One possible consideration for your five flags plan, or any long-term international plan for your life, is to consider how happy the people are in the country (or countries) you intend to live. The problem is that there is a huge amount of bullshit when it comes to happiness studies and happiness indexes when countries are compared to one another.

Today I will show you how to interpret whether or not any happiness study or survey that shows people are happier in one country over another is actually accurate.

First off, I will concede that of course there are some countries where people are miserable (North Korea, South Sudan, etc) and countries where people are reasonably happy (Vanuatu, Norway, etc). There are nice places in the world and horrible places in the world. I’m instead talking here about whenever you see Country A being compared to Country B as being less or more happy when such a comparison either A) doesn’t make a lot of sense or B) is so minor in difference you probably can’t definitely say who is happier.

I will also concede that Americans are among the least happy people in the developed world. So don’t think I’m defending America here; as usual, I am not. I dislike it here so much that I’ve got exactly 20 months before I move away. Americans are a stressed-out, unhappy, indebted, politically divided bunch of insane SJWs and irrational Trump supporters who are standing on a sinking ship screaming at each other over the shrimp cocktail.

Now that that’s out of the way, here’s why most happiness studies/indexes regarding countries are usually inaccurate.

1. Self-identification in surveys is almost always pure bullshit.

As I examined in an article here, American conservatives are jumping for joy about how “Generation Z is conservative.” Indeed, when you ask Generation Z if they are conservative or liberal, a lot of them will answer conservative. But when you ask those “conservative” kids their actual political views, you get all the usual left-wing answers about how great the welfare state is, how we should all have government-run health care, how rich people should pay more in taxes, how we need to save the world from climate change, and so on.

So the self-identified “conservative” Gen Z isn’t conservative at all. Other than the fact they go to church a little more often, they’re just as politically left as the Millennials. The only difference is that they prefer the false label of “conservative” for whatever reason.

It’s exactly the same when you ask some Scandinavian about how “happy” he is with his health care. He says he’s happy. But when you ask him specific questions about his experience with the health care in his country, like how long he has to typically wait for a doctor’s appointment, you will get answers that will horrify most Americans. His health care is demonstrably worse than in some other countries, but he still says he’s “happy”.

I could go on and on with examples of this, like when you ask married women how often they have sex with their husbands you get one number which is “plenty,” but when you ask those same husbands how often they have sex with their wives, you get a much smaller number and how much it sucks.

Any survey or study that relies on any form of self-identification without asking specific questions about what’s actually happening should be ignored. This is a huge problem with these happiness indexes.

2. Different cultures have different standards for happiness.

This rolls right from the Scandinavian health care example.

Way back in the 1990s, I spoke with a woman from Europe (I don’t remember which country) who had moved to America. Back then, Hillary Clinton was trying to impose some kind of socialistic health care system on the USA “like Europe had.” Since America had not yet shifted left, she failed of course. (Now that America is a left-wing country, even including Republicans, Bernie Sanders or whomever is the next socialist president after Trump who will, of course, succeed.)

This woman was telling me, “You Americans want government health care? Ha! You people have no idea what you’re asking for. Europeans are not like Americans. In Europe, when we are told we have to wait six weeks to see our doctor, we don’t like it, but we shrug and wait. It’s not a big deal to us. But you Americans, you want everything right now. If you are told to wait six weeks, you will be rioting in the streets. That’s why government health care is ‘okay’ in Europe but will be a disaster if ever tried here in the USA.”

She’s absolutely right. Just imagine if some mom in the USA with a kid with some kind stomach pain is told by her government-run doctor that she needs to wait a month, or even just two weeks for an appointment. She’ll be screaming bloody murder, while a European mom would just say, “Okay,” and roll with it. Europeans are far more chill, patient, and trusting of the state than us impatient, asshole Americans.

People in different cultures are made happy or unhappy by different things. A particular negative condition can be viewed as unacceptable in one country and perfectly fine in another. Most happiness studies don’t account for this difference at all.

3. Many “happiness reports” or “happiness indexes” don’t actually report happiness at all.

This is a huge one. Most happiness studies/indexes I’ve seen don’t even report happiness at all! Instead, they report things such as GDP per capita, life expectancy, perceived levels of government corruption, and the cost of long-distance phone calls. These things are fine, but they aren’t happiness, and don’t necessarily correlate to actual happiness for the reason I just explained above.

At the same time, these happiness studies often don’t include things like debt of the government, debt of the average person, weakness of the currency, rising crime rates, political unrest, and so on. Well, how convenient of you to leave all of those things out!

So any time you see one of these studies, make damn sure they’re actually trying to measure real happiness of the citizens and not just throwing in a bunch of things the people conducting the study think or assume would make people happy.

4. Regardless of how happy or unhappy the people in a certain country are or are not, YOU may still hate living there.

People in Thailand are pretty happy by most accounts, but I would be absolutely miserable if I lived there, or even spent a good part of the year there. Nothing wrong with Thailand. It’s just not for me.

