happiness around the world
What constitutes well-being in other countries – and what we can learn from it
What does well-being mean in other countries? And what can you learn from it for yourself? We have the answers.
Wellbeing – what does that even mean? We feel good when we eat a delicious dish (e.g. pasta) on the sun-drenched terrace – preferably on holiday and even better in Italy at 25 degrees in the shade. But what sounds like a dreamlike moment for one person may be anything but desirable for another: She doesn’t like pasta, is bothered by the sun shining directly in her face and heat and long journeys are dreadful to her!
This shows that even two people can have a very different understanding of what well-being means to them. And transferred to other countries, the whole thing does not look any different, of course. But how do people in countries in Africa, Asia and New Zealand define their own “well-being”? A study by Cambridge University took a closer look at these and other places – and maybe we can learn a thing or two from our neighbors.
Well-being in Africa is strongly intertwined with spirituality and respect for elders
According to the study, spirituality plays the most important role in the idea of well-being. In Africa, alongside Islam and Christianity, there are above all the traditional African religions, since the individual only understands himself in connection with his group and his ancestors. A deceased person who was respected in the family is named an ancestor, is close to the living and cares for their well-being. Respect for the elderly who are still alive is also a natural part of the culture in many communities.
We can learn to appreciate (more) our old family members again.
Respect and cherish our grandparents – in life and in death. Sounds like a desirable state, right? There are sentences from our wise grandparents that we only understood years later. For many people, grandma and grandpa played an incredibly important role during childhood (and beyond). We can take the African religions as a model and learn to appreciate our old family members (more).
Asia – a highly religious and complex continent
In the case of the continent of Asia, which consists of several sub-regions and is described by the researchers as “by far the largest and probably the most complex continent in the world”, the multitude of different religions plays a major role in people’s everyday lives. They “specify structures of government, provoke confrontation, and encourage pervasive, often rigid, beliefs, traditions, habits, and customs”.
The study differentiates the influence on well-being in comparison to Africa, where religions also play a major role. There are countries like Japan, India, Egypt or Jordan in which the religious or spiritual component plays an important role for the people, while in other countries like Turkey there is a “separation of powers” on one side and on the other nevertheless, under certain circumstances, rely heavily on religion.
For some, faith is an important pillar in their lives.
In a rather rational country like Germany, religion still plays an important role today: According to a survey by the “Research Group World Views in Germany” from 2020, a total of 51 percent of those surveyed assigned themselves to a (Christian) religious community, 41 percent did not follow any religious world view. Religion is a contentious issue for many people, not least because of the many allegations of abuse against the Catholic Church.
But for quite a few, faith – which may not be Christian, but also, for example, Buddhist or Hindu – is an important pillar in their lives. It gives them meaning, courage and drive, which of course can also have a positive effect on their well-being, especially in difficult life situations.
Well-being in New Zealand is linked to four factors
According to the study, the “indigenous heritage of large tribal groups” has significant influences on the concept of well-being in New Zealand. Maori (the island’s indigenous culture) tenets of respect, caution and the ability to “look, listen and speak” would also have a strong influence on health care practices and knowledge.
A survey by the New Zealand government revealed four main factors that are important for the well-being of the population:
- Excellent or very good health
- More than enough or enough money for everyday things
- No feeling of loneliness within the last four weeks
- No major problems with the home (cold, damp, mold)
From this, quite universal perspectives can be drawn that we can direct towards our own well-being. The poll found that more than half of New Zealand’s population enjoyed at least three of these items. We ourselves can also use this moment to pause and think: are we doing well physically and mentally? Do we have so much money that it is enough for a living without having to go without too often? Can we look forward to good friends, family and partners? Do we have a roof over our heads that represents a “home” for us?
Such things are not always accessible to everyone, which is why we should always appreciate all these things – and never downplay them as a matter of course.
Sources used: cambridge.org, bpb.de, stats.govt.nz, psychologie-heute.de, fowid.de, link.springer.com