We're not the happiest people in the world

Observing us from the perspective of Thai culture

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By Tom Holmes

Contributing Reporter / Religion Blogger

Right now, my friend's business in Chiang Mai, Thailand is flooded with three feet of water.  They are having "once in fity years" floods.  Sound familiar?  Not only are the Thais suffering from the global recession as we are, but like us they have had to deal with natural disasters as well.  I'm not sure why, but during the seven times I've been in Thailand, the people I meet there seem happier than we are.  What do you think about part of a column I wrote recently that follows?

Thailand is often referred to as the Land of Smiles, and that’s not just hype from the Bangkok Chamber of Commerce.  The Thai smile is genuine.  Eric Weiner in his book The Geography of Bliss calls Thailand one of “the happiest places in the world.” 


            “America’s place on the happiness spectrum,” wrote Weiner, “is not as high as you might think, given our superpower status.  We are not, by any measure, the happiest nation on earth.”  He goes on to speculate why we are not as happy as people in a developing country like Thailand.  Here are two of his many thoughts:


"The self-help industrial complex hasn’t helped.  By telling us that happiness lives inside us, it’s turned us inward just when should be looking outward. . .to other people, to community and to the kind of human bonds that so clearly are the sources of our happiness. . . ."

"We are able to acquire many of the things that we think will make us happy and therefore suffer the confusion and disappointment when they do not."


            It continues to amaze me that I can see myself more clearly by looking through the lens of another culture than I can by observing myself in a mirror.  We may be the most powerful nation on earth, but that doesn’t mean we are the wisest or the happiest.  The Thais, and every other immigrant group, have a lot more to offer us than delicious food.

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