Defining happiness for expats on assignment

Defining happiness for expats on assignment

Defining happiness for expats on assignment

Does happiness factor in your relocation decision?

Article after article on reassignments to countries all over the world concentrates on salaries, career prospects, luxury accommodation, maids, cooks, expat-aimed social life, upscale restaurants and other similar enticements such as upscale shopping malls. Work/life balance and lifestyles do get a mention, but the concept of happiness is rarely seen. Given that money by itself doesn’t bring happiness, what’s the secret of a happy expat life?

The recent release of the latest United Nations’ World Happiness Report might just give a clue to finding that elusive secret, even although many expats might not agree with its choice of Finland as the top scorer out of 156 nations. Oddly enough, freezing cold, long, dark winters seem to mean happiness for those living in this Nordic haven, but the UN report bases happiness on social support, life expectancy and a lack of corruption rather than on natural beauty, fresh, clean air and a peaceful, natural lifestyle.

When asked about the concept of happiness, one Helsinki resident said the provision of a successful economy and stable political scene equated happiness, an answer which many expats would find confusing to say the least, especially as Finland is a hub for depression due to the long, dark, freezing cold winters. On the other side of the world, Thailand with its natural beauty, tropical weather and laid-back lifestyle dropped from 32nd place to 46th, below the politically unstable USA as well as Brexit-burdened Britain. To confuse the issue still further, the recent Bloomberg Misery Survey rated the Thais as the least miserable race on the entire planet, turning the UN’s report on its head and amazing a good number of objective expat residents.

f that’s not confusing enough, the description by the World Happiness Report of the criteria for happiness in a population includes the happiness of immigrants. Finland has few, and Thailand has many, a good number of whom aren’t exactly happy given their financial difficulties, insecurity and lack of permitted legal integration. So, for expats looking to relocate, perhaps the best way forward is to take your own interpretation of happiness with you and stick with it, no matter whether you’re living in a tropical paradise or discovering ice-fishing as a new source of healthy nourishment. In contrast to the surveys’ findings, it seems happiness really is a matter of personal choice, wherever you are on the planet.

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