Life Quality in Europe vs USA: Who Wins in 2023?

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Is life quality better in Europe or USA?

Although it is highly subjective, decide between the US vs Europe is a huge work that depends on your interests, life goals, financial goals. Getting into life quality, Europe has the best life quality, in terms of quantity. Based on housing, employment, education, civic engagement, personal satisfaction, life/work, income, community, international environment, health and safety in practically all the EU countries, the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) has created a ranking of the Best Countries to Live in:

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  • Finland
    • World’s purest air
    • One of the happiest populations in the world
    • Education system with non-standardized, free tests for students to learn more adequately
    • Free college
  • Germany
    • Low cost of living
    • 4ª best economy
    • Low unemployment rate
    • Diversified workforce
    • Excellent health system
    • Optimal transport
  • Sweden
    • Low cost of living
    • Low level of corruption
    • Free transport
    • One of the 3 countries with the best health system in the world)
  • Netherlands
    • Excellent public services
    • Good purchasing power
  • Switzerland
    • High satisfaction of the population
    • Variety of jobs
    • Excellent health system
  • Denmark
    • Considered the country with the best life quality in the world
    • Highest tax in the world, but there is a good return
    • Free healthcare system
  • Canada
    • Guaranteeing life quality for immigrants
    • Strong social safety net
    • Pension plan
    • Universal health systems
    • Low crime rate
    • Excellent educational system
    • High demand of workers
  • Iceland
    • More immigrant-friendly
    • Average detachable income
    • Good conditions in health, security and education
  • Australia
    • One of the safest countries in the world
    • Efficient health system
    • School variety at great prices
  • Norway
    • 2nd most productive country
    • One of the safest countries in the world
    • World’s largest number of electric cars per capita
    • World’s purest water
    • One of the best systems in the world

It is noticeable the predominance of the European countries and the USA, although present in the complete ranking, is not among the 10 places. Based on this assumption, because it contains more countries with high life quality indices, Europe takes this one, but that does not mean that the United States has a low life quality, quite the contrary.

However, as life quality is a relative thing according to what you think is the priority and most important, you may be checking your own index on the OECD website.

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Daily life: Which is more challenging?

Live in United States - Gas Station
Live in United States – Gas Station

The United States is by far a more convenient country to live in than European countries. With shops open 24 hours a day all week, well stocked and with a wide variety of options, it is easy to find what you are looking for or need without much trouble. The houses are relatively bigger than in Europe (with some exceptions, of course). The price of fuel, an important point for many people, is much more affordable in the USA.

European countries, on the other hand, although they prioritise workers’ life quality and have more accessible public transport, are undoubtedly more challenging to live in and demand organisation and planning to adapt to working hours and manage to meet your needs and tasks within the limited timeframe.


Now in job issues, the United States also has many more job options and a greater number of openings. It is a country more open to capitalism, entrepreneurship, and innovation of ideas for work. In terms of work the United States is very challenging, but also offers greater rewards for work compared to Europe. The purchasing power of an American is greater than that of an average European. There are many jobs in the United States that do not require you to be able to speak so much English. But in Europe, in all countries, they ask that you speak at least English and the local language.

Europe is more culturally challenging. For someone who is going to live in Europe, he or she will possibly have difficulties adapting to a new culture, to European ways and manners, rules of social etiquette, ways of greeting people on the street, way of talking to others. It will take some time to adapt to the way Europeans think and act. For an immigrant, depending on the situation he or she lives in, this can be quite stressful, and let’s face it, I live in Portugal and I can see that many of these “social rules” are rather boring and dull.

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Salary X Cost of living: Which is cheaper?

An important point about life quality is income (salary) and cost of living, that is, all the basic expenses to live in a comfortable and dignified way.

Source: howmuch.net

As we can see, in the State of Oregon you have an average earnings of $65,400 per year, but to make this same amount you need 66 hours per week.
In Europe there are people who work 66 hours a week, but the fact is that it is not the culture of Europeans in general to work this many hours a week. The vast majority work an average of 40 to 50 hours a week. But also, salaries are lower, this we have to agree on.

