Happiness Around the World

If you haven’t already noticed, I’m a big fan of happiness. What you might not have known is I’m also a huge fan of language. I love words and the magic they weave. Language often reveals what is important to a culture, and can be a more valuable learning experience than travel (especially if you only have time for the tourist attractions). There’s something beautiful about discovering words that exist in other languages that perfectly describe how you’re feeling. Whenever I find such a word, I feel a connection to this culture that I am not a part of and have never had the chance to encounter. Between my love for travel and my current exploration of joy, you can probably guess how excited I was when I found The Happiness Passport by Megan C. Hayes on NetGalley.

The Happiness Passport, by Megan C Hayes
I also love that the subtitle is “A world tour of joyful living in 50 words.” Joy is universal. Different things may make different people happy, and there are many types of happiness, but everyone wants to be happy. The book is divided into five sections: home and environment; community and relationships; character and soul; joy and spirituality; and balance and calm. Here are my favorite words from each section:



Gökotta is Swedish for rising at dawn to go outside and hear the first birdsong. I realized how much I enjoyed the quiet just before dawn when I returned from a trip to Europe and couldn’t sleep because of jet lag. This is also a reminder to slow down from the relentless pace of the daily grind.



Gunnen is Dutch for deriving satisfaction from someone else’s success. This is meaningful to me because I spent most of my life being compared to other people and never measuring up, so I learned to feel envy and resentment when someone else succeeded. But I’ve been working on changing my mindset, and I think I’ve done it. We don’t live in a zero-sum world; their success doesn’t hurt my chances of succeeding. I think it’s been about 8 months, but I am now able to truly be happy for someone when they achieve something. Of course, there’s still a faint twinge of envy, but I can acknowledge it and let it go. I’ve been so much happier since I learned to do this.



Ikigai is Japanese for reason for being. I’ve talked about ikigai before, though I’m not a big fan of either of those books; I don’t feel like they were about to fully capture what ikigai means. Though, is it possible to capture the full meaning of ikigai? This word has been top of mind for me as I am going through grad school trying to find my purpose in life. The positive psychology I’ve been reading has been pushing me to think that maybe, instead of finding a purpose, purpose needs to be created.



Serendipity is English for a fortunate or happy unplanned coincidence. I love running into people I don’t expect to see, or finding something I had been looking for or thinking of. It makes life feel magical, that there is something greater than ourselves at work. And it never fails to put a smile on my face, when I come across something unexpected.



Ajurnamat is Inukitut for a calm acceptance of things out of your control. I’m a planner and a worrier. I like to have every contingency analyzed and prepared for (my friend joked about me patenting my WCS analysis – WCS for “worst case scenario”), and I get anxious and stressed when I leave things to chance. But I also get anxious and stressed when things go awry as well. So I’ve been working on accepting things as they are and as they happen. It’s still a process, but I do feel I’ve been less stressed because of it.


I loved this book. It’s a quick and easy read, with lovely illustrations and lots of color (color makes me happy). I think it’s such a gift for anyone who enjoys traveling or languages. Or even as a coffee table book for conversation starters. I’m a little late for the holidays, but people can use a dose of happiness year-round.


Get your copy here:

Photo by Leo Rivas on Unsplash

You might also like

No Comments

Add to the story!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: