Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why are Dutch women happy?

Happy‘An intriguing post over on Slate today: What Makes Dutch Women so Happy?  The answer would seem to be ‘Part-time work’, which contributes to their overall balance and quality of life.   This contrasts with the New York Times article on the same topic back in 2007, concluding that the secret was ‘Personal Freedom’.

I’m not sure that this is a gender issue at all: part-time work is a perfectly agreeable state for anyone who can afford it, and men also seemed able to drift into that status when the mood (or the season) was right.

I think that the next-most agreeable state is being able to choose tasks and timing to suit your energy and inclination (yes, Personal Freedom).  One of the big benefits of working for myself has been in choosing when (and for whom) to work.  I don’t work any less, but I do feel like I’ve got much better balance in the day,

The comments are also interesting to read. My favorite counterpoint from someone claiming to be a long-term expat here is:

I suspect the key to happiness is not knowing any better. Not knowing it is possible for stores to be open at night and in the weekends. Not knowing it's possible for a family to own a home with a yard and a garage. Not knowing it is possible to drive for more than 10 miles without getting stuck in traffic. Not knowing you can see the sun almost every day, not just on vacation abroad. Not knowing you can have a good meal every time, not just on special occasions. Not knowing that people can be polite and friendly just for the sake of being nice, not just to trick you into parting with your money. Here in the Netherlands, where everyone and every place is oppressively similar, people are not confronted day in day out with others who have it better than they do.

It’s actually never that bad, although I do smile at some of the shards of everyday life buried in that rant.

And, the Dutch Statistical Manual (2010) concludes that happiness has actually scarcely changed in 40 years, but notes, optimistically, that “Dutch people are relatively happy.”

Kind of.


After Tweeting that BT had let my Internet go down (to let people know that I wouldn’t be online), BT tweeted back with an e-mail address to write if I needed help.

On the one hand, it’s gratifying that they monitor the Twittersphere for customer issues, and remarkable that they found mine (I never used a #hashtag).

On the other hand, it would have been good to get a way to contact someone in RL about my problem.  E-mail won’t work because, well, the internet is down…

Note: The whole village apparently lost phone and DSL when someone cut a section out of the line and stole it Sunday night.  BT had everyone back up this afternoon, two days ahead of schedule.


Alison said...

I always find it interesting that the Dutch are often considered to be quite happy and content; it's the expats living in NL who seem absolutely miserable here. Unfortunately, I've frequently come across comments like that contrary one you included. Is everything perfect here? Certainly not, but some expats seem like they're not going to be happy until they're back home. Sometimes I wonder why they bothered to leave.

Glad you got your connections back! Sometimes it's nice to take a break from it all, but it's still nice to have it there if you need it. ;)

Tiffany said...

This is really such an interesting topic. I think both articles have excellent points. I think, in general, the Dutch have an excellent handle on the work/life balance. I have to agree with Alison as well. I always want to tell those people to just go home and make life miserable for everyone there and leave us alone lol!

Dave Hampton said...

Thanks for both your comments: it's good to hear your thoughts!

Alison, I know a woman who was over for a 90-day assignment who just fought it the whole time. I think it became self-reinforcing. Things were different, but interpreted as to her liking; her apartment was small, but she didn't want to go out. In the end, she learned that there is noplace like home and hurried back.

And, yes, it's nice to be back online.

Tiffany, I agree about the work-life balance. I haven't got the formula perfect yet, but I do feel like I'm taking time for personal interests that I never did when living in the US.