As the cost of living is a reflection of the value of products, so this relationship is about purchasing power, which we have even made a comparison in Americans and Europeans: who has the highest buying power?

 Average WageAverage salary (per year)Cost of living
USA28.42 USD/h
5,001 USD/month
60,220 USDMedium
Finland21.5 USD/h52,220 USDHigh
Netherlands1. 926.27 USD/month41,731.18 USDHigh
Sweden188SEK/h (Swedish Crow)
2898.453 USD/Month
34,781.436 USDHigh
Denmark44546 DKK/month (Danish Crown)
6483.10 USD/month
67,040.85 USDHigh
Iceland770000 IKK/month (Icelandic Crown)
5670.05 USD/month
68.304,54 USDHigh
GermanyMinimun = 12.00 Euro/h  2112.00€/month58,723.81 USDHigh
Norway33,600NOK/month or
3145.91 USD/month
37,750.92 USDHigh
Switzerland4,242.80 CHF/month60,960.37 USDHigh
2023 Updated

Despite the high salary and relatively average cost of living, the USA has a large population, which reduces the purchasing power of its citizens. European countries, on the other hand, mostly house a relatively smaller population, with good wages and quality services even though the cost of living is high (as are taxes).

What is the difference between American cars and European cars?

Another very interesting fact is that cars in the United States are exchanged more frequently, meaning that the existing car fleet in the country is, on average, newer. It is very common to see big cars, big trucks, more technological cars, and cheaper cars as well. It is much easier to buy a car in the United States than in Europe.

In Portugal, for example, the car fleet is much older. It is super common and normal to see cars on the street with more than 400,000 kilometers on the road. Not only in Portugal, but in all Europe it is also like this. Here people take better care of their cars and the European criteria are very different from the American ones. A European takes good care of his property, takes good care of his car and his house, at least those who live in it. Cars here in Europe are also a bit more expensive, which makes Europeans buy cars or change for a newer one less often. For Europeans, if the car is in good condition overall, looks reasonable to drive, it will keep running. Here there are also laws in most countries that oblige car owners to do periodic annual maintenance, i.e., the cars are always maintained and the mechanical part is always well taken care of. It is also worth mentioning that European cars are much smaller than American cars.

Why Would an American Move to Live in Europe?

Many Americans have been lured by the prospect of a better quality of life, affordable housing, and excellent healthcare that Europe has to offer. Many reasons goes around Housing, Healthcare, Safety, Education, Taxes, Diversity of life and Quality of life, there are the main reasons why an ameriacn would move to Europe. Let’s take a closer look at some of each reason why Americans are packing their bags and moving across the pond.

  • Housing: Real estate prices in the US have skyrocketed in recent years, making it difficult for many Americans to find affordable homes. On average, a US property costs $379,100, which is out of reach for many Americans. However, Europe offers unique possibilities for Americans to own their dream homes at a lower cost. Although life in European cities can be expensive, real estate prices in smaller cities, towns, and villages are much more affordable.
  • Healthcare: Healthcare can be a significant expense for Americans, especially those without insurance. In Europe, healthcare is much more affordable, and European countries are known to have some of the best healthcare systems in the world. High life expectancy and low infant mortality rates are proof of this. As an American expat living in Europe, you can take advantage of the excellent healthcare systems in your new country of residence.
  • Safety: Gun violence is a constant issue in the US, and many Americans are looking for a safer place to live. Europe is home to seven out of the ten safest countries in the world, making it the safest continent to live in. Strict firearm laws, low crime rates, fewer political divisions, and inclusivity and diversity are some of the attributes Europe is known for.
  • Education: Europe has exceptional education systems, with excellent schools and universities. Most European universities have low or no tuition fees, which can be a significant draw for Americans who are looking to further their education.
  • Taxes: European countries have some of the lowest tax rates in the world, making it an attractive proposition for Americans looking to relocate. Income tax and other tax rates vary depending on the country and a citizen’s income.
  • Diversity of life: Europe is a continent with so many different countries, cultures, landscapes, and people, making it one of the most diverse places on earth. This diversity in cultures, lifestyles, and people is one of the biggest attractions for Americans looking to relocate.
  • Quality of life: European countries offer shorter working weeks, longer holidays, and a greater focus on work-life balance. This emphasis on quality of life is one of the biggest advantages that Europe has over the US.

