Yesterday I read a Gallup Inc. poll that supposedly measured national happiness. Gallup contacted 1,000 people in 148 countries and asked them a series of questions like, “Did you laugh or smile a lot yesterday?”
According to the results, Panama is the happiest country in the world. It’s followed by 7 other Spanish speaking countries like Costa Rica, said to be a pretty happy place by everyone I know who has been there, and Guatemala. Guatemala? I have a friend who lived there for a couple of years, never felt safe, and couldn’t wait to leave. So, why do you suppose that 8 of the ten happiest countries, including the world’s happiest, are in Central and South America? Maybe the poll taker didn’t speak Spanish and confused triste and feliz.
There’s only one English-speaking country in Gallup’s top ten–Trinidad/Tobago. The only people I’ve met from there were men and women who had left to better themselves, and none of them were smiling a lot. In fact, one lady on her way back to Trinidad was really unhappy that she had to go.
Thailand ranks 5th happiest. Within one minute of reading this I found a news release from the Australian Government dated November, 2012, that said if traveling there, “exercise a high degree of caution in Thailand due to the threat of terrorist attack….” It listed 4 particularly dangerous provinces. travel.state.gov expressed concern too and concluded, “The political environment in Thailand remains beset by deep political divisions.” I don’t think I’ll be heading there to check out the Thai’s 83% happiness index. I suppose political revolution can cause laughter, but isn’t that after the fighting stops?
Gallup’s saddest countries include some understandable ones–Iraq, Yemen, and Belarus. I postponed a trip to Belarus this year out of fear. But the saddest place in the world according to Gallup is Singapore, the country with the world’s highest percentage of millionaires. Draw your own conclusion.
Also on the sad list is Lithuania, one of my favorite destinations. I have noticed a certain amount of angst among its citizens. After all, anyone there under the age of 22 lived under harsh communism, and its neighbors include Belarus.
I quickly found another 2012 happiness poll conducted by The Los Angeles Times. Its 10 happiest nations were totally different from Gallup’s. Totally. According to The Times, Denmark is the world’s happiest country. On its website 48 people have commented so far. Reading their words made me happy in that I smiled or laughed. Mark Stanley said, “Everybody is stoned in Denmark and prostitution is legal. What’s not to like?” Steve Ressel took exception, “I was just there! It was crappy attitude all around….” So there.
7 of The Times happiest countries are in Europe, including Finland. I was just there and almost everyone I met was depressed about winter coming and commented on the country’s high suicide rate.
I’ve been to all ten of The Times happiest countries. In fact, the countries Ruth & I travel to the most are both on the list—Canada and Australia. Both seem to be somewhat happy places despite citizen complaints.
All of The Times unhappiest countries, except for Haiti and Bulgaria, are in Africa including the unhappiest–Togo. And again, its 10 saddest countries are completely different from Gallup’s.
I must conclude, then, that happiness is relative and can’t really be measured by polls. If it could, we’d all be booking vacations in Paraguay & The Philippines.