The happiest nation on earth

While half-watching BBC News this morning, my attention was suddenly drawn away from my boiled egg (in an egg cup) and towards the newsreader. She was about to announce which nation is the world’s happiest. You can imagine my surprise when it was revealed to be Australia, not Latvia.

OK, the survey only included OECD countries so Latvia wasn’t even included, but it did get me thinking. Would Latvians still be so miserable if they lived in Australia? I decided to do a little research and find out how we compare to the world’s happiest chappies.

The survey ranked more than 30 countries on criteria such as health, safety, income levels and housing. On my walk home from my morning lesson today, I decided to take a couple of quick shots, which I think sum up the Latvian attitude to health and safety.

If smoke alarms, fire blankets and extinguishers do exist in this country, I haven’t seen them. But helpfully, all doors do open outwards so if you detect the fire quickly enough yourself, you have a good chance of tripping over the step and onto the ‘safety’ of the crumbling pavement. You’re likely to be mown down by an errant cyclist at this point, but at least you’re still alive. Probably.

A quick internet search for employment facts and figures reveals that in Australia, over 73% of Australians aged between 15 and 64 have a paid job. However, the unemployment rate in Latvia, as of December 2012 is only 14.3%. But then, the average salary in Latvia is 413 lats per month so you have to wonder if it’s actually worth getting out of bed for at all. Here’s a random selection of jobs and salaries, just so you get an idea of what people here earn (in US$):

University professor:

Latvia $533

Australia $3,384

Hotel receptionist:

Latvia $294

Australia $1,763


Latvia $339

Australia $2,744

Beats me how everyone in Riga is walking around toting Gucci handbags and driving Bentleys and BMWs. But then, doesn’t publish figures for the ‘grey’ economy.

It’s probably unsurprising then that the suicide rate in Latvia is almost double that of Australia. But even if you don’t kill yourself, you’ll still end up ‘down under’ a good few years earlier than if you lived in the Land Down Under. Life expectancy for women in Australia is a ripe old 84 years, compared with 80 for men. In Latvia, women can expect to live to 78, while men pop their clogs at a relatively sprightly 69 years of age. But then, if you had this to look forward to, maybe you’d shuffle off your mortal coil a little early too.

Winter-Spring Collection 2013

The Latvian Wives Club

In fact, it’s amazing that women in Latvia cling to life as long as they do if this is the best they can hope for…

Latvia's sexiest man - Ģirts Ķesteris. Hold it together ladies.

Latvia’s sexiest man – Ģirts Ķesteris.
Hold it together ladies.

The good news is that you’ll probably be better taken care of dead than alive, as visiting graves seems to be more popular in Latvia than speaking to the living.

So even if Australia isn’t an option, at least there’s something to look forward to.


About BerLinda

Adjusting to life in Germany, after living in Latvia for four years. Should be easy, right?
This entry was posted in Humor, Humour, Social Issues and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to The happiest nation on earth

  1. jaghetter says:

    FYI : smoke alarms, fire blankets and extinguishers are obligated in every public building(markets, libraries, government buildings etc), so…

  2. allnamesweretaken says:

    May I point out, at least uniforms of our Olymic team rule.

  3. Very interesting and funny comparison; it got me thinking about the US’s over-the-top health and safety precautions. Our government is handicapping up for travel to places like Latvia. The poor US tourist who tries to sue the Latvia government for not posting a caution sign over a sidewalk crack or dangerous ledge when an ankle is twisted. I guess I’m guilty too, I often forget to look before stepping into the streets because in California it is drilled into our head that as soon as a pedestrian steps off the curb, the have the right of way. It is the unshielded righteous pedestrian raging at the cowering-in-the-wrong drivers who do not slam on their brakes to allow passage.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Today I was dodging a pot hole in the pavement and a cyclist nearly ran me over 😉 Every day’s an adventure on the mean Latvian streets!! Thanks for your comment! Linda.

  4. Pingback: It’s black frock time. | Englishman in Italy

  5. Interesting, I’m from Australia and I can say that earning $3500 a month is low – maybe after tax… Having said that prices here are -for some unknown reason- often double the price of things in the UK or America! Also dispite having sooo much land, housing is insanly expensive! Rent/mortgage payments are often up to 50% of an average person’s income. So it’s all relative.

