W hile scores of mortals spend their entire lives contemplating, questioning and pondering the secret to true happiness, the Dutch are exempt from such trivial pressures. If fact, as one of the happiest nations on the planet, they need not worry at all!
Dutch people – a truly happy bunch?
If you haven’t yet heard, the Dutch are a surprisingly contented bunch – and have long since mastered the whole “how-to-achieve-happiness-thingy”. In fact, Dutch women and Dutch children consistently rank amongst the happiest in the world.
Dutch kids, it seems, are just plain happier than children from any other nation (with 95% of Dutch children ranking their own happiness as above average). Dutch women also appear to be living the good life, with the Lowlands ranking amongst the 5 happiest nations for women on the planet. (Could it be the cheese, the drop, the natural births? Or simply all that bloody free time?!)
Can the same be said about those leggy Dutch men? Are they also floating around in a constant state of bliss?? Turns out, no one bothered to ask them yet, but based on the highly scientific equation “happy wife = happy life“, we’d say they probably aren’t doing too badly themselves!
The question remains: is this happiness a result of nature or nurture? Are the Dutch hard-wired to simply be happier or does life in the Netherlands (with all its socioeconomic advantages) foster and breed this state? Perhaps the next study should look at all you Dutchies living abroad…
So what does all of this talk of happiness mean to YOU, my humble readers? Well it is quite simple in fact:
– If you’re Dutch: Kick your feet back, enjoy the sun and embrace the fact that you ARE, actually, pretty darn HAPPY!
– If you’re not Dutch: Have no fear, there is a very simple solution. You only need to make one minor life change : move to the Netherlands (if you haven’t already)! 😉
Let’s hear from you: why do you think the Dutch are so darn happy?
[divider]HAPPY IN AMSTERDAM![/divider]
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I’ve recently read some studies that may say the opposite: http://www.amsterdamherald.com/index.php/rss/1042-20131106-netherlands-most-clinically-depressed-country-in-europe
Hiya! I saw that too but there are several critics of that study saying it was too heavily based on perceptions and not facts.
Yeah, I have no idea what the actual scientific truth is. Just throwing out some other opinions. To me, the Dutch seem like a pretty happy-go-lucky bunch. So, it could be easily be wrong.
I have to agree wiht what Jan Swinkes stated.He said: “Culture plays an important role. We are a sombre people, but that doesn’t mean we need more help than the Germans or Belgians. A lot depends on individual context.”
I can only compare it to living throught out the USA but I have to say by observation and my own account life is simpler here. I suffered from depression a couple times while living here so I am not saying I never get depressed and I doubt the same is true for the Dutch. However despite some ups and downs the quality of life here makes for my happiness. There is far less violence, I feel safe. There is far less poverty. There is a good choice of public and private schools for children. People do not work as many hours as most Americans. You have more time for the family and employers not only understand but expect it. The maternity leave and holiday times off alone shows this. Life is simpler. Even the traffic is better than where I came from! I can access doctor, school, dentist, pharmacy and shoppping with out a car so I can avoid most traffic congestion. Stress is lower.
I am not saying there are not negitives this is not utopia and the Dutch know this as well. They are open about depression and their feelings when it comes to the not so nice ones. In the USA the culture around depressions is… what Depression??? You do not talk about it. You leave your emotions and family at the door step of your home. The Dutch tend to addresss it and then get one with life.
I find here you their is more balance. So when for my example I suffered from post partum deperession I was able to focus on helping myself through it better due to less external stress.
Now as far as the weather and some other things that is another topic.
That should be the men then 🙂
It’s just that childhood here is so [email protected] happy, it turns out that ‘grownup-life’ sucks.
I have to say I am happier in The Netherlands than I have ever been anywhere else! It is not the weather however!
Going by what I see and read on FB. Dutch have lots to say about things going on there; politics, the new people that have overrun the place. The words they use as every day and run of the mill stuff have made me think. Very opionated but yes they are funny!
Maybe they are a happy lot ???? They sure have no problem letting everyone know how they feel about things. Thanks for listening to my “Rant”
Yeah, they’re happy I guess, but also I get a sense that they’re VERY angry.
