Happiness Through Brno

Every year, Gallup World Poll surveys the level of happiness in countries around the world.

It is probably silly, but this is the kind of thing that I consider to be click-bait much more than “21 stars who ruined their face due to plastic surgery!” or “Only the people with an IQ above 160 can solve these questions. Are you one of them?”

(Okay, truth be told, I click on those, too.)

In any case, I genuinely want to know where the grass is greener. Is the Czech Republic a happier place than my native United States? Is it better here than in Austria, Poland, Slovakia?

The question takes on even more importance for ex-pats. They, by definition, have changed their countries. If they are like me, they are constantly comparing their locations (read: confirming their life decisions.)


Happiness is, of course, relative. Everyone has their personalities that make them different and their quirks that make them laugh.

The criteria for happiness were the following: income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom and generosity.

The Czech Republic is the place where I have put down roots, started a family and resumed my professional career. If I were to stay here the rest of my life, I would neither be surprised nor disappointed nor feel that I missed out on anything anywhere else.

When I bring it all down to something more local, like the city and the neighborhood in which I live, I am satisfied. Brno is currently under construction — with traffic headaches seemingly around every corner — but it feels like the finish line is coming and the spoils of our patience will be more than worth it, with better roads, a more interesting river, a state-of-the-art train station and more of a world-class confidence.

That said, it all may not be enough for some. I know many ex-pats here in Brno who are more uncertain. Is Brno really the place where they will be happy for the rest of their lives, where their kids would best grow up, where their retirement years will best be spent? Is it worth it to be so far from an aging family and longtime friends who are back “home”, a long and expensive trip away.

Everyone makes their own life choices. Everyone makes their own happiness. Perhaps Brno has always only been a short stopover to something else. Yet, two friends with whom I spent time in a Czech summer camp more than a decade ago are following different paths: one is returning to Brno; the other is returning to the United States. Life happens, and you never know where it will take you and the factors that will intercede.


As for the countries and their happiness, it is perhaps no surprise that the Scandinavian cultures rate highly. It still seems counterintuitive, but the cold and dark lands to the north are consistently tops in terms of life. In fact, four different countries have been tops in this poll in the last four years: Denmark, Switzerland, Norway and, the reigning champion from the most recent 2018 poll, Finland.

Finland is followed by Denmark, Norway, Iceland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada and, in 10th place, Austria, our neighbors to the south.

If you are interested, and I am sure you are, the Czech Republic is 20th, right behind the United States (19th) and a few ticks behind the United Kingdom (15th), Ireland (16th) and Germany (17th). Those are solid results, because there are a lot of countries that are really surprising to me. Slovakia is 38th. Poland is 40th. Japan is 58th. Hungary is 62nd.

Now, I’d like to know how to, literally, keep my own grass greener. That would increase my happiness. Maybe there is some click-bait link that will help.


Click here if you are interested to see how your own country has rated.


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