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Finding happiness abroad: Expat.com's members speak out

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Published last week

It's the international day of happiness and the latest report on happiness across the globe is out! Though the report from the UN commissioned Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) is a good indicator of happiness in any given country, you can certainly find happiness all over the world, as some of our members attest to.

World Happiness Report 2017

The top 10 countries in this year's report are the same as last year's. However, the most notable movement is that Norway has sprung up the rankings, from fourth to first, leaving last year's first place Denmark in second, and Iceland in third. Nonetheless, the high tax, high social welfare Scandinavian countries continue to be world leaders in happiness. North America's Canada (a popular expat destination) comes in at number seven, followed by a few other expat favourites in eighth and ninth (New Zealand and Australia, respectively). There was some noteworthy movement in the rankings overall, with 58 countries (out of 126) seeing a considerable increase in happiness, compared with just 38 experiencing a notable decrease, suggesting the world is becoming an overall happier place! However, you can be sure to find happiness wherever you live, so some of our members have weighed in on happiness and living abroad.

Happy Expat.com members

Surya is originally from Bangalore, India, however, after a period of living in London, UK, he has spent the last decade in Singapore (number 26 in the rankings) with his family. He describes Singapore as a “happy and peaceful tiny city-based country” where “people are helpful, cheerful, well-mannered, organised, self-dependent, and well educated.” When asked if he is happier in Singapore, Surya replies: “I'm certainly a happier person and so is my family, as indicated by the length of my overall stay here. I don't see any better place for my family in the context of safety and fairness of individual lifestyle.”

Coming from Sheffield, England, Fred has spent the past 10 years in Indonesia (which comes in at number 81 this year), just outside the capital city of Jakarta. He associates the overall happiness of the country with “the "Tidak apa apa" ideal that means, "it's OK" or "whatever happens will be fine". Fred associates that relaxed attitude to most things with little stress and a happy life. Fred feels incredibly happy living in the country, and emphasises that “the food – especially the chilli – is great, my wife and kids are great, the weather is great, the people are great, and the photo opportunities are great.”

Dave grew up in the U.S. state of Oregon before spending a large period of his life in California. He currently lives near Costa Rica's (the world's 12th happiest country) second largest city, Alajuela. He describes Costa Ricans as being “happy and content in their lives”. Dave says: “My personal opinion is that most people here put family first. They do not constantly strive for better and bigger as life is in North America. They see family as being more important than things.” Dave operates a parrot rescue centre and works with wildlife and those that help protect it. There's no doubt that his fulfilling job adds to his happiness in Costa Rica. Comparing his life in the U.S. to Costa Rica, he states: “Looking back I can see that the lifestyle in the U.S. is constantly buying bigger, better, and faster. Life here is so much more laid back, and after getting used to this, I simply enjoy life more.”

Anthony moved to the West Bay area of Doha, Qatar (at number 35 on the happiness index) with his wife from Maryland, U.S.. He says that he considers Qatar to be “a happy nation" — he has been living in Qatar for nine months and has always met friendly and welcoming people. When comparing his happiness in Qatar to the U.S., he doesn't feel being happier in one country or the other. "Some things are better, some are not. One thing that is better here is the generally good people. For example, here you will find cell phone charging stations for the benefit of the citizens. It makes me happy to see that the people use and appreciate a service such as this and it is a success. I must admit that in the many cities in the USA we could not have such a service. Those charging stations would be vandalised, and for no real reason. The only rudeness I have found in Qatar is on the roads; in the USA drivers are more courteous.” Qatar gives many options to expats with plenty of things to do in a walking distance, a factor that contributes towards a happier life.

The rankings are a reliable source of information about key factors affecting happiness internationally (from political corruptness to social welfare), but you can always create your happiness, wherever you decide to go. Are you happy living abroad? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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