No, they’re not VERY angry…they are just scary as hell when angry 🙂
Only when you piss us off, telling lies will do. 😉
We are very happy _and_ love complaining more than anything else. Things always have a catch…
Sound like my kind of people! So faw so good here in the Lowlands.
Hahaha maybe we’re happy *because* we love complaining? Get all the bad stuff out there?
As a Dutch looking at my fellow countrymen, I also notice we have a habit of complaining about anything possible. This I think stems from the village consensus culture in the 17th century that still is very visible today. Google “horizonvervuiling” and “windmolen” for a good impression on this or have a look on any random NuJIJ.nl thread.
Besides the conflict-resolving that came with the religious freedom in the 17th century, a great part of the consensus culture started in coastal town villages where men were often at sea and the wives were responsible for the household and had to represent their husbands in town meetings. No matter if the wives weren’t expert on the topics, their husbands (possible) concerns had to be represented. This partly caused that women had greater freedom and responsibility and were allowed to walk the streets alone without being hit and doing so was even penalized, while outside NL and England such liberties were regarded highly unusual (and hitting women on the streets apparently was normal).
On a side note it doesn’t surprise me that feminism and emancipation took on really easily in 20th century NL.
So regardless if you were catholic, protestant, woman, man or even remotely familiar with the discussed topic, you always get to have your say and if you didn’t you simply missed your opportunity to get your opinion in. Still today we see a culture where everybody needs to ventilate their opinion with little or no regards to any authority on the matter.
Now, how does this relate to happiness? I think this is because we feel we participate in a society where our own interests can be represented and our concerns are heard, our well being will not be undermined without getting a foot in the door, our non-expert-underbelly-feelings will be satisfied by raising a voice.
This in it’s turn will cause a general feeling of safety, self confidence and combined with the welfare and well being we are lucky enough to have in NL, is a good recipe for happiness.
@Ries and as a Dutchy myself, i would like to add to this that our consensus politics (Polder Model), but also the whole you described above, also leads to the Dutch being willing to ‘move over a little bit’ for basically anyone, given that said person is also willing to ‘move over’ a little bit. “Schikken” or basically ‘Going Dutch’ on w/e topic… meaning you both ‘add some water to the wine’ in which case you both might not entirely get what you want, but you also don’t get what you absolutely do not want…
And let’s face it, this makes all sides happy … couple that with the ‘act normal’ paradigm and seeing you at least didn’t get what you absolutely didn’t want, even though you didn’t get entirely what you might have wanted, you should ‘act normal’ and accept that is the way living together works and everybody stay’s happiest…
Reblogged this on All things soft and some hard too and commented:
Relocating to Netherlands seems to be a damn good thing to have happened for me! 🙂
Yeah, we are a pretty happy bunch, I think. And when we’re not…. we’re happiest when we can complain about something, so happiness is never far away. 😉
No mention here about the Dutch man. They love to be depressed and are always crying. We call the “watjes”. This Means cotton balls. I left many dutch man cause they always felt the need to talk about their damn feelings.
You’ve met the wrong men love..
No mention here about the Dutch man. They love to be depressed and are always crying. We call them “watjes”. This Means cotton balls. They love to talk about their feelings. I moved far away because I could not take these crybabies anymore.
I totally agree. All Dutch men are exactly the same and should stop being so talkative. It’s much better it they just bottle up every single emotion they ever have and just let it out by beating up their wife. Having non-consensual sex with them and getting drunk and abusing their children.
I shall take this notion and strong argument in consideration in the next weekly prototype Dutch man meeting we have. We must stay uniform and the same, what kind of anarchic world would we live in if everyone was just different. The horror.
want to talk about it?
You ever considered that they get depressed and cry because there’s something not quite right with you? 😛 Since you’ve apparently met so many of them and they are all the same according to you.
I’ve never seen my Dutch bf cry; and he never gets depressed. He’s a happy puppy 🙂
As a Dutch man, I don’t feel misrepresent in you’re remark, neither I feel you got the meaning of “watje”. The word became popular during the end of the eighties. Sure, is has a metaforical conotation to the soft and fluffy characteristics of a cottonbal, be sure not to confuse a homoniem with a hyponiem. “Watje” with “wat” being the noun and the suffix “-tje” (double ‘t’ reduced) being the deminative, is indeed used as “sukkel”, douche, but most of all: whimp.
