Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series
Is this a great country or what?
Do you live in a great country? The best? Is the rest of the world envious of you, desirous of your homeland?
I grew up thankful for being born in the United States, the best place in the world to live. Indeed, I sometimes felt guilty. More than 95 percent of the world’s population was denied the blessing I received.
That’s right, isn’t it?
I was 48 years old before I visited another country (excluding three short border crossings into Mexico and Canada) and it really opened my eyes.
Indonesia isn’t a threat to crack the top spots in any of the best places to live lists, but the people I interacted with there weren’t miserable either. There were a lot of nice things about Bali. I remember talking with one man who was inquisitive about life in the United States. From what he knew or thought he knew, he wasn’t too keen on the idea of living here. He envisioned being shot at all of the time.
Though I’ve visited several other countries since then, it’s usually been in tourist areas and has often been brief, but I’ve found many people who love their homeland.
The most prominent opinions, those that have been most influential, have come from international co-workers I’ve had at various jobs the past three summers. These are all college-age and, therefore, might be more passionate, but it was obvious most of them truly love their home countries.
They’re from Taiwan, Romania, Philippines, Bulgaria, Malaysia, Czech Republic, Thailand, Ukraine, Poland, Jamaica, China and more.
And one or more persons from just about every one of those countries at one time or another said to me something like, “You’d love my country. You’ll have to come visit. Come and stay with my family and I’ll show you around.”
Isn’t that great? It’s refreshing to learn that most of the world is doing just fine, thank you, and is not wasting away jealous of me and my winning the birthplace lottery.
Or did I win?
What brought up this topic was seeing yet another list of the best countries to live in. Such lists are popular, maybe even more so at the beginning of the year, though I’m not sure of any actual value they carry.
Let’s make a list
Regardless, let’s take a glance at half a dozen of them. For each, I’m giving a link so you can explore further if you’d like.
The one that got me started can be found here on Lifestyle9.
For several years now, all types of such lists have featured northern European countries. This one leads off with Denmark, Sweden and Norway – a Scandinavian sweep. Australia usually does well and comes in here at fourth, followed by Iceland.
The United States is listed at 24th, just behind the United Arab Emirates and before Italy. A few others that caught my eye were Qatar at 8, New Zealand at 9, Canada at 13 and France at 21.
Scroll through and read what they have to say about their top 30 picks. They mention a lot of interesting information about a broad spectrum of quality of life issues. One warning, however, is the English is rough and sometimes a little difficult to follow.
So, that got me started. Next I pulled up a list ranking countries by happiness.
This list was published by the United Nations but not endorsed by the body. It was prepared by three “experts” from Canada, England and the United States.
Topping the list of happy countries were, to little surprise, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands and Sweden. I did notice Canada came in next, ahead of Finland.
In this one, the United States was listed at 17. What might be a surprise is it came in just behind Panama and Mexico.
The next list comes from a site known as Press Cave. It lists only the top 10 best countries in which to live, so don’t be surprised if the United States isn’t mentioned.
Again, Denmark is No. 1, followed by the usual suspects.
Canada is seventh and Australia ninth.
Here’s a list to shake up things a bit. Coming from the site The Richest, it relies more on objective statistics and wealth plays a larger role.
Australia climbs to the top with Canada third and the United States sixth. The usual leaders are still hanging around with Sweden second, Norway fourth and Denmark seventh.
Next is a list on International Living apparently prepared with Americans in mind and giving the top retirement locations.
It seems the primary requirement is on low-cost living. Topping the list is Ecuador, followed by Panama and Mexico. Others include Malta at 7, Belize at 13 and New Zealand at 15.
We’ll wrap up with one more “best countries to live in” list, this one from the United Nations’ annual Human Development Report.
It takes us back to Europe for the first spot with Norway on top. Australia is second, Denmark fourth, the United States eighth and Canada ninth.
So, what do you think?
How can that be?
Naturally, you want to know how they came up with these standings. Most of the articles give some information, but a lot of it is not solid math and science. There are plenty of hard numbers, but some have to operate off of efforts to determine how people feel.
Additionally, the data cover a broad range of quality of life issues. Many talk about the availability, quality and cost of health care. At least one considered how long a mother – and where applicable, a father – can take leave after adding a child to the family.
Education and its cost are also prominent. The costs of housing and food are important and some consider the cost of entertainment. There is also consideration for ecological practices, civic involvement and perceptions of corruption. Funny, but I didn’t see much thought given to weather.
Considering different factors and giving them different weights could explain the differences in some of the lists. Otherwise, there are different interpretations of the same information.
OK, so what does all of this mean?
Some people will take these lists, as well as my decision to write about them, as affronts to America. We’ve been told so often and we want to believe so fervently we’re No. 1 about everything that some people will bristle, wag a finger and say, “That’s nothing but a pack of lies designed to undermine our great country.” And, eventually, “If you don’t love it here, then pack up and leave.”
Nope, please don’t go there.
Is it a cry for us to “get our house in order” and make changes that will bring us up to speed with other countries?
There could be some good come from such an approach.
Consider the grassroots support for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. He spends much of his time talking about how we’re lagging behind other developed countries in many categories. Most of those topics play a role in one or more of these lists.
Still, that’s not what I see as the major takeaway here.
We’re OK, you’re OK
No, what I get out of this is that most of us have something for which to be thankful. Those poor folks who had to be born into another country … well, they’re really not hurting or bothered by that fact.
Sure, these lists dealt with the top countries; there are plenty of countries that didn’t crack any of them. And there are places where life really is tough. There are people who desperately need help and I don’t want to pretend everyone is happy where they are.
But don’t think life is dismal everywhere. Remember, at least one set of data says the average Mexican is happier than the average American.
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