Costa Ricans are the happiest people on Planet Earth. And in this op-ed piece in the NY Times, Nicholas Kristof gives some possible explanations. One glaring piece of evidence: Costa Rica places huge value on education and no value whatsoever on military. (They disassembled their army in 1949).
The several times we’ve been down to Costa Rica, the “happiness factor” among the Ticos (locals) wasn’t overwhelmingly obvious. To those of us who are more likely to associate happiness with success (which might look like a large, clean home and manicured lawn neatly lined along a quiet, kid-friendly street), the chaotic front yards that resemble junkyards and tin-roofed shanties with impossibly thin cows grazing near by don’t automatically register “this is what happiness looks like” in my order-seeking mind. I had to rethink my deep-rooted definitions of wealth and poverty, disparity and prosperity.
After spending some extended time in the country, there is a subtle, tranquil sense of contentment that seems to blanket the Ticos like a blue mist. They speak in social currency rather than financial currency, collecting friends and neighbors like we might collect “Employee of the Year” plaques. And time, effort, success and business all have distinctly different definitions in Costa Rica. Maybe it’s time to reexamine our definitions? Things that make you go “hmmmmm.”