If you’re happy and you know it, clap your … ah, fuck it

Finland is the happiest nation in the world for the seventh year running.

Imagine living in a country where everyone is happy, year after year. It would be too terrible for words. I’ve been to Finland. If by happy they mean lying poes dronk in the gutter, then yes, I can see how this might happen. Then again, that was thirty years ago, a time when Finland was headed for a crushing recession. Unemployment soared to 20%. We should be so lucky.

Finland shares a 1,340km border with Russia. They might not be all that ecstatic for very much longer. But the fact that they’re still so happy does seem to suggest that they have maintained their healthy drinking habits. One figure I saw said that Finns consumed 9.3 litres of pure alcohol per person. I don’t know if this is daily or weekly. Either way, it’s impressive. So it’s pretty much a case of happy, happy, happy, dead. Not a bad life.

Those free-spirited bohemians over at the UN surveyed more than 140 countries for their 2024 index. This year we staggered in at 83rd place looking as if we’d just been punched in the face but whistling through our broken teeth nevertheless. Could be worse, we said, giving the side-eye to Lesotho, curled up in the foetal position between Lebanon and Sierra Leone, third from the bottom.

We’ve been sadder. In 2016, when the ANC gave Jacob Zuma a stern warning that he only had another two years left to loot and pillage, we placed 116th. It was our lowest ranking ever. I don’t remember if I was particularly happy in 2016. Come to think of it, I don’t remember 2016 at all.

The Ramaphosa years have seen us hovering between fairly happy and quite miserable. It’s almost as if the president’s inability to decide who he is or what he should be doing rubbed off on us. We don’t quite know if we are happy, sad, angry or just plain confused. Like the weather in Cape Town, the South African sense of well-being is subject to change at a moment’s notice. We can go from laughing in the morning to weeping at lunch to murdering at night. Seamlessly. It’s what makes us great as a nation.

You’d think that with so much cheap alcohol, easy women and a dysfunctional police force, we would be the happiest people in Africa, but you’d be mistaken. That honour goes to Libya. Yes, Libya. A country you’d only ever visit if you had to be drugged by Mossad and rendered to Tripoli in a botched prisoner swap.

The US State Department has a permanent Level 4 advisory. Like cancer, there is no Level 5. “Do not travel to Libya due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, armed conflict…” And yet the people there are happier than we are. Perhaps it’s because the Americans stopped visiting.

We didn’t even come second in Africa. That goes to Mauritius, confirming what I have always suspected – that Mauritius isn’t really a part of this blighted continent. It’s clean, peaceful and well-run. The government isn’t even corrupt. How is that Africa? Also, it’s not attached to the continent. It’s in the middle of the ocean. That should disqualify it immediately. The only connection with Africa is all the South African estate agents trying to flog beachfront properties to crooked lawyers and gin-soaked accountants.

The bottom ten on the list are, with the exception of Afghanistan and Lebanon, all in Africa. Six of them are our immediate neighbours, including Malawi, which produces some of the best weed in the world. Right away, this casts doubt on the findings.

The Nordic countries once again sweep the top ten. It makes no sense. How is it remotely possible to be happy in any country where a beer costs R150, 5°C is considered beach weather and the sun sets at 3pm and rises four months later?

Right now, it’s 7pm on Tuesday night and I’m sitting shirtless beneath a palm tree on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica with a chilled Flor de Caña rum in hand. A few locals have made a fire on the beach. They are playing music, drinking beer and laughing. A couple of girls are dancing. There are some very good reasons that this tiny Central American country is ranked 12th and we’re not.

8 thoughts on “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your … ah, fuck it

  1. Iza Grek says:

    your article made me smile

    1. Ben Trovato says:

      Great. That’s the best I can hope for these days…

  2. Neokorides Neokorides says:

    “If by happy they mean lying poes dronk in the gutter, then yes, I can see how this might happen.” Best line! Still laughing.

  3. Jacqueline Truzzell says:

    Thanks for a laugh and a cry. At least we are never bored in South Africa. We may not be happy but are kept busily on our toes writing to just about every government department. We are impelled to try and sort out incompetent blunders and join in mass protests against the latest ANC money making schemes, such as turning our few remaining wilderness areas into “farming” areas. What a good idea to be able to happily plunder what little wildlife remains, make trinkets out of our rhino horns for overseas buyers, and allow mining and plant removal for vast sums for our insatiable ‘elite’. Why not turn South Africa into one vast farm? It’s so easy to tip the balance so the sheep and the goats can get their teeth into everything and turn our once stunning country into a wasteland. We could also happily up our present murder rate from 86 a day to keep pace with the birthrate.

  4. Timothy Leary says:


  5. brian dawes says:

    You seem mellow…or is my acerbic wit filter too fine.

  6. geoff says:

    Howsit Ben. Having read the above, I’m not sure whether I should feel happy or sad and wondering-what about Haiti? I would have thought they would breeze into the bottom ten. Maybe the survey company can’t find anyone brave enough to go and ask them to share their inner feelings with us all. Meanwhile, you’re living it up in Costa Rica while I’m having to buy my beer can at a time and my cigrettes per loose from the local spaza stall! When you coming back from paradise? Not fair that we should have to suffer on our own while you live it up dodging coconuts.
    Send us a postcard at least…

  7. Charlotte says:

    Ben, you need to rank all the countries by alcohol consumption and check that out for a truly fair comparison.

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