Over the past few months, I have been going through a list of the Top 15 happiest nations in the world. The United States is #16, and I am curious to see if any other countries on the list are desirable destinations.
We started in Canada, and although it seems like it might be a slightly better version of America, we have no easy immigration options. Australia and New Zealand are countries I wanted to work with, but I got the feeling visas would be difficult.
Germany appeared to be a fine place for many Europeans. Still, I require at least one more generation to pass before considering moving to a country my grandfather fought against in World War II. Austria was even less exciting than Germany. Switzerland didn’t sway me. At the same time, Israel did not feel enticing to a non-Jewish person.
I now have four countries to consider seriously.
Both my wife and I have some Irish heritage, but neither of us has ever visited the country. So I think this would be the most effortless transition of the final four nations.
Healthcare ranks well and is better than in America, but it is the only Western European country that does not offer universal healthcare. The out-of-pocket expenses are only $600 per year, but I would prefer a full public option. There are also complaints about long waitlists and limited support for mental health.
Finding housing could be problematic in the city of Dublin. First, we would need to decide if we want to spend a lot of money to stay in the city center or live our normal lifestyle on the city’s outskirts with some grass.
Looking at the Prosperity Index, we can see that Ireland is very similar to the United States and edges it in the categories that I care more about, but is it enough to justify moving to Europe? For example, their social capital ranking is significantly higher than the USA but not near the next three.
Before writing this post, I had to remind myself again where Luxembourg was on a map. It is a landlocked country between France, Germany, and Belgium, where French and German are spoken, which is a possible barrier to entry.
What I enjoyed about the country is its number of immigrants. For some reason, many of them are from Portugal, but ultimately I want to live somewhere that accepts other people.
Similarly to Ireland, Luxembourg is higher than the United States in most prosperity rankings and social capital. However, its healthcare system does not seem top-tier, and self-employed still need to contribute to social security to access healthcare.
The best thing the Netherlands has for it is the DAFT (The Dutch-American Friendship Treaty), the most straightforward way to enter Europe from America. Since my wife still plans on working, she could create her practice in the Netherlands. Then, after five years, we could become permanent residents.
Unfortunately, they are the only European country that requires private insurance. The weather is sub-optimal, and although English proficiency is exceptionally high, I want to learn Dutch to cheer on Max Verstappen appropriately.
The Netherlands ranks highly in everything but Natural Environment in Prosperity rankings. However, having the best quality of life is intriguing.
Finland partially represents Norway and Sweden here. Honestly, the three countries are relatively similar in the rankings. I only picked Finland as a final contender because it seemed to include self-employment as a migration option. Still, the other two might if I dug hard enough.
Finland has universal healthcare like many other Western European nations, unlike the other countries on my top contender list. I feel that healthcare should be a fundamental right. I don’t go to the doctor in America because I see it as an expense I can avoid. I prefer to live in a country that treats taking care of yourself as a priority.
The weather in the Nordic countries is also no joke. It’s not as terrible as you might make it up to be, but there is snow and darkness and cold. Summers are not very long or very warm. I don’t know how happy I can be staying inside all day.
Is The Grass Greener?
Why aren’t happy nations warm? Australia and New Zealand are the only nations on this list with a climate I would enjoy. But they don’t seem to have an easy entry point for us.
If we move to a country of only a few million people sharing the same ideals, does that mean anything different than living in a country with hundreds of millions who may hold a slightly different model? What would living in a foreign land indeed do for our lives? Would it provide opportunities for us that America can’t? Would it change the trajectory of anything of importance?
Many other nations could be more enjoyable for us. But they all have their flaws. I fear that many of these happy nations are happy because they live in their bubbles and don’t want to change. I don’t want to live in a country that doesn’t like my family or me. But, on the other hand, I also don’t want to bury my head in the sand and pretend the world is okay because my country is progressive.
This series of posts has given me a lot to think about, and it will continue by looking into what opportunities countries might have for my children and their educational future.