At some point over the past year, you have probably cursed the working day, with it’s long commute, unforgiving hours and inflexibility. You are not alone. Millions of other people go to work everyday with dreams of greater. But according to the Happy Planet Index [1], some countries do better than others when it comes to fostering happiness.

I have selected the top 3 happiest countries to live in and dug deeper, from personal experience to second hand accounts, to find out just what makes them such happy places to be.


Costa Rica

Coming out on top, Costa Rica is officially the happiest country in the world to live in. With a Pacific coast, a Caribbean coast and a variety of different rainforests in between, in Costa Rica, there is no doubt you live amongst nature.

The people certainly reflect this passion for nature, with many employed in the natural economy (not surprising given that 25% of the land is a national park or protected area, the largest proportion of any country).

Costa Ricans live by the mantra ‘Pura Vida,’ meaning ‘Pure Life’, which is heard across the country. It is repeated, almost fanatically, which shows how aware Costa Ricans are of striving for happiness.



Vietnam has a well-known history of socialist ideologies, firmly placed on the west’s map through the conflict with the USA, ending in 1975. Since 1986, a series of economic reforms to create a socialist orientated market economy known phonetically as ‘Doi Moi’ have been brought in to try and nurture improvements in quality of life within a socialist framework.

As such, also present are a young population who have seen quality of life increase dramatically over the past 2 decades. In 2011, Vietnam had the highest global growth generator index, identifying the country as a source of extreme growth potential and of profitable investment opportunities. Whilst this perceived upwards trend continues, so too will the happiness of the general populous.



Number 3 on the list is Colombia, a country ravaged by conflict for a large part of its modern history. Following the presidency of Alvaro Uribe, more pressure was applied to the FARC left wing groups and drug cartels, and with additional pressure from the ordinary population, Colombia today is relatively conflict free.

With a Pacific coast, a Caribbean coast, the Andes mountain range and an area of Amazon rainforest the size of Germany, Colombia, like many on this list, shows variety in nature.

Colombia in particular has an incredible diversity of cultures, all willing to party – from relaxing Caribbean vibes in Cartagena in the north to more traditional Latin dancing (mainly salsa) in Cali in the south. For those willing to participate and dance (before or after drinking!) – there is surely no happier place than a Colombian party.


In summary... 

The more aware we become of how to attain happiness, the more likely we will be to achieve it.

This realisation could indicate the start of a new economy – a happiness economy. Where instead of trying to find happiness through the proxy of working long hours to get more money, we go direct. We strive for happiness from the beginning.