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Travelling to the world’s happiest destinations

By Bidvest Bank
12-08-2016
On darker days you may wonder why you watch the news at all. In the glut of gloom it’s easy to forget all the good: the bridges that don’t collapse, economies that grow, cures that heal and the nursery rhymes that are still joyfully sung. There is a lot in the world that does work. Still unconvinced? Perhaps it’s time to restore your faith in humanity on a journey to the happiest places in the world.

What do happy countries have in common? 

Studies show that people in the happiest countries experience more generosity and less inequality of happiness. They have longer life expectancies, freedom to make life choices, lower perceptions of corruption and a higher GDP per capital. But financial wellbeing alone is not enough. Top-scoring countries celebrate a culture of community and social support. In Norway for instance, it’s not uncommon for people to paint each other’s houses, even though they can afford to employ someone. While in the tiny country of Bhutan, “gross national happiness” is measured as seriously as gross national profit. 

Some of the world’s happiest spots:

Reykjavik, Iceland: In a sub-zero climate, you have to band together and make things work, which is perhaps the reason this Nordic nation has built a city that runs so smoothly. Clean, safe, healthy and aesthetically spectacular, Iceland makes up for the cold with the warmth of the locals… who have plenty to smile about - hot springs to dip in, flashes of the Northern Lights overhead, and the world’s most famous hot dog stand: Bæjarins Beztu. 

Vancouver, Canada:  Flanked by sparkling ocean and staggeringly gorgeous mountains, Vancouver is Manhattan’s better-looking cousin. Canadians are famously congenial, and coming in at sixth place on 2016’s World Happiest Countries Index, why wouldn’t they be? Explore the city’s beautiful scenery between Michelin-star meals and it’s easy to see why Vancouver’s locals are pretty happy with their lot in life. 

Bhutan: Famous for being the first country to measure Gross National Happiness, Bhutan has led the way in counting their citizens’ feelings to gauge the country’s success. They even have a Minister of Happiness. In spite of the lack of material wealth, Bhutan is ranked number one in happiness equality. This Buddhist nation remains largely traditional, with an early-morning prayer session counting as one of the country’s most popular television programs. Unlike happiness surveys in most of the world, Bhutan’s survey explores spiritual and social aspects of locals’ lives, asking questioning such as “During the past four weeks, how often have you felt calmness?” 

Aarhus, Denmark: By many accounts Aarhus is the world’s happiest city in the happiest country on earth. It’s an open-minded university hub that retains its historical legacy. Locals happily hand over 68% of their income and in exchange get free healthcare, daycare and top education. The city boasts a thriving cultural scene, nearby country and seaside, and a rainbow-coloured walkway stretching across the sky above its top-notch, modern art gallery. Denmark has taken first place in the World Happiness Report three of the four times the survey has taken place, a status which owes much to the Danish tradition of ‘hygge’: a sense of intimacy, community and contentment. 

Need a lift in life and fancy immersing yourself in the bliss of the world’s happiest nations?  Bidvest’s Bank MasterCard® World Currency Card™ provides a fuss-free solution to banking while abroad, plus you can fix the exchange rate before you go – one more thing worth smiling about. Find out more.