The 4 Happiest Cities on Earth

The 4 Happiest Cities on Earth© Hemera/ThinkstockSingapore

Dan Buettner, the author of Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zone Way, set out to find the happiest places on earth, and he thinks he’s discovered four contenders on four different continents. What makes residents in these places so glad to be living the lives they do? Here’s a hint: It has nothing to do with their material wealth, intelligence, or attractiveness.  Instead, Buettner found that members of these communities, which span the globe from Denmark to Mexico, give priority to social networks and health and well-being above all—and they make choices that reflect those values. So if you’re looking for a cheery destination for your next vacation, consider these four spots—and get ready to take notes on how to really live the good life:

Plus: Gorgeous Ads for Places We Don’t Go Anymore

Singapore
With one of the highest population densities in the world and denizens known for being workaholics, it’s hard to imagine the city-state of Singapore having one of the happiest populations on earth. And yet in a recent survey, 95% of them said they were either very happy or quite happy. They give their city high marks for cleanliness and safety—subways are pristine and unfailingly arrive on time, and police are seen as helpful and good at their jobs. What’s more, they feel they can count on their neighbors—all 5.1 million of them. As Ahmad Nizan Abbas, a lawyer from Singapore, explained, “We used to live in fishing villages where we pulled together to help each other…. If something happens to a Malay household, the whole Malay community will be there to lend support.”

Århus, Denmark
The residents of Århus cheerfully part with 68% of their income in taxes, knowing that in return they will be guaranteed free healthcare, free daycare, and a topnotch education for their children. A robust city of 300,000 with a vibrant cultural scene and a diverse number of religions represented, the sense of community and equality (the range in incomes is narrow), as well as easy access to the nearby sea and surrounding countryside, make Århus seem more like a small town. “We believe that a rich person is not necessarily the one with a lot of money,” Jørgen Carlsen, an Århus school headmaster told Buettner. “It’s the one who really has a lot to be grateful for: nature, the company of other people, the ability to enjoy a good book.”

San Luis Obispo, CA
According to a 2008 Gallup-Healthways study, people who live in San Luis Obispo are more likely than residents of other U.S. cities to smile and experience joy and are less likely to experience pain or depression. Some 64,000 of the 260,000 people in the greater metropolitan area, located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, volunteer at over 11,000 non-profit organizations. Few commutes are longer than 10 minutes (one reason its members rank in the upper third for job satisfaction), so “it’s easy to be involved,” resident Pierre Rademaker told Buettner. Business signs are unobtrusive by law, fewer than 11% of residents smoke—the lowest rate in the U.S.—there are lots of bike lanes, and the city’s plaza draws throngs of people for free concerts on summer Fridays. What’s not to love?

Monterrey, Mexico
Unlike San Luis Obispans, the people of Monterrey don’t enjoy high household incomes or access to good healthcare. Instead, there’s a profound sense of gratitude for the new political freedom enjoyed since the oppressive Institutional Revolutionary Party lost power in 2000—the first time in nearly a century—as well as an emphasis on social life over work. “The American system is good for productivity, but not for the soul,” Miguel Basanez, a political scientist who lives in Monterrey told Buettner. Another reason Monterrey residents may be so happy is their faith in God and family, and their ability to tough it out through bad times. “We laugh at sickness, poverty and even death,” says Basanez. “We even have a holiday to celebrate death. November 2, the Day of the Dead, is one of the biggest holidays of the year.”

Source: Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zone Way by Dan Buettner, Delta Sky Magazine

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53 thoughts on “The 4 Happiest Cities on Earth

  1. Uh, Danes don’t pay 68% in tax!!! We pay between 38 and 41% depending on which municipality we live in!

  2. I’m actually from Monterrey, and I can tell you firsthand that those stuff has nothing to do with our hapiness. You see, politic issues are more a thing of the south, so we’re not “happy because we’re no longer under one party or the other” also Day of the dead is a very forogtten tradition specially in the north. People actually care more about halloween than Day of the dead.

  3. Monterrey, mexico has some pretty rich people. And there are US quality down there/

  4. I lived in San Luis Obispo and I loved it there.  It’s such a neat university town.  You’ve got Cal Poly and Cuesta College, and there is always something to do.  I wish I could afford to live there again.

