Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Week in the Happy Country

I am taking off tomorrow to Costa Rica a.k.a the happiest country in the world.  Ever since I randomly heard that Costa Rica is the happiest country in the world I became intrigued with it. That and the fact that it’s hugged by two coasts and, as I recently learned, home to the three toed sloth. At first I didn’t really believe the happiest country label, but then I read an op-ed by Nicholas D. Kristof in the NYTs and started to think there might be some truth to this.  He refers to Costa Ricans as the happiest people and highlights indexes that ranked the country high on the happy index.  I wasn’t sure how accurate the indexes were because it seemed like they generally ask people to rate themselves.  For example, the World Data off Happiness, asked people to rate their own happiness on a 10-point scale. In this index Costa Rica averaged at 8.5.  I was still skeptical because I thought not all values and desires transfer culturally. The criterion a Costa Rican may want to be happy may differ from a Croatian. But then maybe some things like education, good health and environment are universal.  The more I learned about Costa Rica, the more I thought to myself “hey they do have things to be happy about!” For example, they invest a lot in education and the environment and not in a military. They also live slightly longer than Americans, and have an ecological footprint that is less than a quarter the size.  Healthy lifestyle, good education, and environment are all important factors for a happy life. I also realized that I’ve never met any Costa Ricans in the U.S or abroad. Could it be that they are so happy in Costa Rica that they never leave? Who knows for sure but I am excited to see the happy country and if the happy rumors are true may be I will end up staying there as well.

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