It is a question posed thousands of times a day to millions of people the world over. Yet beneath the simple query: “How are you today?” lies an attitude that reveals an awful lot.
A new Global Attitudes Survey published by Pew Research Center drilled down and found that one’s frame of mind is often determined by location and culture. So for people in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America or the good old U.S.A. the answer to that question is, “Darn good. Glad you asked.” Now if you really want to have a good day, start off by being an American conservative. Of those that lean right politically, 48% are substantially more likely to say their day was good than those on the left. Only 34% of leftists describe their day in positive terms (a surprisingly grouchy bunch – well perhaps not all that surprising).
Overall though, the U.S. is either one relatively happy group or very adept at lying: as in “How are you today?” “Fine, wonderful. Great,” AKA “What does it matter to you, buddy?”
The Debbie Downers
While 44% of Americans say they are having a good day, all you have to do is cross the pond for the misery index to rise. “Other regions – especially Europe (73%) – overwhelmingly described their day as typical; only 22% of Europeans said their day was good,” according to Pew. That’s a lot of bad days if you live in the U.K., Sweden, The Netherlands, or Germany.
So why are Europeans such a miserable lot? Could it be the cold, dark, sunless environment that gets the buggers down? (Please do not email or comment that there are sunny days in Europe – we know this.) Shouldn’t they all be reveling in their wonderful health care and public transportation? Could it be that the people are more languid and less motivated because the government takes so much of what they earn and controls so much of their lives? In other words – no need for those giant highs and lows when it’s all worked out in advance for you.
So, who are the self-professed happy people with the best days on the planet? One might imagine those living on the Amalfi Coast, hanging at the gaming tables in Monaco – or having a massage on the beach in Tahiti? Those all sound like pretty-good-days-to-me.
Wrong, wrong and wrong. Those who consistently have happy days in larger numbers live in (drum roll please) —
Yes, indeed a whopping 73% of Nigerians say they are having a good day. Wow – talk about the adage that money doesn’t buy happiness. For example, the average Nigerian brings home about $480 in U.S. dollars a month, and an estimated 100 million Nigerians live on less than a dollar a day.
Running more than 10 points behind Nigeria – but still coming in at number two is Columbia. Perhaps they’re all just jacked up on Columbia’s two greatest exports — coffee and coke? Whatever the reason, 61% of Colombians say they are having a happy day followed by Ghana at 60% (go figure), and Brazil at 56%. (Please do not email or comment that Columbia has other exports than coffee and cocaine – we know this.)
Perhaps having a good day isn’t so much about one’s circumstances and has more to do with disposition? Admittedly a small focus group here in The Swamp, but I’ve honestly never run across a miserable person from Ghana. These folks are almost always smiling. (Please do not email or comment that we are stereotyping – we know this.)
All this brings to mind the timeless and enduring maxim of our first president’s wife – Martha, who said:
“I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.”
So, the next time someone asks you how your day is going you can make like a Nigerian and say great, or you can say, “What business is it of yours? Now get the hell out of my way.” And that would of course telegraph to everyone that you are from New York, or maybe Jersey — nah –definitely gotta be Philly. (Please do not email or comment that there are nice people in Philadephia– we know this.)