Happiness is a Dutch bicycle


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Happiness is a Dutch bicycle

On page 32 of his new book, Happiness: Lessons from a New Science, Richard Layard charts happiness versus per capita income of various countries. The country with the highest percent who are "Happy" or "Satisfied"?

The Netherlands, by a good bit.

Why? Dutch bicycles, if you want my opinion.

Holland has no monopoly on Layard's big seven -- family relationships, financial situation, work, community and friends, health, personal freedom, and personal values -- factors he claims can account for much of happiness.

Here's why the Dutch norm of bicycling everywhere creates more happiness:

  • Exercise makes people's bodies feel good.
  • Exercise lifts people's spirits.
  • Bikers are not anonymous the way drivers are; hence their traffic interactions are much more civil.
  • Riding a bike instead of a Hummer to work is just one example of the general Dutch aversion to flaunting wealth--the struggle to keep up with (or better) your neighbors creates much unhappiness in many cultures.
  • Almost running over clueless American tourists who will go home and blog about you gets your pulses racing.
In that last area, Dutch bicycles have just made me happy as well.

# Posted by Betsy Devine on 4/7/05; 10:15:39 AM - in Pilgrimages

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