Same deal with Scandinavia. I think most Scandinavians, being a more chill culture, are pretty happy. But, holy hell, if I had to pay the tax rates those Scandinavians pay while putting up with their cultural disdain for personal success and achievement, I’d probably kill myself.

On the other hand, people in Japan are totally repressed and stressed-out, and always score low on most happiness studies, yet I would love to live in Japan. I’m not going to live in Japan; I’m going to live elsewhere for my own five flags reasons; I’m just saying I could live in Japan and I would enjoy it immensely despite their relative unhappiness.

So happiness might be a factor, maybe. But you need to evaluate the most important factor, which is you and what would make you happy rather than people in Bangladesh, Colombia, or Sweden.

It’s for all these reasons you should never put too much weight behind these happiness studies or indexes.

19 Comments on “Are Some Countries Really Happier Than Others?

  1. I think what matters is cities, not countries. These can vary greatly within a country, and who cares what happens in the other cities anyway. Whatever you do and wherever you go, most people are stupid and unhappy, and are going to stay that way. But you can choose who you interact closely with.

    I’d personally prefer a city where people will begrudgingly work long hours and otherwise go out of their way to unhappily offer their services to me. For example, where I live, most shops work till about 21:00, for supermarkets that’s usually 23:00 or round the clock, and most establishments work on Sundays. This is in stark contrast with what I’ve seen in major European cities. But on the flip side, in my city it’s really hard to find friends chill enough and well-to-do enough with whom to enjoy my favorite pastimes. That’s what I’m seeking to improve by moving from here.

    By the way, this comment editor is inferior to the old one.

  2. I think what matters is cities, not countries.

    Agree completely. If you visit New York, have you really visited “the United States?” If you visit Shanghai, have you really visited “China?”

    By the way, this comment editor is inferior to the old one.

    That’s because you’re clicked on the wrong tab. Look above the comment window and you’ll see Visual and Text. You’re probably clicked on Text. Go to Visual.

  3. For five flags
    What are some things that might hint that a country might be happy?
    Btw Caleb I was a bit surprised that Ecuador did not make your list but Panama did on countries to explore for possible relocation
    I think on your final list zero of countries are oil producers? Maybe no accident about that ,eh?

  4. What are some things that might hint that a country might be happy?

    The best thing to do is to go there for a week and actually meet the people and see for yourself.

    Btw Caleb I was a bit surprised that Ecuador did not make your list but Panama did on countries to explore for possible relocation

    Incorrect. Panama was never on my list for relocation, just for getting a passport.

    I think on your final list zero of countries are oil producers? Maybe no accident about that ,eh?

    Oil producer or not didn’t factor into it for me.

    However, propensity for starting a war or being attacked by another country certainly did, so oil would be a subfactor.

  5. Americans are a stressed-out, unhappy, indebted, politically divided bunch of insane SJWs and irrational Trump supporters who are standing on a sinking ship screaming at each other over the shrimp cocktail.

    Thing is, even the Trump fanboys are SJdubs now. Between their rhetoric, actions, and relentless quest for power, things have just gotten less and less about the individual and more and more about group mentality in the US. It sucks.

    Europeans are far more chill, patient, and trusting of the state

    This scares tf out of me, but it’s been true of most of Europe for centuries. Just look at the 1920s: Authoritarian communism was rampant in most European nations back then and the people just shrugged and were like “meh, its cool.” That’s why I wasn’t impressed with Brexit: All that meant to me was that Britain wanted to BECOME the EU by voting to leave it. And guess what? That’s exactly how the UK’s been acting over the last two years: Thinking that they are better than everyone because they left the EU.

    But it’s hard to tell anyone that Dat Statism is so bad. Meh. Oh well, I’m not gonna fight it; I don’t have the time to waste on external solutions.

  6. Good article. I grew suspicious when i gave a presentation on happiness at work. I ended up locating the research for some popular happiness reports, and some of the factors of “happiness” were “# of social programs” lol.

    Ill admit Im officially a Trump supporter now, because regardless of where i travel, I make money off of americans. So i am vested in the success of the US and am a bit biased toward the more capitalist politicians. I hope they keep the economy going and pay down some of that debt.

  7. Great article!

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with the difference between Americans and Europeans being that Europeans have more trust in their authorities. Or used to have, I can see that trust eroding in almost every European country.
    Europeans used to be more pessistic in their overal outlook to life (which doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy ourselves) than Americans, but I found that Americans have overtaken us in that aspect.

    I think you, Caleb, would enjoy traveling through Scandinavia, it’s beautiful, the infrastructure is well kept for the most part. The women are also not bad, when I visited Kopenhagen a couple of years ago I saw that even the fat and overweight girls still where attractive.
    But living there as a Alpha 2.0? Nah, they are some of the most conformist countries in the West, next to the Low Countries and Germany.

