I just learned that Canada is one of the happiest countries in the world. According to the World Database of Happiness, we’re number 5 for “how much people enjoy their life-as-a-whole.
I’m not surprised. While many people confuse Canadians with Americans (for lack of a better term, I’m occasionally using the coloquial “Americans” instead of “those from the U.S.”), the U.S. ranked a much lower number 20. I think there are a lot of different cultural sensibilities – big and small – that probably contribute to this. Compared to Americans, here is a short list of some of the first things that come to mind.
We say hi
Canadians are generally more polite and civil to each other. Even in a big city like Toronto it’s very common to say hi or how are you or strike up a conversation with strangers.
More so than even in Sag Harbor (New York) – which you would think being a town of a couple thousand would be the opposite. As simple as it is, I think it just puts you in a happier mood and makes you feel connected when people smile at you as you walk down the street.
Seriously. Most people think better weather makes people happier- and of course there is truth to Seasonal Affective Disorder for some people-, but I think that when you don’t have good weather all the time it makes you tougher, and that makes you more confident and self-reliant, which makes you happier.
You can’t always depend on a nice day to enjoy so you have to work harder on fun – and maybe that makes you happier. Shoveling the sidewalk and scraping ice and all that good stuff were just part of pitching in when I was a kid. When you all have to dig the car out of the snow together in order to get to school, it creates happy memories of being together and accomplishing something as a family – and that’s good. There’s a survivalist element to it I guess – like, we made it!
It seems to me (my non-scientific opinion) that there is a larger class difference in the U.S., which makes people – no matter what side they’re on – more anxious and insecure. It feels to me that status, wealth, going to the right schools, living in the right neighbourhood etc are more valued in general here in the U.S. than in Canada. These are generalizations of course. And there is an anti-snob snobery in some cases too, which is equally snobby. I digress.
Anyway, Canada seems to be a little less rich (or at least the exhibition of wealth is not looked upon well) and also a little less poor. People seem happier and more comfortable to be around the middle, not rocking the boat.
Proud of our universal health care and public education
Canadians, for the most part, are quietly positive that Canada is the best country in the world. They don’t do a lot of flag-waving or loud proclamations that Americans do (and that Canadians find tacky and obnoxious, by the way) but Canadians are very proud of their country.
Most Canadians cite universal health care and public education and a more peaceful, kinder, more accepting society as reasons their country is great.
Large immigrant population
Also a large perrcentage of Canadians are immigrants or first-generation (not sure of the stats) but I’m sure that the fact that so many people have actually chosen Canada means they are happy to be there.
Nature is all around
Also I think the proximity to nature has got to be a factor. Anywhere you are, even in big cities, you are close to nature, and being an outdoorsy person is generally prized.
Camping, hiking, fishing are just part of normal life, and I think that’s good for the soul.