April 10th, 2010 by Rachel | Tags: American Culture, Anthropology, Book, Dr. Ruut Veenhoven, Eric Weiner, European Culture, Material Culture, Money | No Comments »
How do we define happiness? Believe or not, the definition of happiness varies from one country to another country. Qataris from the Middle East believe that money is the gateway to true happiness where they go for elite first class on planes where they expect to be treated like kings and queens. Swiss believe that envy kills happiness and flaunting the wealth is not cool, but cleanliness and efficiencies give the Swiss a big smile. In Iceland, it is necessary to be drunk in order to be happy because life can be boring due to the small population of their country and everyone knows each other. These are just some of the outrageous cultural facts I’ve learned from reading The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner, a longtime correspondent for National Public Radio.
Weiner traveled to various countries around the world to understand the concept of happiness in different cultures. He made his first stop in the Netherlands where he met Dr. Ruut Veenhoven, a Dutch professor who is known to be the “godfather of happiness research.” Without any doubt, Dr. Veenhoven is the mastermind behind the happiness research as we can find his extensive research database online by clicking here. Dr. Veenhoven did caution Weiner that every country have their own value of what it means to be happy:
“The happiest places, he explains, don’t necessarily fit our preconceived notions. Some of the happiest countries in the world – Iceland and Denmark, for instance – are homogeneous, shattering the American believe that there is strength, and happiness, in diversity.”
Weiner did not only take us for an adventure to understand just happiness in each culture, but also to venture the lifestyle that seems so outlandish to our American eyes such as McDonald’s in India dropped Big Macs and all hamburgers from its menu because Hindus don’t eat beef and instead, it serves ‘McAloo Tikki’ and the ‘McVeggie.’