    Factoid: Even the price of downloadable music, software etc is more expensive here in Australia (I’m looking at you Apple and Adobe)!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Hi Michael, thanks for the comment! I’ve heard that everything has gone up since I was there – I did the working/holiday visa thing for a year, god, around 10 years ago now! It sounds like you need the high salaries just to get by – unless you want to go and live in the desert I guess. There might be a nice bunker going in Coober Pedy 😉 Where do you live?

    • I live in San Diego, CA, and Australia always seemed like San Diego to me. I’ve never been to Australia, my only references are pictures and movies. The weather, cityscape, casual beach culture, and expensive cost of living, sound like comforts of home to me. People here are pretty happy, but we Southern Californians are only a small piece of the American pie.

  6. pollyheath says:

    Well, at least your Latvians have the Russians beat. Russia sucks so bad the ladies exit at 76, and the men at 64.

    I think that Eastern Europeans are just predisposed to pessimism. I think it gives them some kind of perverse happiness to be unhappy.

    • Expat Eye says:

      I think so too! Only happy when they have something to complain about. Thankfully in Latvia, there’s a lot to complain about 😉 Wow, that’s a short life expectancy!

  7. bevchen says:

    Haha, this is excellent!

    I can’t say Australia’s ever particularly appealed to me – too hot!! And they have killer spiders. Ugh! However, the BBC also recently reported that Germany is the most favoruably viewed country in the world (according to some poll), so I guess I’m fine staying right where I am for now 😉

  8. 1WriteWay says:

    So, when are you leaving? If you’re living in one extreme now, you may as well move to the other to know what it’s like 🙂

    • Expat Eye says:

      I lived in Australia for a year and I’m pleased to report that it is indeed a very happy place! Might have to go back for a shot of that!

      • Marianne says:

        If you do, you will notice that the price of everything has shot up since you lived there, plus, with the exchange rate of the Aussie dollar being so miserable against the Euro (and even more so against Sterling) everything is getting prohibitively expensive. No wonder they need such large salaries!

      • Expat Eye says:

        My friend visited quite recently and said the same thing! 10 dollars for a beer! Ouch. Maybe I’m better off here 😉

      • 1WriteWay says:

        I need you’ll need plenty of shots of that after your Latvian experience 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        I’ll be like an alcoholic cake-monster 🙂

  9. kathexpat says:

    Great post! I heard the new here, of course, and I’m not surprised. Like you pointed out, salaries in Australia is pretty darn good and standard is living is exceptionally high! Keep on keeping on!

  10. That is very insightful. Am so stunned right now, that’s all I can come up with right now. Give me another half hour…

    • Expat Eye says:

      I’ll be waiting 😉

      • I know I’m at least 36 minutes late with this. I can’t get over the salaries. This is Europe, right?? And not Albania or Moldova…? Crikey.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Yeah, I’m open to correction on some of those figures as they sound low even for Latvia! But then, last I checked the minimum wage was 1.04 lats. I think child allowance is around 4-8 lats so maybe! Now we know why Latvians leave!

      • Bob Lewis. says:

        How do you think it was that Latvia got so much praise for its ‘economic achievements in a period of crisis’?
        The government screwed everyone down except for themselves and their cronies! Wages, benefits, services, etc., etc., were cut and slashed – but they never thought of bothering to collect a bit more tax from those who could afford it (An awful lot in Riga or Jurmala!), or to chase up the many who pay little or no tax and who live in a ‘Black Economy’! (Unfortunately, a lot of whom are immigrants – but you won’t see them commenting on Linda’s blogs!)
        I’d like to see some accredited figures on the gap between ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ in Latvia. It must be quite an eye-opener!

      • Expat Eye says:

        I was told today that around 40% are living in the ‘Black Economy’ but of course, the figure could be twice that as I’m sure a lot of people aren’t honest about it!

  11. rjschutte says:

    Great post. Again so recognizable. As an almost ex husband of a Latvian I’d like to think i know why men die so young here. They are being lived and have not a life of their own. Especially when they also have kids. But I might be not representative to all Latvian men as I am Dutch.

  12. Pecora Nera says:

    Ha ha ha ha! Brilliant.
    I love the sexy man and the Latvian wives club.

    Would Latvians be happy if they were rich, or is it just genetics.

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