In my stumblings across the web I tripped over this article about how Costa Rica is again the Happiest Place On Earth, and my stubbed virtual toe is still smarting a little. A lot gets written about how Costa Rica is some kind of undiscovered paradise (mostly by the Tourism bureau and real estate agents I think), and this Happiness Index thing keeps popping up every year. This particular article, however, seems more over-the-top than most, so I couldn't resist dissecting it a bit based on my own experience in Paradise. Yes, I've done a slight bit of cherry-picking for brevity's sake, but 80% of the article is intact below. I'm going to use my own scoring, +1, -1, 0 for neutral. Let's see what my "happiness index" comes up with.
Having just been voted the single-most happiest place to live on the planet, Costa Rica has grabbed the attention of many.
But the question burning up the Internet is, "why is Costa Rica ranked the happiest place on Earth?"...
First off, the country is ideally located in Central America between Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south.
I have no idea why that would be considered an ideal location and the article doesn't say, either. I think a happier location would be between, say, France and Spain, or on the Mediterranean. 0
It has an estimated population of just around 4.2 million and occupies approximately the size of West Virginia yet according to National Geographic, contains 5% of the world`s flora and fauna.
|Red-eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas), photographed near Playa Jaco in Costa Rica (retouched version). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Not exactly. If 5% of the world's plants and animals were here, we probably would have been eaten by now or smothered under a mountain of bugs and leaves. Actually, CR has something like 4.5% of the world's species of flora and fauna. Still, that makes us happy! +1
About 8 degrees off the equator, the country does experience extreme heat but more so worth mentioning is the humidity - it`s a spicy meatball that`s for sure.
I feel pretty confident that the recent East Coast heatwave was far worse than anything dished out down here even in the low-lying areas. Oh, and it's 9 degrees latitude, but who's counting? Yes, the humidity can be a bitch. 0
Didn't they just get through telling us how hot it is supposed to be here? It's mostly about elevation here, which is why the Valle Central is cooler. The numbers above are the nominal range, but it's not unusual for it to go well beyond that range on both ends. +1
Anyone having visited Costa Rica will have likely noticed the rich reddish color of the soil - this makes a fantastic environment for growing fresh fruit and vegetables. In fact, Costa Rican bananas and pineapples are some of the best in the world. Not to mention how delicious the Costa Rican coffee is.
Organic and non-organic farmers here fertilize the hell out of their crops because of this. Commercial pineapples and bananas are over-fertilized, over-sprayed mono-cultures. Yeah, the coffee is superb, but it doesn't have so much to do with the soil as with the climate (and all that fertilizer). -1
Another contributor to longevity would certainly be the quality of the foods a person has access to - open air markets with organic vegetables and fruits are commonplace here along with the old school butcher shops, bakeries and fish markets.
Typical to most North American countries is the whole fast-food genre which is in fact the biggest contributor to diabetes and heart conditions in the USA, is a minority presence in Costa Rica. Sure you can find McDonalds and the likes however you won`t find one on every corner.
In contrast to the US, you might find a total of 4-5 McDonalds in the entire country!
Oh, don't worry. Here in Costa Rica we don't need the BKs and McDs because we have within a cat's swing of just about anywhere, the ubiquitous "Soda", small mom and pop cafe's serving deep-fried anything, bread and cakes made with mountains of butter and sugar, and, if you're lucky, a little romaine lettuce on the side. The rice and beans are the healthiest (and happiest!) part. -1
|Always Open (Photo credit: dvaires)|
What that translates to is, most people don't have a car, so they walk a lot. Most of the country is mountainous, so they walk a lot uphill. Certainly obesity is not as prevalent here as in the States, but it's certainly not rare either. Most Ticos don't participate in sports per se, such as swimming, hiking, skiing (no snow!), etc., though playing soccer can burn off tons of calories. But, overall, I think they are healthier. +1
One final note on the subject has to be the cost of living in Costa Rica...
A lower cost of living frees up more money to spend on higher quality foods and even recreational activities that promote exercise like water sports or attending a gym.
In comparison to North America, one can living a higher quality of life - a healthier one - while spending less money.
It's possible, but the lower cost of living does not come from more affordable food, which is generally more expensive than in the States due to taxes and transportation costs. It comes from cheap labor, period. You can get housing much cheaper, and health care is about 20-25% of the cost in the U.S. Cars and fuel are way more expensive. Everything seems to balance out, though. For the lower stress of not having to carry expensive health insurance, which you're not even sure will pay when you really need it, this gets a thumbs up. +1
This is what makes Costa Rica such a happy place to live.
If you say so. The unoffical ADR Index says +1 net, which means it's happy, but is it the happiest place on earth? Probably not, but it's getting better and we like it!
Seriously,though, long-term happiness doesn't come from the food you eat, the climate, or being able to spend less money. Those are nice, but don't you think genuine happiness comes from within yourself? One's sense of well-being is a product of culture and customs, family values, feeling part of something bigger than just you. These can create a state of mind -a collective state of mind- that translates into self-confidence, friendliness, helpfulness, and attitudes that don't take life (or ambition) too seriously. Ticos seem to have found a near perfect mixture of those qualities, and that is what truly makes it a happy place to live.
What do you think are the necessary ingredients for happiness?