Europe or the US for living: Which one is worth it?

When we think about where to live, we must consider 7 main factors:

  1. Infrastructure
  2. Safety
  3. Climate
  4. Health
  5. Food
  6. Education (for those who have children)
  7. Culture/lifestyle

The sum of all these factors will result in Quality of Life. Quality of Life is the result of all these factors aligned with your goal in life. If you intend to live in a country, you should consider whether you adapt to the climate, culture, food, infrastructure, health system, education and security, and in the end you will have some decision factor that tells you where it is worth living within your conditions. Here below we show the US vs Europe quality of life main factors that may guide you.

Why lives in Europe?

  1. Infrastructure
    • Infrastructure in Europe is generally well-developed, with good public transportation systems, modern highways, and reliable utilities. Except for some countries on the eastern Europe, where some countries has very low infrastructure developed.
  2. Safety
    • Europe is generally considered to be a safe region, with low levels of violent crime. However, there are some areas that may have higher levels of crime and terrorism.
  3. Weather/Climate
    • Europe has a diverse range of climates, ranging from Mediterranean to arctic. Generally, Western Europe has a mild climate, while Eastern Europe can be colder in the winter.
  4. Health
    • Europe generally has a higher life expectancy and lower rates of obesity compared to the US. Many European countries have universal healthcare systems that provide access to healthcare for all citizens.
  5. Food
    • European cuisine is diverse and varied, with each country having its own unique dishes and culinary traditions. Many European countries are known for their cheese, wine, and beer. I think that’s why a lot of americans matches well living in Europe, the food is really good.
  6. Education
    • Europe has a strong tradition of education, with many prestigious universities located in the region. Many European countries have free or low-cost higher education systems.
  7. Culture/lifestyke
    • European culture is diverse and rich, with each country having its own unique cultural traditions and customs. European lifestyle is often more laid back compared to the US, with a focus on work-life balance and leisure time.

Why lives in the US?

  1. Health
    • The United States has a complex healthcare system that combines public and private sectors. While the quality of healthcare is generally considered high, access to it can be limited due to cost and insurance coverage. There are also significant disparities in health outcomes based on race, ethnicity, income, and geography.There is health insurance that you take out for yourself or your company may sometimes provide or not. Even though you pay for the monthly fee you are still paying for the consultations, surgeries. The amount you pay for the monthly fee will depend on each plan you have. As soon as you need a doctor you go to a ‘minute clinic’, an emergency clinic. Hospital emergency care is only for those who are in serious trouble, on the “verge of death”, so to speak, besides being extremely slow, the cost is very high.
    • The price of a health plan is around $300 per month.
  2. Safety
    • The country has its levels of public safety, but it is not as safe as they say. There are many problems with assaults, robberies, thefts, kidnappings, shootings, and we often hear about someone breaking into a school and shooting people. Theft from cars, banks, markets, drug trafficking, human trafficking, all of this exists, but compared to Europe the United States ends up losing out on this point.
  3. Weather/Climate
    • The United States is a large country with a diverse climate. The east coast experiences hot summers and cold winters, while the west coast has a more mild and Mediterranean climate. The southern states are generally warmer year-round, while the northern states can have harsh winters with heavy snowfall.
  4. Food
    • The United States is known for its diverse and often indulgent cuisine, with a range of fast food and chain restaurants available alongside locally-owned eateries. There is also a growing interest in health and sustainability, with many Americans seeking out organic, plant-based, and locally-sourced food options.
    • For those who don’t know, the United States is the land of fast food. The rate of obesity and eating disorders in the USA is very high. A study led by the Harvard School of Public Health estimates that obese Americans will be 48.9% of the US population by 2030 if current trends continue. The research published in the New England Journal of Medicine predicts that about a quarter of the population will be severely obese. Currently, 40% of American adults are obese and 18% have severe obesity. The total number of obese people in the country would rise from 99 million to 164 million, according to the study. In addition, eat healthy in the US is more expensive than eat fast-food.
  5. Infrastructure
    • The United States has an extensive infrastructure system, including highways, bridges, airports, and public transportation. However, many of these systems are in need of repair or modernization, and there are concerns about the country’s ability to fund these improvements.
    • But the biggest problem is, depending on where you live, if you don’t have a car or any vehicle of your own, you will have serious problems with transportation. First, the public transportation is not very good, it doesn’t work as punctually as it does in most parts of Europe. And also there is no uber in many cities, which can become a problem in certain situations.
  6. Education
    • The United States has a highly developed education system, with many prestigious universities and colleges attracting students from around the world. However, there are also significant disparities in educational outcomes based on race, ethnicity, income, and geography, and the cost of higher education can be a barrier for many students.
  7. Culture/lifestyke
    • The United States is a diverse and multicultural society, with a variety of regional, ethnic, and religious traditions. The country has a strong tradition of individualism and entrepreneurship, with many Americans valuing independence, hard work, and success. There is also a vibrant arts and entertainment industry, with Hollywood movies, Broadway shows, and popular music enjoyed around the world.

