• Lizzie Bourne

Which is the happiest country?

Isn’t everyone interested in the answer to this question?

It’s like asking, “Where should I live?”, as though outside factors have the final say on your happiness levels. They matter, of course, but as many #happydaysproject guests note, happiness is a bit more than just what’s on the outside.

The #happydaysproject asks a variety of people, “What makes you happy?” Naturally, a variety of people must come from a variety of countries. Here, to give you a taste, are three.

My guest Sofie Hagen is from Denmark, which according to the 2021 World Happiness Report, is a pretty happy place! Sofie is a fantastic comedian and sites finishing creative projects as among their happiest things…oh, and fresh bedding…listen to their interview here.

The home country of the Chilean I interviewed doesn’t even feature in the 2021 World Happiness Report, which is a bit ominous. Instead, let’s look at some of what Robert himself had to say:

“What makes me happy? Having as much fun as possible!

I’m not trying play the decent guy, but when you’re having fun you must make sure you’re don’t hurt other people, because that really can backfire on you.

I like to play computer games. People in the past have called me unsociable and I don’t know why, you know, I like being with people; I like having people to talk to, to share ideas. If I had time I’d do some archery, I was very good at that at university. I also like aviation. I did some flying when I was at college: so nice being in the air, looking down, making fun of people! In that way they don’t see you, only the birds see you.

But I told you, if you wanna be happy you must try not to make other people unhappy. I’m not trying to be a decent guy, the noble, and it happens, but…good, clean, well-organised entertainment. Really essential.”

Finally in this brief round-up, consider my guest Ana. Originally, I introduced her on tape at the beginning of her recording, describing her for the tape as “Romanian”. Here was her challenge to me afterwards:

“I did find it a little bit odd…I found it surprising that you mentioned these details about me when you first started. These are all real and true facts but I wasn’t necessarily expecting them to be a marker before my thoughts on happiness. If I was to describe you and then ask you a question, you start thinking about the question in terms of how you’ve been described. I was like, wait, am I meant to give “Romanian thoughts”? It makes a lot sense when you explain what the project is about but I didn’t have that understanding before. I was like, “Oh we’re talking about happiness and I’m suddenly Romanian. It’s true but why is this relevant?”

Ana’s fantastic observation gets to the heart of the #happydaysproject. In seeking to examine whether what makes us happy is universal, I feel I should ask my question of a variety of people. So in seeking “variety”, I am defining people in potentially arbitrary ways. By their birth country, for example.

It’s ironic, trying to prove people are the same by first deciding they are different – I’m kind of aiming for irony. Perhaps my definitions will highlight our problematic obsession with definitions. I always find it interesting how people are introduced when quoted in the media – who is that intro for, and is it helpful or relevant? However, as Ana rightly points out, whether I’m being ironic or not, I shouldn’t make my definitions, my guest’s problem.

You'll be unsurprised to learn that I don’t introduce or define interviewees on or off tape anymore. While I cut the introduction and also her critique from Ana’s episode as an artistic choice, I wanted it to be out there that it happened!

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Blog post image source: Rawpixel / Pxhere

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