Monday Morning Musings - The Happiness Factor

While on my way to the Blogger website to finish writing today's post, I was sidetracked by one of the MSN headlines, "US doesn't make cut for happiest nations list" and decided to see how Switzerland, a country that usually ranks in the top ten, fared this year.  At number seven, Switzerland is one of the "happiest" countries according to the journalists at 24/7 Wallstreet, who used 11 measurements of quality of life to determine the happiest nations. 

And what about France -- how happy can I expect to be while living here?  Since the 24/7 Wallstreet list only showed the top ten countries, I decided to look at the Forbes 2010 list and discovered that France was ranked way down at number 44, behind the United States, Iceland, and Guatemala, which means that I'll have to change my attitude.  No wonder so many Parisians have a disgruntled look on the metro while I'm still going around with a silly smile on my face.  They already know that they aren't supposed to be happy. 

But soon after forcing my facial muscles into a dissatisfied expression to show how depressed I am to be living here, the thought occurred to me that the index of quality of life probably doesn't apply to expatriates.  After all, some of the measurements, such as housing, community, and education, are quite different for me than for someone who will spend her entire life in France.  My children aren't in overcrowded classes at the Sorbonne, my bathrooms are larger than average, and I haven't lived here long enough to be familiar with many of the social issues that concern the French.  So, where does that leave me?  Right where I was before reading the article, happy to be in Paris but cognizant of the fact that I am, and always will be, a bit of an outsider.

Article: US doesn't make cut for happiest nations list

Forbes 2010 list of happiest countries

NYT article on France: Where having it all doesn't mean having equality


  1. I live in Chicago, a city that never makes the list for best places to live in the US, but I think it's the most livable city I've ever lived in or visited. People always harp on about the winters but that's just bull, really, as I've said many times before, nothing is colder than walking your dog home from Central Park across Park Avenue in NYC on a rainy January night. I survived that and can survive whatever Chicago throws at me.

    And France is certainly a happy country, or at least when I'm there. Except, come to think about it, it's supposed to be the most medicated country in the world also.

  2. French women supposedly take the most anti-depressants in Europe. Ever since Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested, there has been a lot of press coverage about the repressed rage that they feel. They're held to a high standard -- look sexy, work hard, produce lots of children (4 seems to be the norm), and make a delicious evening meal.

    Chicago is one of my favorite cities. The food is fantastic and Lake Shore Drive is stunning with the amazing buildings on one side and the lake on the other.

  3. Being a Swiss citizen living in the heart of Switzerland, I now know why I'm so happy (at least most of the time)!. I haven't read the ranking of the "happiest" countries, but instead the book "The Geography of Bliss" by Eric Weiner - very recommendable!! My opinion is that happiness has a lot to do with how well you interact with your environment (family, community, work, friends) and this again depends very much on your upbringing. I believe that you can be a decent and friendly (and in the long run happy) person whether you were born in France, Switzerland, USA or in a poor country in the third world.

  4. Just found your blog via Trip Advisor...and I am so glad I did. Have a plan that, tonight ( West Australian time) , I shall pour a little something and potter amongst all your posts and links and ideas. You have a gift for inspiring so ...thank you. Jacky

  5. "Cheers", Jacky! I'm glad that you found the blog and hope that you enjoyed the potter.

    Heidi, Thanks for mentioning "Geography of Bliss". It's another book that I've been intending to read. I just finished an interesting article in Time that said that the human brain is wired for optimism.

    Have a great day in Chicago, Western Australia, and Switzerland - it's raining here in Paris but I'm happy!

  6. Alain du Button's How Proust Can Save Your Life is another great read on happiness.


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