hat tip: Lime
Prague ... the Czech Republic capital offers a high quality of life
BRITAIN has dropped to 25th place on a list of the best places in the world to live - behind countries like the Czech Republic and Lithuania.
While France tops the poll for the fifth year in row, the UK is associated with a dismal climate, soaring crime rate and cost of living, congested roads and equally over-crowded cities.
Even former Communist countries where unemployment is still rife are considered better places to settle down in.
The Czech Republic and Lithuania were not even accepted into the European Union until 2004.
Since then thousands of people from both countries have flooded into the UK, but most are drawn by the chance to make money in a liberal, entrepreneurial economy, rather than Britain's quality of life.
Many eastern Europeans make as much money as they can in the UK before returning home at the earliest opportunity.
The Quality of Life Index, published by International Living magazine for the 30th year in a row, puts Britain down five places from 20th in 2009.
In all, 200 countries are surveyed across nine categories, including cost of living, culture and leisure, environment, safety, culture and weather.
Australia is placed second after France, with Switzerland in third.
Residents across the Channel enjoy everything from Riviera beaches and Alpine ski resorts to arguably the best health service in the world, but it is the country's 'bon vivant' lifestyle which sets it apart.
While British people are nowadays renowed for their TV dinners and binge drinking, the French savour the finer things in life day-in, day-out.
This includes freshly baked bread twice a day, two hour lunch breaks in which to enjoy cheap cordon bleu restaurants, and some of the best wine in the world.
Working hours are far shorter than those experienced by stressed-out British people, who have far less holiday entitlement too.
The French, in contrast, take most of August off, view Sunday leisure as sacrosanct, and have far more public holidays, as well as less crime and dirt.
Jackie Flynn, publisher of International Living magazine said: "In France, life is savoured. I don't think anyone will argue that France is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, where there is so much pride in all the small details.
"The French love little window boxes filled with flowers, tidy gardens, pretty sidewalk cafes, and clean streets. Cities are well tended and with little crime."
Variety is also seen as a major factor in France's attractiveness, with the survey noting: "Romantic Paris offers the best of everything, but services don't fall away in Alsace's wine villages, in wild and lovely Corsica, in lavender-scented Provence or in the Languedoc of the troubadors, bathed in Mediterranean sunlight."
The US dropped from third to seventh place this because of last year's economic collapse.
A magazine spokesman said: "Sustaining the American Dream has escalated out of the reach of many."
While countries like France, Italy and Australia are considered to have the best climates, Britain does not top a single category.
Germany, which comes fourth in the overall survey, is widely praised for its efficiency and leisure facilities.
The survey notes: "In Germany, everything works and works well. Its houses are built to last, and their legendary autobahns are still mostly without speed limits.
"If you enjoy sports, even small towns have numerous facilities. Some odd ones too. The Harz Mountains now has a specialist hiking trail for nudists. From spas to parks to North Sea beaches, Germany is arguably the world's most naturist-friendly country."