Startup Life/Places/

Turns out a freezing island in Norway is pretty great for digital nomads

Svalbard named sixth best place to live as a digital nomad; London ranks 78th.

By Éanna Kelly

By Sprok - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

London is famed for its history, culture and financial clout. But it’s not a good place to live if you’re a digital nomad.

The city scored a middling 78th out of 100 in a ranking of remote work destinations published by Remote, an HR solutions startup for distributed teams.

But other European destinations picked up the slack, taking six out of the top 10 slots. The most surprising is perhaps Norway’s Svalbard. The remote archipelago’s 3,000 people and 1,000 polar bears (no joke) took sixth place, alongside Madrid [2nd], Madeira [4th], Helsinki [5th], Berlin [8th] and Dublin [9th].

“The alcohol is very expensive but the cost of rent is relatively low.”

Home to the world’s northernmost church, university and brewery, Svalbard is a place where “the alcohol is very expensive but the cost of rent is relatively low,” says Job van der Voort, Remote CEO and cofounder. It is also one of the few places in the world where anyone can live — citizens of any country are welcome to settle in Svalbard without a visa as long as they have a job and a place to live.

👉 Read: Where are Europe’s top digital nomad villages?

At the other end of the scale is London. Despite scoring high for openness to diverse lifestyles, safety and quality of life, the city’s “overall score [was] brought down due to the increased cost of living in the UK city versus other global destinations,” Remote said. Other European cities that fared poorly in the ranking include Budapest [79th], Bratislava [87th] and Warsaw [93rd].

The top 10 cities in full are: Toronto, Madrid, Auckland, Madeira, Helsinki, Svalbard, Berlin, Valparaiso, Dublin and Sydney. Salt Lake City claims 11th spot but US cities don’t feature higher because of tight immigration rules, van der Voort says.

The ‘most open-minded places’ are Stockholm, Toronto and Amsterdam.

Tech workers reassess life

The index comes at a time when tech workers are seeking to move out of big cities as they reassess work and life during the pandemic.

The survey grades cities in every country in the world for quality of internet connection, attractiveness, safety, quality of life, openness, cost of living and incentives for remote workers.

👉 Read: The world’s first digital nomad village, one year on

Auckland, Honolulu, Sydney and Reykjavík score among the top destinations with the ‘best quality of life’ for remote workers. The ‘most open-minded places’ are Stockholm, Toronto and Amsterdam.

Italy’s Emilia-Romagna has the largest cash incentive for nomads.

A tool launched alongside the index allows users to dial up and down the importance of these factors and generate a tailored list. If a user prioritises quality of internet connection, for example, the top destination becomes Madrid, while Bucharest and Copenhagen also climb into the top 10.

In all, the ranking counts 44 countries and 24 US states as having some form of special remote work incentives, in the form of digital nomad visas, tax breaks, relocation payments or housing incentives.

Money or livestock

Nomad schemes are notably different depending on where you go. Aruba, an island in the Caribbean Sea, is adjudged by the Remote ranking to offer the best incentives for digital nomads through its ‘One Happy Workation’ programme.

Remote workers in Cabo Verde, meanwhile, are exempt from income tax, while the lowest monthly income requirement of any country, roughly £300, is offered by Ecuador.

👉 Read: Which European countries offer digital nomad visas?

Some cities want digital nomads to stay long term as part of a rejuvenation push. Italy’s Emilia-Romagna, for example, has the largest cash incentive for nomads, paying parents under 40 almost £25k to relocate. Other cities, that are particularly reliant on tourism, are now also offering visas for digital nomads who want to extend their stay longer than six months.

But it’s Mishima, in central Japan, that has the strangest offering to entice nomads — the choice of a lump sum of roughly $2.7k or a calf.

Éanna Kelly is a contributing editor at Sifted. He tweets from @EannaKelly1.

13
Join the conversation

avatar
  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
Chloe
Chloe

Pretty sure last I read they had a severe housing crisis? Not to mention the need to carry a gun due to polar bears, and the limited healthcare? Bizarre ranking by Remote…

https://www.lifeinnorway.net/living-on-svalbard/

Prateek
Prateek

That housing crisis part is Iceland you are talking about

Sverige
Sverige

Svalbard is NOT a city! 😉

Matt
Matt

As an IT Nomad, I would recommend Poland for IT (8% IPbox tax), Romania, Czechia, Thailand or Colombia. Only these countries can compete with low costs of living and good life standard + fast internet.

Nika
Nika

IPbox is a huge misinterpretation of the law. Everyone that cuts his taxes using IPbox is no more than a common thief.

Nabaroon Goswami
Nabaroon Goswami

Add Bulgaria, I was visiting Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna
..amazingly cheap and turned out nicely. If you don’t need the Gucci designer stuff, Bulgaria scores very well.

Walter Young
Walter Young

Poland has become an extremely expensive place to live, most locals are priced out of the big cities down to IT nomad’s/outsourcing worker’s from abroad on contract’s from the country they serve, medical is poor, red tape is diabolical if you don’t speak the language, pollution is the pitts, locals are extremely racist and internet is hit and miss! The only positive is house prices outside the cities are reasonable low. Big swerve long term imo

Paul
Paul

Those rankings never make any bloody sense. Dublin makes it 9th?! Rents there are higher than in Oslo or Zurich and their average tax pp is around 40-50% (IT). People working in tech have to share to make a living and the weather is shit.

Canadian Guy
Canadian Guy

Toronto is bankrupt financially and socially. Do NOT move there

Bart
Bart

Curious to see the methodology. I love Madrid, but Valencia or Malaga has all that while having a nice better weather, beach… (On the other hand, in general Spain has a quite unfavorable taxation for ‘autonomos’ unless something changed recently)
Seems like a very incomplete list to me

Siân
Siân

Svalbard isn’t a city.

Pawel
Pawel

It’s not cheap to rent at all..

diVer
diVer

Not to mention Valencia: cheaper than Madrid, close to the beach, excellent internet…