A “watje” does not make an effort, is afraid, scared, with the most clear conotion of: to futile,weak,scared or anything to undertake something. A “watje” would never live up to anything; being clear, open and vulnerable do sound (being a Dutch whipm) as qualities worth fighting for. Weakness is flip side of strength, one has got to understand oneself has he not?
But all that aside, Dutch men are watjes and perhaps some are proud of it, takes a whole lot of ego to be a man. Since the era of man is dated, and we are men, I’m happy to be a watje.
hahaha, Dutch people don´t air their “dirty laundry” to strangers, most of them would either compare their situation to those lesser off, and conclude they should not complain, or tell you everything is great, when it´s not. Also, in August, EVERYBODY in NL is happy, in February, 92% is depressed (pre-ski holiday season, of course).. SO, yeh, funny, but not realistic!
Check you facts..
The reason why the Dutch became the tallest nation in the world about 11 years ago overtaking the Norwegians they also dedicate to happiness in children (no frustrations) and dairy intake. Interesting stuff.
I have to say, I think Dutchies are also generally happier people because they don’t worry about other people’s problems. While they may end up saying something more like ‘it’s not my problem’, you gotta hand it to em… they don’t sweat the stuff that doesn’t affect them. Power to ya guys.
Last name is Van Dam. 3rd generation USA. Family is from Gronigen. Would like to make a trip there and search for relatives. I have to family ancestry records back to the mid 1700. Where would be a good place to start my search.
If you can read Dutch, http://www.allegroningers.nl is the website you need. If you don’t speak Dutch, maybe you can translate it in some way. This lists all the information the Groninger Archives have on people in birth/death/marriage certificates etc. If you need to look further head to http://www.groningerarchieven.nl/ and contact them, they can probably help you along. When you’ve found who your relatives are, try finding them on facebook.
The research into levels of happiness of children and the comparison of countries in this matter is an interesting one (being Dutch, I MEAN it is interesting, I am not polite in the British way!).
Having lived in the UK now for 7 years, I see striking differences in how Dutch children live their lives and their UK-counterparts.
Dutch children generally have lots of “freedom to roam”. Dutch public space is made for them and allows them to make independent journeys from quite a young age. Be it by foot or bike, children CAN do stuff on their own, whether it is travelling to school, sports club or friends. There are generally plenty of public facilities where children can stretch, learn and relax. Especially during the teenage years, Dutch children have the opportunity to explore their own surroundings, it is in many ways an open society. I strongly believe this all helps with their self-esteem and, indeed, happiness!
Now, UK children, who score low on the international happiness levels, live in a world dominated by adults. Public space in the UK is completely dominated by cars and further limited by a sickening private property-culture (“Get off my premises; I don’t want anyone passing close in front of my house; they might open my bin!”). There are much less opportunities for children to engage in sports/hobbies and a great lack of good public facilities. The UK is also obsessed with risk-assessments. Nearly everything is regarded as “dangerous” and turned down beforehand, meaning children don’t get the opportunity to experiment. Many UK children and teenagers travel to school passively in metal boxes on wheels, either in parent’s cars or school buses, being closely watched all the time. I would get depressed and it shows in this type of figures!
A couple of years ago, the BBC ran a story on this happiness issue and they interviewed Dutch children living in the UK on a Dutch language school. A twelve year old boy said “The bike, it is actually a very important thing. In Holland, you can go where you want to go and do what you want to do. That is very hard here.”
So, there you are! “The Cycling Dutchman” angle on this issue!
I have to agree with you Eric, you make very good observations. If children feel safe they are happy. NL is safe to roam and explore and that is unlike many other countries.
It must be because kids have more space here. Space to play outside, space to win an argument with adults…We are allowed to say what we think, which makes our mind strong. Other factors are social system (although that’s decaying).
My own experience is that one may state his opinion in the Netherlands, but one does not ever tell a soul he or she is in bad financial weather or what the monthly wage is…
I do not always feel happy when the Dutch state their opinions with profanity. Esp. Children. I find money is a subject not for disucssion in many cultures however.
The one thing I find that non-Dutchies consistently note about Dutch culture is our odd sense of humour. For one, it is incredibly crude and insulting, often using horrific diseases. More importantly however, is we are apt to make ourselves the butt of the jokes. A healthy dose of self-deprecating humour (or ‘Zelfspot’ as we enjoy calling it) is a big part of our happy lives.
