On average, Europeans earn less money and have smaller homes, cars and wardrobes than Americans. So, why do statistics show that Europeans are happier than we are? Can living with less equal a higher quality of life?
The Organization for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) recently released a list of the top ten happiest countries in the world. Denmark, Finland, and the Netherlands won top billing, but the United States didn't even make the list! So, if it's true that money really can't buy you happiness - what the heck can?
Having lived and worked throughout Europe, I can say I get it. It's not just the allure of ancient architecture. It's not just the promise of more social services or a more leisurely paced lifestyle. There's something else. A simplicity, an appreciation that the people have for each other, their food, and the everyday rituals of life that Americans often overlook by racing against the clock and exchanging quality for quantity. Have Americans reduced our quality of life in exchange for convenience? Does this "bigger, better" way of life enrich us or remove us further away from true happiness?
I'm not saying that splurging on a new dress can't bring a smile to your lips. I'm not suggesting that you take your career less seriously. Nor am I saying that socialism is the answer to our American woes. But the European lifestyle can offer us a Fab & Fru perspective on the meaning of success and happiness. Look at this comparison:
- Americans typically associate success with having money and a respectable career.
- Europeans tend to define themselves not only by what they do for work, but also by how much time they have to enjoy friends, family, and life's experiences.
Quantity vs. Quality
- Americans like things big and we like to consume! We love big houses, cars and portions of food.
- Europeans tend to live more modestly, buying less but spending more for higher quality (think Italian leather shoes!).
Community and Culture
The majority of Americans drive alone to work and then pull their cars into their garages at night without interacting with their community. As a result, we are a more isolated society.
Europeans walk, bike, and utilize mass transit daily. Not only arethey getting exercise and reducing their carbon footprint, they also stay connected to their communities and culture.
- How often do you eat lunch alone at your desk? Or run into a deli and grab something to eat on the go? Or eat dinner around the TV, even if the entire family is home?
- Mealtime in Europe remains an important time to connect with others on a personal level. Most fast food places in Europe don't even have disposable plates & silverware! Not only is this more economical and environmentally friendly, it encourages people to enjoy their food and engage with one another.
Large meals in the late afternoon are still the norm in many European countries, and I recently got to experience their power first hand! I was in Spain, trying to close a deal, and the man I was negotiating with had us over to his home for several meals. We would work at his house for an hour or so and then talk socially over a delicious home-cooked Mediterranean feast. I was so charmed by the intimacy of this approach, that it made me more confident in my potential partners - and helped the negotiation come to a close much faster!
Try living a Fab & Fru lifestyle - we think you'll find that less really is more. But if you need further proof, start saving now for your research trip to Denmark! How do you measure happiness? What changes have you made or want to make to be happier?