July 31, 2006

Nice place for a holiday

I’m not happy. There’s yet another survey about happiness, the third in the space of a month. This time we’re told that the Danes are the gurning champions of the world, by virtue of a survey asking people about their general wellbeing.
A previous survey informed us that Iceland was the happiest country, so there must be something about Viking culture that predisposes them to lifelong chirpiness when they’re not committing suicide (Denmark had the highest suicide rate in western Europe in the 1980s).
These lists are always more fun when you start at the bottom. In this case you’ll see the unhappiest nations are the the real basket cases (e.g. Congo, Zimbabwe), which suggests that maybe this is another survey part-sponsored by my alma mater, The University of the Bleedin’ Obvious.
The odd thing is that I know at least three Zimbabweans and they are amongst the happiest people I’ve ever met, and several Danes of my acquaintance are gloomier than a French art movie.
In the middle of the list you’ll find the world’s troublemakers (USA, China, France, Russia). This is unsurprising when we consider the split personality characteristic of the world’s most powerful countries: they have the means to make their people the happiest on earth, but appear to get more satisfaction by wasting these resources on making everyone else miserable.
Yes, the UK is amongst this pack too, its four main constituents having their own unique reasons to be unhappy: the Welsh because their neighbours are the English, the Scots because the English nicked their oil, the Northern Irish because of that English bloke Oliver Cromwell and the English aren’t happy because they don’t like the English (no, really).
Get to the top of the list and you’ll see that the so-called happy nations are probably the most boring. Switzerland is number two, for heaven’s sake. As Harry Lime quipped in The Third Man: "In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

See also: What I need is… a small island (Vanuatu is the happiest place on earth) and: Happy as a Viking on a rampage (No it isn’t. It’s Iceland!).

Tags: Surveys

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