I think children can be happy because they have a lot of freedom and we are quite a wealthy country, which means kids don’t miss out on toys or other ways to have fun. Women are just aout equal to men (or at least relatively equal) and can make their own decisions. Foreigners and immigrants,once settled here, have the same rights and chances as people born in the Netherlands. Yes, we like to complain, but I think we all know how good the Netherlands are to live in. We also have a lot of free time, in which we like to go on (long) vacations. Dutch people are everywhere, all over the world. And if you don’t have enough money to go to another country you don’t have to worry, because we have a relatively large amount of amusement parks, zoo’s and bungalow parks to go to for a smaller price. When the sun shines, there are people everywhere: in the parks, on squares, cafe terraces, etc. Everything lights up. I mean, it’s not perfect, but what country is? It’s a fine country to live in and there are opportunities and possibilities for everyone.
I think that studies that say differently (like in the amsterdam herald) are based on too many statistics. It’s a growing trend to measure happiness in statistics, but I think that it’s unfair, because being happy is completely subjective. I don’t know who’s happiest and I don’t think we should care. You can live a happy life and still be depressed sometimes, I think, and it depends on a lot of different factors. Studies measuring happiness will never be completely accurate, whether they place us amongst the happiest or most depressed.
I’m sorry but I just don’t understand how the Dutch can be so happy. I’ve lived in Amsterdam for 5.5 years and am, I’m sorry to say, extremely pissed off at the weather nearly daily. It’s just something I can’t get over and it’s a constant one-way topic I throw onto my partner, family, friends, and even my walls. At least my walls don’t tell me to finally shut up about it.
Yesterday I was watching a documentary about global warming… I thought “wow, would be great if it was just a little bit warmer here or there was even 10 more hours (not asking much) of sunlight a month”. Then it showed a map of how 90% of the Country would be many meters underwater. Fan-friggin-tastic!
I don’t suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder… I suffer from the “where the hell is the sun” disorder! I seriously can’t be the only one feeling like this here. I know there are plenty of wonderful things to do in Amsterdam but, because of this constant crap weather, I’ve become something of a hermit over the years. Now it’s nearly impossible to get me to leave my well-lit home to do anything unless I’m guaranteed that I can walk outside and I won’t need a flashlight to read the tram schedules at noon-time.
Please tell me I’m not the only one that is on the verge of saying “I’m falling out of love with this Country” because the weather is so darn terrible. I just need to hear one person say they’re on my side. It’s not going to change anything, I know, but I just don’t agree that the Dutch (and foreigners) can truly be happy when you have to consider a winter jacket in June or are forced to keep your sunglasses in a special drawer for holidays or those rare few days of sunshine a year.
I can relate!!! In fact the first few years here I pretty much told your story. It fell on deaf ears and why should it not after all the locals are use to it! For many others it takes some getting use to, and I too was one of those others.
I mourned the loss of my shadow for a long long time. Now it is a fond memory I cherish. I do not mind the cold in fact I miss snow or what I call real snowy winter weather but and a BIG but is the sunshine is missing all year long most days. Even where I grew up when you could have 8 months of the white stuff you had sunshine, cold but sunny, blue skies and the sunglasses were always around.
With the average direct sunlight exposure in the NL being about 8 minutes in the winter(I can not say it is much better in the summer really since it is so short) you are not crazy to feel a bit sad of it.
The truth is the weather does suck, and I had to accept it or move on. I do not think everyone is happy accepting it. I can only speak for myself when I say I am not miserable due to the weather anymore. I accepted the fact I need to travel away from home to get sunny days and pull out my sunglasses. I can say the first few years I really did not accept it and I was unhappy of it most days.
I still find the weather is crap most days. I think the summers are short and humid and the lack of air conditioning on those warm humid days make it yuck. I find the long winters of grey and darkness a bit depressing. When the days start to get longer I do feel better. I also found out a few years back I was severely vit. D deficient. Not surprising really and the darker your skin btw the more you need. It did not occur to me I was suffering from it because it never had to occur to me. Today I take a monthly prescription shot of Vit. D. It helped me sleep better, feel better in general. It did not make up for lack of sunshine but made it more bearable mentally and physically.