  5. what bcame oft he programwhere an individual turned over a relic to one of the history
    detectives. Most interesting and informative. One ofthe few TV programs worth watching?

  6. what bcame oft he programwhere an individual turned over a relic to one of the history
    detectives. Most interesting and informative. One ofthe few TV programs worth watching?

  7. what bcame oft he programwhere an individual turned over a relic to one of the history
    detectives. Most interesting and informative. One ofthe few TV programs worth watching?

  8. As Ahmad Nizan Abbas, a lawyer from Singapore, explained, “We used to live in fishing villages where we pulled together to help each other…. If something happens to a Malay household, the whole Malay community will be there to lend support.”As a Singaporean, I want to point something out that this article has grossly misrepresented. Singapore is a majority Chinese nation. Malays make up a sizeable minority but are by no means representative of the entire population.Our trains recently suffered a massive spate of breakdowns. Three Australian men who beat up a local taxi driver in a drunken rage were allowed by our police force to run home with their tails between their legs without trial.I question the veracity of this article.

  9. Free daycare in Aarhus? No – daycare is subisidised but not free. I have 2 children and live in Aarhus so I know. Despite the tiny error, I must say that I am nearly not suprised to see it on such a list  :-)

  10. uhhhh… the people of Aarhus do NOT pay 68 % in taxes. In (very) rough numbers: Those who make more than 423.000 DKR (56.000 euro) a year pay 66 % of the sum they make above that (i.e. not of their whole income). Taxes in Denmark are generally high though, most people pay about 40 % – gladly ;)

  11. Grew up in Singy,goods times. Met my wife in Aarhus, the world’s largest village. Not true about the taxes, but is know as the city of smiles where a man can fall in love every 20 secones and never twice. Great 11 day party every September during fest week.

  12. Grew up in Singy,goods times. Met my wife in Aarhus, the world’s largest village. Not true about the taxes, but is know as the city of smiles where a man can fall in love every 20 secones and never twice. Great 11 day party every September during fest week.

  13. it’s good to know that a lot of folk do not look at money as a yardstick of success.

  14. it’s good to know that a lot of folk do not look at money as a yardstick of success.

  15. I’m sorry to say this.. but the average Dane does NOT pay 68% of their income in taxes. The average Dane pays about 40%. Also, daycare is not free. 

    1. Aarhus may be happy for white people – but not for Danes who were born to non-white parents (“Ethnic Danes” as they are always referred to – and which is, by definition, discriminatory) – and NOT for immigrants. So if you plan to go – make it a visit. But if one is not Danish – they should understand that the self-reported happy-talk applies to those who receive the mentioned “benefits” without recieving also the disdain, blame and resentment of an entire population. I posted links to the fact that this is where neo-nazis will be gathering later in march, as an example. If you want to make all this true also for immigrants and non-white Danes – and you are Danish or in Denmark – consider opposing this kind of promotional activity.

      No offense to those who don’t yet have a non-white friend and therefore haven’t had their eyes opened. . . .  but for these statements to be true – they should apply to the entire population, not just the homogenous ones.
      I hope to leave the country as soon as it is feasible. But of the places I would consider staying in if forced to stay in DK, Aarhus would be the bottom of my list.
      Ask any non-Dane.

    2. Aarhus may be happy for white people – but not for Danes who were born to non-white parents (“Ethnic Danes” as they are always referred to – and which is, by definition, discriminatory) – and NOT for immigrants. So if you plan to go – make it a visit. But if one is not Danish – they should understand that the self-reported happy-talk applies to those who receive the mentioned “benefits” without recieving also the disdain, blame and resentment of an entire population. I posted links to the fact that this is where neo-nazis will be gathering later in march, as an example. If you want to make all this true also for immigrants and non-white Danes – and you are Danish or in Denmark – consider opposing this kind of promotional activity.

      No offense to those who don’t yet have a non-white friend and therefore haven’t had their eyes opened. . . .  but for these statements to be true – they should apply to the entire population, not just the homogenous ones.
      I hope to leave the country as soon as it is feasible. But of the places I would consider staying in if forced to stay in DK, Aarhus would be the bottom of my list.
      Ask any non-Dane.

