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Markus' Travel and International Living Blog

Markus is an enthusiastic traveler, who lives in Houston, TX (USA) most of the time, but also spends some time in Saalfelden, near Salzburg (Austria). He is fascinated by travel and also by his experiences gathered by living in two different countries and continents.

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Monday, March 12, 2007
World Map of Happiness

Adrian White (a psychologist of the University of Leicester) has created a World Map of Happiness (I first learned about this study when Guy Kawasaki blogged about it). The study includes data from a lot of different sources, including the UNESCO, the CIA, the WHO, and many others. Data from over 100 different studies around the world was used for this, and it included over 80,000 people worldwide.

Austria comes in #3. The US is only #23. This pretty closely reflects my personal experience (although admittedly, my opinion probably wasn't formed as scientifically as this study...).

The 10 most happy countries are:
  1. Denmark
  2. Switzerland
  3. Austria
  4. Iceland
  5. The Bahamas
  6. Finland
  7. Sweden
  8. Bhutan
  9. Brunei
  10. Canada

There are a few surprises here. From my point of few: Why isn't Austria #1? What do we have to be unhappy about? Probably that Denmark and Switzerland are ahead :-). Seriously though: Switzerland I would not have expected as high up in this list. Scandinavian countries I would have expected to be higher up. Perhaps temperature and lack of daylight may have to do with it. Bhutan I wouldn't have expected this high up in the list either. It is a fascinating country that I would love to visit, but their puritan life style would seem to lack a lot regardless. I wasn't of the impression that they would have high standards in health care for instance. But maybe I am wrong. Or maybe other factors do make up for a lot more than I would have thought...

Other interesting countries: USA (#23), Germany (#35), UK (#41), France (#62), and Japan (#90).

A bunch of unhappy campers are to be found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (#176), Zimbabwe (#177), and Burundi (#178).

Of course happiness is probably hard to measure. It was found that health, wealth, and education are major factors in happiness. This would explain why the US rates so low by comparison. Health care isn't all that great here (especially if you do not have oodles of money). Wealth is disproportional distributed with only a small percentage of the population being really wealthy, while a very large percentage lives much below the standards of western countries. Education is for the rich. 3 strikes, and you are out. Or down to #23 anyway. In general, it seems that countries who make the pursuit of happiness and general quality of life at top priority end up with happier people than countries that pursue "means but not an end", such as money or spiritual matters.

As mentioned above, this matches my personal experiences. I often refer to Austrians as "getting up in the morning, thinking about what they can do to improve their quality of life", while Americans seem to get up wondering "how they can make more money, which they believe will improve their quality of life". The difference being that the Austrian's conclusion will often include many things other than money, in particular activities with friends. With that said, I do not subscribe to the theory that money makes one unhappy. I believe that money can remove a lot of worries. On the other hand, if you can't be happy without money, then you won't be happy with money either...

It also is my believe that in the US, we are currently stuck in too low a level of the "happiness pyramid". Having the funds to live comfortably, having decent and affordable health care, and being safe are some very fundamental things that a modern western person really should not have to worry about. Yet these are arguably the main 3 issues every American thinks about. In Austria on the other hand, there is no true reason to worry about these things. Sure, people need to manage their funds and getting really rich is hard, but at the same time, there are very very few poor people and no real risk of financial disaster. (An advantage of an all middle class society). Health care is a given, and so is safety. (Really, terrorism isn't an issue in Austria at all. But that is true for almost all countries. It probably wouldn't be an issue for the US either, if we wouldn't have fallen to be the world's 3rd most hated country according to a study of The Economist, topped only by Israel and Iran, and far ahead of countries such as North Korea...). So Austrians can easily focus on issues higher up in the happiness pyramid, such as whom to have dinner with, where to go on the next vacation (and why they "only" have 6 weeks a year of it while getting "only" 14 months of pay a year), how to improve their home, and what beer is the best...



Posted @ 6:38 AM by Egger, Markus (markus@code-magazine.com) -
Comments (5)


Thursday, March 08, 2007
Austria still as expensive as ever

Or almost as expensive anyway. According to The Economist, Vienna is the world's 12th most expensive city to live in. Last year, it was 11th. So things got slightly better.

The most expensive city is Oslo (Norway). Oslo was most expensive last year too, when for the first time, it passed Tokyo. This year, Tokyo fell to 5th place. The top 5 this year are Oslo, Paris, Kopenhagen, London, and Tokyo. 8 out of the top 10 cities are in Europe now, in part because of the strong Euro and the weak Yen and US Dollar.

This also means that it is more expensive to live in Vienna than it is to live in places such as New York City, Berlin, Munich, or Brussels.

I used to be a huge critic of the living expense in Europe. In fact, that was one of the main points why I moved away. Now, I see things a bit different. Especially in Austria, you *do* get a lot for the extra money you pay. A great social system and great health care for instance. Great infrastructure. Generally, your money buys you what is probably the best overall quality of life that is to be had anywhere. (Austria is probably among the leaders but I would argue that several other European countries are tied for first place).

BTW: If you would like to live on the inexpensive side, move to Tehran (Iran). It is the least expensive city in the survey. There are certain downsides to living there, but it is cheap... ;-)



Posted @ 11:24 AM by Egger, Markus (markus@code-magazine.com) -
Comments (4)


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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