If you had to guess which is the happiest country in the world, what would you say? Do you think it would be the United States? Actually, considering all the bitching and griping that Americans do, I would have thought that this country would rank somewhere close to the bottom, but, in fact, according to a recent report from the Gallup polling organization, we do rank as one of the fifteen happiest countries in the world. We are near the bottom of the fifteen, though, ranking number 12.
So what are the happiest countries in the world and what makes them so happy?
If you look at what they have in common, for one thing they each have a strong social safety net. They have stable governments that generally work to make the lives of their citizens better. They are all democracies of one stripe or another. They have cohesive societies where citizens take their responsibilities rather seriously. There are other factors, individual to each country, of course, but these are some of the things that bind this group together.
Here, then, at least according to Gallup's findings, are the fifteen happiest countries in the world, from happiest to least happy.
1. Denmark - No real surprise here.
2. Finland - Ditto.
3. Norway - Ditto. There seems to be a pattern developing here.
4. The Netherlands - They may have gone to the top of the list since their World Cup semi-finals victory today!
5. Costa Rica - Certainly one of the most progressive countries in the New World, with no standing army.
6. Canada - Also a progressive country.
7. Switzerland - A long history of pacifism and building on history rather than tearing down.
8. New Zealand - Physical beauty of the landscape alone would seem to be sufficient reason for them to be happy.
9. Sweden - Yet another of the Nordic countries makes the list.
10. Austria - A bit of a surprise - to me at least. I think of Austrians as being rather dour, but that's just my prejudice at work.
11. Australia - Australians certainly SEEM like happy people.
12. U.S.A. - Why do you think we made the list? We just seem incredibly cranky and not very happy at all to me.
13. Belgium - Well, why not? After all, Hercule Poirot was always pretty happy!
14. Brazil - The poll was taken before they lost in World Cup competition. They may have fallen off the list now.
15. Panama - Another surprise entry.
The message here for the U.S. and other countries, I think, is to look at those countries whose citizens rated them highest and consider what it is that makes them happy. Then try to emulate them. One of our biggest problems as a country is the fact that we always tend to think that we know best. In truth, there are many countries in the world that we could learn from and several of them are ahead of us on this list. One of them is right next door.