There is a lot of talk about the French way of life. That work life balance thing. But it made me wonder. Are the French happy? And by that I mean, as a nation, is France considered a happy country?
The general thought or stereotype is that the French enjoy a slower pace of life, work less hours, and take a long-time eating food. There is some validity, though like anything it doesn’t hold true for everyone.
Primarily it is not so much about slow as savour. That could be savouring time with family, time alone, time eating, or even just enjoying the weather.
In France ‘quality time‘ really means something. Time is put into those areas enjoyed, as well as the necessary. In example of the latter, big purchase items, say house or car, warrant time to keep them in the best condition they can stay in. Whilst the former is often about enjoying family and friends, whether sat in a café having a coffee, or having people around for an Apero.
But are the French Happy?
Time well spent does not happiness guarantee. So I am still renumerating on whether the French are happy. To figure this out, a little research is called for. First, on happiness itself.
Turns out there are two types of happiness. ‘Affective happiness’, which is when a person generally feels well. The second is ‘Cognitive happiness’, when a person feels they have realised their goals.
In reading a dissertation by Gaël Brulé, he writes that French people are not happy. Or at least that ‘French people report being relatively less happy than one might expect, given their high standard of living.’ He goes on to say this is due a lack of freedom. This is because French life is often quite mapped out, particularly education, and limited, particularly by the government.
So maybe it isn’t that the French people specifically are happy. Maybe it is that those choosing to live in France, eg not going through the educational system and growing up feeling bound by the country’s cultural restraints, are the happy ones.
There certainly are a lot of articles and vlogs on expats being happy in France and/or how wonderful the lifestyle is here. And on the whole, I won’t disagree with them.
As someone who has chosen to live in many different countries during my lifetime, I can attest to the happiness factor when first moving to a new country. When you first move somewhere, everything is so shiny and new. A lack of awareness gives you a definite rosy tint of the world. And this rosy tint takes about 10 years to wear off.
But in reading a more recent survey it was deemed that the French are happy. A study by the Elabe Institute showed that ‘68 percent of respondents said they were happy, and a third (32 percent) even said they were “very happy”.’
Finance plays a big part. No surprise there really. This is true in most countries. Less worries about finance, one is generally happier. France on the whole enjoys reasonably good economics, so this supports that the French are happy on the whole. Though of course, like elsewhere, there are fluctuations. And these can impinge on the mindset.
The French have all the necessary components to dominate the happiness rankings. a vibrant democracy with high levels of citizen involvement, the acknowledged greatest healthcare system in the world, a fantastic social security system, and an increased GDP despite the economic downturn.
One could shout about high taxes, and many do. Still, they are not nearly as high as Denmark’s. And the Danes rank as number one on the happiness chart. So taxes can’t really be sited as the ultimate factor for happy or unhappy. Most people I know, especially expats, like to complain about taxes, but also like the facilities provided as a result of them.
Now after all this, are the French happy? As a general note, yes. I would say that France is a happy, ranking up there, nation. Of course, not all French people are happy. Life gets in the way, and some people are just not happy souls as well. But overall, my take from living here, is there is a very definite contentment, a certain level of mirth, and a general sense of happiness. Even if they don’t smile a lot. 😊
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