United States, think about the Heartland: Chicago has a vibrant food scene and there is a large Japanese marketplace (grocery, food court, other shops) near the O'Hare Airport.

Madison, Wisconsin has the largest outdoor farmers' market in the country and a booming high-tech and bio-tech employment sector because it's the home of the University of Wisconsin.

Of course weather is always an issue. Cold temperatures and lately a great deal of snow (5" last night in Madison and over 100" last winter).

Berlin is where I'd want to go, especially if I could go to Japan for a few months a year.

Or the Ticino, maybe -- but is that Switzerland?

Speaking as a Vancouverite, it is a great place to live for many reasons. We have an amazingly diverse population and services to accommodate many different cultures. You can get pretty much any recipe ingredient you can imagine (and cheap!), including fresh seafood right off the boats in Steveston. The transit system is (mostly) reliable if you don't have a vehicle. The weather is pretty moderate and the rain keeps the plants a gorgeous emerald green. The cherry-blossom lined streets in spring are totally stunning. But the best thing about Vancouver? Daiso!!! Spread over two floors of Aberdeen (sp?) Centre in Richmond, I can spend an entire afternoon there and not get bored.

The biggest drawback, though, is the cost of housing. It's gone down considerably lately, but is still pretty ridiculous. About a working visa, all of my international friends have had different experiences. A friend from Germany had to wait two years for it to be approved, but two of my Japanese friends had theirs almost as soon as they'd gotten back home. Good luck in your search!

Hi Maki,

Regarding food: I have lived in many many cities all around the world, and also love food with an amateur (in the best sense of the word) passion. I just spent last year living in San Francisco and would overwhelmingly recommend it, especially knowing many of the other cities people suggested. You wrote "I guess what makes a great place to live food-wise would be a place where fresh, top quality ingredients are readily available, especially produce and fish." Ummm, yeah, San Francisco, or the Bay Area to be more precise, is absolutely incredible for fresh food and fish. I can't even begin to describe it. There's just an incredibly strong sense of pride for local, sustainable food in the Bay Area, and not just with a few snobby foodies, it's really almost everyone you talk to. I'm not a hippie type either, I grew up eating entirely unhealthy and I really fell in love with the food culture there. There are so many farmers markets and coops, slow food, community supported agriculture services (CSAs) and the like, as well as a general concern for healthy lifestyle. I had a small house in Oakland with a little garden and you can grow so much food there, the climate is very good for that.

Regarding quality of living: Being a freelance artist (web designer and musician) myself, you'll find many people in the same boat as you. San Francisco is kind of an oasis regarding health care, and there are a number of affordable options for individual workers in the Bay Area that are not offered anywhere else! Read this about healthy SF! (For example you'll also find that SF also has higher minimum wage, or more liberal laws regarding same sex marriage or marijuana, say). I don't earn that much but have never had a higher quality of living (especially eating) ANYWHERE. It's also a really beautiful area, close to the redwoods and the ocean ;-)

Finally, it's not that expensive, especially after Switzerland. Rent is higher than a lot of cities, but as for fresh food, there is such an interest in it that it proliferates everywhere, is easier to come by, and thus cheaper. And if you choose to live in the East Bay, say Oakland or Berkeley (like many other artists) it's even more affordable!

Ah I wrote a lot! But I really appreciate the care you take in your blog, and always wish I could thank you. Best of luck, Kevin

(Note: Keep politics out of your comments please. This is not the place for it.)

I am so envious of you...! I would absolutely love to live abroad.

My top destinations, if visas weren't a factor:

Japan (not quite sure where abouts)
San Francisco
New York

They all seem like pretty obvious options, but nevertheless.

Not really sure what languages you speak or are willing to learn, but I think you should consider the following places:

-Costa Rica

Good luck!


I absolutely loved living in the Middle East: Jordan & Saudi Arabia, but had a lot of experience in Syria, Israel, Greece, and Turkey too. Honestly, I would choose any one of those countries to live in so long as I could fall back on (or,despite, I suppose, in some of the Arabic-speakig countries, getting in danger for having/)my US passport. This is what I loved: 1. the people and their values 2. the Mediterranean terra, sea, and climate (except in Saudi or Jordan, with a dry, warm to hot climate still quite OK, but not as agreeable, as, say Greece.) 3. the cool foods available in a Mediterranean diet, but, surprisingly, not at all hard to find. Even in Riyadh and Jordan in the 80's there were at least some Asian staples because Asians worked there.

Because I lived in Beijing for a year too, I enjoy cooking either Asian or Middle Eastern cuisines, in addition to the midwest/Texan "roots" cooking of my and my spouse's childhood.

But, I cook more Asian and Middle Eastern for American family than I do American/European. Once I had to call my Texan mother-in-law to ask her how the heck to make a meatloaf!

COLOGNE....where eating is a favourite pastime. The city is modern and charming. Easy access to europe. Great weather.