If you are stuck here as I was in many ways do try to get away, There is more sunny days at the neighbors in Germany for fact, or if you seek warmth Spain is not too far, south of France… You do not have to spend a fortune, and you do not need too many days of sunshine and warmth to get your spirts up.
I now do as the locals, leave when I want nice weather, enjoy every bit of it while it is here and that means stopping my life agenda for the day and getting out in it. I am happy I do not have to worry of skin cancer much and my skin will age better for it. 🙂
But know you are not crazy or alone, I hear ya. They have articles on the subject just google surviving Dutch weather…
Wishing you sunny days
It’s all relative I guess. I am not sure where you’re from originally but I guess it’s from the warmer parts of the US? I moved from the Netherlands to Scotland in 13 years ago and I can tell you the weather in Scotland is a lot worse than in the Netherlands.
Hi I lived my childhood near the Canadian border, we had long winters but the sun would come out even in the deepths of frigid weather. I then moved down to the south east and the sun was hot and steamy. I would never want to moved to anywhere that had less sunshine than NL. When I moved here I lost my shadow! I miss it and when it appears I get really happy!
Many years ago I talked about the nice climate in Spain with a local and how envious I was. He answered: When you are at work in Amsterdam and look out you see dark clouds and/or rain and you have no problem continuing with your work. When I look out of my window, I see a blue sky and sunshine. I want to leave my workplace and play tennis, go to the beach, make a sailing trip. Anything but work. And this happens to me a lot of days. Still envious????
Three years into my Dutch Odyssey I’ve finally figured out this Dutch sense of happiness… focus on the great things you got. Which is essentially a free, open, peaceful, functioning country which cares for and respects its citizens.
It’s meant to serve as a distraction from the fact that they are, in fact, living in a flat, windy, overpopulated conglomerate of villages and have to suffer some of the most miserable and inhospitable weather I’ve ever encountered. And this is coming from a Canadian.
Some expats absolutely love it here, I’m just not one of them.
I agree! I moved to California from the Netherlands many years ago. I often consider moving back but I don’t because of the darn gloomy weather. in the Netherlands I hated waking up to another dreary gray day. Here in LA I can deal with the traffic and high cost of living because the sunshine lifts my mood. One year the price of air-tickets to visit the Netherlands in July were reasonable. I was so excited to be visiting in the summer. We wound up wearing our winter-jackets most of the time…
This may seem strange to many. I’m first generation Dutch, born in the US. I live near San Francisco and I love cold, rainy, foggy weather. Nothing makes me happier or calm and at peace. I grew up in the Central Valley. Going back there in the summer is tortuous, with temperatures over 100. Although, I have many happy memories there as a child growing up on our family’s dairy. My cousins (all children of Dutch immigrants) and I would spend hours riding our bikes, building forts, digging for worms, so my uncle could go fishing. On foggy days in the winter(the Central Valley gets really foggy in the winter) we used to run out into the middle of the field, twirl around until we fell down, and then saw how many tries it took to find our way back to the house. It didn’t snow, but would sleet on occasion. My mom would make us hot custard for breakfast. In our house, hagelsag was not the only sweet breakfast. It was so good and so comforting. Could the ability to find happiness in cold, wet, foggy weather be genetic?
Theresa I’m the same – cold, rainy, foggy weather is calming and pleasant to me, but hot weather I find oppressive. Can’t think, can’t sleep, too lethargic to move, can’t work outside, stick to everything lol. I love snuggling under a doona or lighting a fire or unwinding under a hot shower – only appropriate in cooler weather. I also find winter fashion more interesting. Same for winter food – custard, apple pie (ok any pastry), roasts, porridge, cups of tea or hot chocolate… I’m in Australia, yesterday and today both above 30°C, struggling and looking forward to Autumn 🙂 Apart from the wind! I have often wondered about genetics, makes sense.
you’re not alone 🙂
Its actually very simple (in my opinion).. it’s al about being content and happy with what you have.
The happiness is a logical result…
Maybe it’s been said already but after leaving Nederland where we pretty much had as much or as little as many of our school mates, neighbors, friends, to Miami where your happiness very much seems to be related to what you have (and your neighbor doesn’t have).. I read an article about research that showed that that sweet point of happiness is optimal when you think you don’t have it much worse, but also not too much better than your neighbors: sounds like Holland to me!