US vs Europe: Where is it more fun to live?

When it comes to choosing between the US and Europe, it’s worth considering the latter. Compared to the US, Europe offers a more laid-back approach to enjoying life’s pleasures. European countries have a diverse range of culinary delights, including local specialties and regional spirits with unique flavors and histories. In contrast, the US is known for its fast-food chains that serve burgers, fries, and sugar-laden drinks. Another advantage of living in Europe is the freedom to drink alcohol outdoors, without the fear of being penalized for public intoxication. From cozy cafes to picturesque beer gardens and even sandy beaches, you can indulge in your favorite beverages and socialize without any legal repercussions. Plus, unlike the US, there’s no culture of suing for emotional distress or seeking exorbitant compensation for minor grievances. So if you’re looking for a more relaxed and fun-filled lifestyle, Europe could be the perfect place to call home.

Hanging Out

Hangout with new people
Hangout with new people

If you want to find drinking bars, restaurants, discos, nightclubs, you will find it in both places. Of course, the vibe is a little different. For me, Gustavo, as I live in Europe and have a sister who lives in the United States, think that the European way of having fun is a little different. Here most people like to go to discos at night, baldas, raves, parties with lots of drinks and electronic music and get drunk until dawn, this is a fact and I have witnessed it in many parties I have been to.

There are also those people who like outdoor plans, hiking, climbing a mountain, cycling, running, discovering things in nature, but they are usually older people, above 35, not that young people don’t like it too, but it is more common to see above 35.

Here you can also feel in a more international environment, in contact with several nationalities, with people from all over Europe and the world as well. From Asians, Arabs, Latins, South Americans and Americans we meet a lot here and end up making friends with many people.

Education, income and health: who has more?

USA versus Europe
USA versus Europe

Talking about life quality brings the obligation to mention the HDI (Human Development Index), after all this statistic is used to calculate the development of a country based precisely on the life quality of the population, i.e. education, health and income. Check out article where we cover the theme: Americans and Europeans: who has the highest buying power?

United States0,924
Updated to 2023
  • Education: average period (in years) of study and the expectations of these.
  • Health: life expectancy as a projection of the quality of health and sanitation services.
  • Income: Gross Income per capita, focusing on purchasing power.

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Final considerations: does Europe have a much higher life quality than the US?

Maybe it has become even clearer the point that Europe has more life quality than the United States, maybe the comparisons have shown that the difference is not so big, even more both having positive and negative points. However, this is not such a fair comparison being a country vs. a continent (which is not homogeneous and has several countries with particularities and differences).

So the conclusion is that both territories have a very high standard of living, with some European countries having more than the US and others, not mentioned, less.

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