  16. I love living in Århus, so I think it’s great that Århus is on this list. But I just want to correct two things; we do not have free daycare and taxese are mostly at 42%, students mostly pay 37% and only the ones with a high salary pay more, they pay 60%. So one bad thing and one good. Also we get paid to study and also when we are unemployed. Bonus info:)

  17. Danes do NOT all pay 68% tax!!! You only do that if you make maybe $150.000 or more per year. For instance, I make $60.000 and pay 41%. But about all the free stuff: That’s all true.

  18. Danes do NOT all pay 68% tax!!! You only do that if you make maybe $150.000 or more per year. For instance, I make $60.000 and pay 41%. But about all the free stuff: That’s all true.

  19. Danes do NOT all pay 68% tax!!! You only do that if you make maybe $150.000 or more per year. For instance, I make $60.000 and pay 41%. But about all the free stuff: That’s all true.

    1. SKIP aarhus. They don’t like non-Danes there. The author apparently missed this point.

      1. I somehow don’t feel discriminated when living there. Maybe you should surround yourself with more open people. It’s not hard to find them in here since Aarhus has the biggest student community in Denmark ( the youngest population in DK as well). And I find everyone very helpful in every situation.

    2. SKIP aarhus. They don’t like non-Danes there. The author apparently missed this point.

    3. SKIP aarhus. They don’t like non-Danes there. The author apparently missed this point.

    4. SKIP aarhus. They don’t like non-Danes there. The author apparently missed this point.

    5. SKIP aarhus. They don’t like non-Danes there. The author apparently missed this point.

  20. Seems like Obama wrote this article! And of course the rich few who run socialist societies will always tout that money isn’t everything because they have all yours! This article is absolute nonsense and Readers Digest needs to quit interviewing only socialists.

  21. SINGAPORE?!!! We’re a lot of complaining, whining malcontents! Whoever did this survey must have been talking to a bunch of drunks who just stepped out of a X’mas party! What rubbish!

  22. The happiest cities in the world is found where the Law of God rules over the law of man…..the happiest place in the is impossible to findn where people totally respecrts and obey both LAWS/

  23. have you visited the mountainous and wild forest places in the philippines?

  24. have you visited the mountainous and wild forest provinces in the philippine?

  25. Malindi and Mombasa in Kenya are the two cities though a little tiny that could be included in the list.To be sure ask Bill Gates and his friends and they will tell you they go thhere annually incognito

  26. you mean they never carried their survey in Africa .Malindi and Mombasa in Kenya are a bet to include.I mean people there are never worried about a thing.Just ask Bill Gates and his likes.They visit these towns incognito.Joe

  27. Are you kidding me that Singapore having “happiest populations on earth”. Singapore is kept clean because of punitive anti-litter law. In-spite-of having killer litter law (dangerous litters like flower pot that can maim is known as killer litter) have been known to be thrown by residents, even disgusting sanitary pads and scraps form part of the litters thrown out of windows. There are just too many ills to be mentioned here. One more…to start a small food outlet in a mall you will have to pay more than $6,500 rental per month for an area of about 110 sq.ft. A so-call typical 3 bedroom government build apartment will set you back by $250,000 to $400,000 (average area of 900 sq.ft). If you need a car, a 1600 cc Toyota it can set you back another $120,000. So imagine owing an entry model 520series BMW that cost US$200,000. Financial pressure is tremendous for business as well as for family. Many Singaporeans are also moving to live in Malaysia a 30 minutes drive away to escape the high living cost. Dan Buettner has not done his job thoroughly naming Singapore as a “happiest” is misrepresentation. 

    1. Tim – They seem to be deleting my earlier, reasonable posts, but I’ll say here that Beuttner’s representations of Aarhus in Denmark are similarly flawed – as though he read marketing materials but never spoke with a non-Dane to see whether actually being in a place where people (self-report) claim to be happy, is as gratifying to the foreigner living there as to the homogeneous white resident. Sadly, this looks not like research, but recitation.

      1. Of course Danish are white. And of course it should pertain to the actual citizens of the country. Did you ask the same for the other countries or do you just hate all white people in general?

  28. The 4 happiest cities: You’ve got to be kidding me! David Buettner will have to provide his definition of social networking, and health & well-being! And…happiness!

  29. I don’t think this is happiness! xieyang Datian Fujian China is also a  happiness town.

  30. Ummmm. Since when have California and Mexico been on different continents? Did the “Big One” earthquake happen and I missed it?

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