Q. Why are Dutch women happy? A. Because the Netherlands is a matriarchy and the women are in charge.
Q. Why are Dutch men happy? A. Because the women have told them to be so.
Perceived or real happiness? My Dutch friends are fun-loving and fun to be with. There’s always lots of joking and lively conversations. They are very generous, helpful and positive people. Happy people, one would say. Same people go to theraphy because of depression, smoke pot daily (in order to be less stressed), there’s a lot of arguing (which to me is simply insults and verbal abuse), and they complain a lot about everything. However, I think Dutch have some special quality to live in the moment and when the moment is good it’s…lekker. 🙂 I’m a Finn whose idea of happiness is to be left alone sitting on a rock my toes in the water, but if that is not available I’m happy with almost anything as long as I have my personal space. Dutch ( yes I’m generalizing, and this is also my experience) are happier sociable, they like to do things together and always stop for a chat with people, which makes a walk through Amsterdam last hours 🙂 but that’s a different story…
By the way how can the WEATHER make someone unhappy? It’s hardly personal if it’s raining…
It is not personal but emotional, studies are through out to show how daylight, sun light and lack of effect people. If you are use to more sunlight like I was all my life it is a huge shift. If you are born here I suppose you are use to it.
dude i am dutch
i find joy in a lot of arguing
and i tend to complain a lot about everything * and anjoy it ) lol
Alright. The Dutch like to go on a cheap vacation in Turkey, Greece, Morroco, Italy, Yugoslavia, Spain, etc. If you’ve been there, don’t speak the language, have been ripped off, mugged, raped or even killed, you are happy to be home again. Simply you’re happy in The Netherlands.
I saw an interview with a Polish filmmaker once, in which he talked about the characteristics of the dutch people. He said that the dutch “are not creators but improvers”. I think he is right: we take the world as it is and improve it according to our needs and demands. This comes from both a positive and a negative view of the world. Positive in the idea that the world can be a better place (for everyone), negative in: it’s never good enough/ it could (should) be better. This made it so we kept improving what we had, creating the institutions that make us one of the one of the most welfaring countries in the world (things like healthcare, education, freedom/emancipation). We are happy, as shown by the reseaches mentioned in the article, and sombre, mentioned in the comments, at the same time. Satisfied with what we made for ourselves, unsatisfied because we (think we) can improve some more.
In short: we are at the same time happy as well as unhappy, because of our drive to improve what we have.
I think (as a born and raised Dutch woman) that we’re (or at least used to be) so happy because The Netherlands is relatively safe in comparison with other country’s, we enjoy and appreciate our freedom in practically everything and our ‘gezelligheid’ is more a feeling/sense of ‘belonging’ or connectedness with the people around us or even our environment.
Then add that we are champions in putting things in perspective. We can see both the up and the down side of everything and most of the time prefer the up side 🙂
If we can’t see the up side, make fun of the down side and there you go……
If that doesn’t work anymore, like for instance with the weather…..just complain and let everybody pitch in.
A Dutch saying: “Gedeelde smart is halve smart.” In other words, if you divide your grief there’s less for everyone to bear. So make fun of it, complain and make it “gezellig” because we’re all in the same boat, then forget about the weather and enjoy being happy with all that ‘gezelligheid’.
Further note that we don’t really (used to) have a caste system. There is (was) not much difference between the rich and the poor, so there’s no need to envy or be jealous. We are all the same. And that brings on our feeling of being connected with each other, the famous ‘doe maar normaal” but also our reputation of being the most tolerant people in Europe.
However, the last couple of years even the Dutch lost their sense of “doe maar normaal”. Differences became more apparent and we are about to loose gezelligheid. Instead greed, anger and envy are more common. I fear for this country sometimes, but then I make fun of it, laugh and forget about it until it’s time to worry again. Just to keep things in balance of course. 😉
It is a known fact that simple-minded people achieve happiness a lot easier; you can never be happy until you stop worrying about how to be happy.
Maybe that is the key to Dutch happiness: simple minds?
The “innocent´` are blessed, because they will reach heaven sooner …