22 Jul Different Cultures Define Happiness Differently
via The Atlantic by Arthur C Brooks
Everyone knows where the happiest people in the world live—the United Nations tells us every single year. For the past several years, Finland has been ranked No. 1, sitting atop the pack of Nordic countries, which are all considered very happy. And since they’ve cracked the happiness code, as my colleague Joe Pinsker wrote recently, many of the rest of us are tempted to mimic Nordic habits. Live like a Finn—take a short walk in the forest, go ice swimming—and all will be well, right?
Not so fast. In order for the World Happiness Report and other international happiness indexes to compare self-reports of happiness, they have to assume that people around the world define happiness and answer happiness surveys in roughly the same way. If this assumption does not hold, then happiness indexes are about as reliable as a ranking of music quality based on how much residents of each country say they like their local songs. This would indicate something about each country’s enthusiasm for their musical styles, but would provide little information about what music is objectively “best,” given differences in people’s traditions and tastes.
The research on how people around the world conceive of well-being, in fact, reveals some major differences among nations. Understanding these differences gives us a much richer picture of global happiness than any index can depict. But more important, it provides a suite of models for well-being that each of us can follow.
On first pass, the ways people around the world say they experience happiness have some obvious commonalities. One 2016 study of 2,799 adults in 12 countries found that in all the nations studied, psychological definitions of happiness—“an inner state, feeling or attitude”—dominated all others. In particular, people worldwide said they found happiness in achieving “inner harmony.”
Inner harmony might sound universal, but it can mean very different things in different places. For example, while shooting a documentary film in Denmark on the pursuit of happiness two years ago, I found that the Danes often described inner harmony in terms of hygge, which is something like coziness and comfortable conviviality. Meanwhile, I have found that Americans tend to define it in terms of their skills meeting their passions, usually in the context of work.
So psychological definitions don’t nail down happiness much. And from there, the differences among countries only widen. The same 2016 study cited above found, for example, that 49 percent of Americans referred explicitly to family relationships in their definition of happiness, while Southern Europeans and Latin Americans generally conceived of it in terms of oneself: Just 22 percent of Portuguese, 18 percent of Mexicans, and 10 percent of Argentines talked about their families in their happiness definitions…
… keep reading the full & original article HERE