Is Less Really More?
It’s no secret that on average, Europeans earn less money, live in smaller homes, drive smaller cars, and have much smaller wardrobes than Americans. So, why do statistics show that Europeans are happier than we are? Can living with less equal a higher quality of life?
This past spring, the Organization for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD), released a list of the top ten happiest countries in the world. Denmark, Finland, and the Netherlands won top billing, but as one of the wealthiest and most powerful nations in the world, it may or may not surprise you that the United States didn’t even make the list! So, if it’s true that money really can’t buy you happiness- what the heck can?
Having lived, worked and travelled throughout Europe, I can honestly say I get it. It’s not just the romantic allure of ancient architecture and foreign accents. It’s not just the promise of more social services or a more leisurely paced lifestyle. There’s something else. A simplicity, an appreciation that the people have for each other, their food, and the everyday rituals of life that Americans often overlook by racing against the clock and exchanging quality for quantity. Without realizing it, have we as a culture reduced our quality of life in exchange for convenience? Does this “bigger, better” way of life make our lives richer or remove us further away from happiness?
Now, I’m not saying that splurging on a gorgeous new dress can’t bring a smile to your lips. I’m not suggesting that you take your career less seriously or work less hours. Nor am I saying that socialism is the answer to our American woes. But I do believe that the European lifestyle offers us a Fab & Fru lesson in mindfulness, family, community, quality vs. quantity and a different perspective on the meaning of success and happiness. Look at this comparison:
- Americans typically associate success with having money and a respectable career.
- Europeans tend to define themselves less by what they do for work, so their idea of success is not just about wealth and power but also about how much time they have to enjoy friends, family, and life’s experiences.
Quantity vs. Quality
- Americans like things big and we like to consume! We have big houses, big cars, giant portions of food, and lots of stuff that we never use.
- Europeans certainly enjoy consuming. However, they tend to live more modestly, buying less but spending more for higher quality (think Italian leather shoes!). | Print
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