  8. But living there as a Alpha 2.0? Nah, they are some of the most conformist countries in the West, next to the Low Countries and Germany.

    And what exactly is the problem in living in a conformist country? Don’t you want everyone else to be conformist betas?

  9. I grew suspicious when i gave a presentation on happiness at work. I ended up locating the research for some popular happiness reports, and some of the factors of “happiness” were “# of social programs” lol.

    Precisely.

    I hope they keep the economy going and pay down some of that debt.

    They will do neither. Big Government Tantrum Trump just raised federal spending by $1.7 trillion.

    I think you, Caleb, would enjoy traveling through Scandinavia

    I would indeed. It’s on the list. Probably 2021.

    But living there as a Alpha 2.0? Nah, they are some of the most conformist countries in the West, next to the Low Countries and Germany.

    The big issue living there is A) the taxes and B) it’s part of Europe, and Europe is collapsing even faster than the US.

  10. Thanks Caleb, that was an insightful and enjoyable article.
    I was just wondering if you would care to elaborate on ‘Nothing wrong with Thailand. It’s just not for me’ a little? I have certainly enjoyed visiting there, more so the north where the weather is a little less oppressive (well, outside of smoky season – https://iglu.net/survivor-guide-chiang-mai-smoky-season/) and am even considering setting up my retirement visa there as stage one of a 3 to 5 flags model in the not too distant future all going well. The personal and financial freedom just runs rings around the situation in Australia, though the class thing is a little more, ah, jarring? Though Australia does kid itself somewhat on being the so called classes society.

  11. I was just wondering if you would care to elaborate on ‘Nothing wrong with Thailand. It’s just not for me’ a little?

    Problem number one, horrible humidity, even in the north. Heat + high humidity is unacceptable to me. I completely understand that some guys don’t mind it, but I do. I could visit a place like that, but I could never live there.

    Problem number two, less of a big deal, is that I don’t want to set my home base in a place that is quasi-third-world. I love technology and clean, fancy stuff. That means a place more like Hong Kong (but not when it’s humid!) more than a place like Thailand. Again, I could spend a few months in a place like that and really enjoy it, but not live there as a primary home base.

    Again, I realize some guys don’t give a shit about those things, and if you don’t, great! A lot of guys love Thailand. If that’s you, go for it.

    The personal and financial freedom just runs rings around the situation in Australia

    Irrelevant if you’re doing Five Flags. Most of Australia’s laws in that respect won’t affect me as a “visiting” American.

  12. Thanks Caleb and yes, while not as oppressive as Bangkok or Phuket that is true, Northern Thailand can still be pretty hard going on the humidity front to the point I doubt I could spend the wet/monsoon season there.

    I also agree with your point regarding the relative development of the country vs Hong Kong and likewise I doubt I would set up a primary home base there as a result of that.

    Absolutely in your case, though it will take me a few years to reorganise my at this stage location dependent work/business/investments and have another passport or 2 such that I could also be considered a foreign resident. While that is happening Thailand and other Asian locations for breaks away from Aus are good options and easy to travel to from the west coast to escape the BS.

  13. While that is happening Thailand and other Asian locations for breaks away from Aus are good options and easy to travel to from the west coast to escape the BS.

    I will be visiting Thailand and the rest of SE Asia a lot over the next few years once I get settled in Australia since SE Asia is where I want to invest. It’s the best region in the entire world for economic growth.

  14. Given the recent changes in law in New Zealand as a reaction to the shooting (or rather bringing government policy to light), are you still considering it as one of your flags?

  15. Given the recent changes in law in New Zealand as a reaction to the shooting (or rather bringing government policy to light), are you still considering it as one of your flags?

    Yes. No change whatsoever. The entire Western world is slowly collapsing and that includes NZ. Neither the mass shooting nor the reaction to it was a surprise to me at all. More violence and more stupid laws in any Western country are already pre-factored into my plan.

  16. once I get settled in Australia

    I thought you were going to stay in NZ. Or is this a typo?

  17. I like your point about different personalities and cultures, such as you would feel horrible in Thailand for instance.

    As for me, I find the “happy planet index” (poorly named imo, http://happyplanetindex.org) interesting. It aims at measuring the efficency of collection of people (countries in this case) in transforming resources into years of subjective wellbeing. It is proportional to the value:
    (H*L)/E
    H=subjective happiness (from https://www.worlddatabaseofhappiness.eur.nl)
    L=life expectancy
    E=environmental footprint

  18. The happy list seems odd given that half of those countries are the sources for immigrants streaming across the US’ southern border. If they were so happy why are they leaving?

    And the negative countries are mostly Islamic with non-democratic governments. Not a surprise there.

    I wonder how many North Koreans, Cubans and Venezuelans were surveyed?

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