Ponder


Measuring Happiness ūüôā

bhutan

In Bhutan, they don’t bother with measuring Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – they measure their success in happiness!

The term “Gross National Happiness” or GNH was coined in 1927 by Bhutan’s Fourth Dragon King. It was a measurement of collective happiness of the nation in contract to the Western means of measurements – Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GDP measures the market value of all final goods and services produced by a nation in a given period. GNH more adequately reflected an economy based on Buddhism, largely uninterested in material possessions.

So how to you measure “happiness”?

Turns out, it’s more quantifiable than you might think! Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index is used to quantify how happy a nation is based on the following:

  • equitable social development
  • cultural preservation
  • conservation of the environment
  • promotion of good governance

This makes sense. When we have services available such as good healthcare and education; when we have a rich cultural environment with art galleries and museums celebrating our way of life; when we live in a healthy natural environment, surrounded by leafy trees and happy animals and when we trust that our government, which is stable, acts responsibly and represents our interests, we feel good. Achieving these things is by no means an easy task, particularly for a developing country.

While Bhutan has many challenges, including widespread poverty and food security, the way they are measuring their success is quite revolutionary and there is something we can learn here. While we seek to increase our GDP, ultimately our aim is the happiness of our citizens, but we forget this and shortsightedly plough on seeking increased production and wealth.

The United Nation’s 2016 World Happiness Report was released earlier this year and explored similar measurements. ¬†It found that there wasn’t a particularly strong correlation between salary and happiness (or wellbeing) and that¬†things such as: freedom to make choices, perceptions of corruption (in government and business) were very important factors. This report suggests we should “change the focus from income inequality to well-being inequality.”

“Targeting the non-material sources of well-being, which is encouraged by considering a broader measure of well-being, opens possibilities for increasing happiness while simultaneously reducing stress on scarce material resources.”

We can’t forget to to stop and measure our “happiness levels” as well as our GDP.¬†“One of the side benefits of broadening the focus of policy attention from income and wealth to subjective well-being is that there are many more options for improving average happiness, and increasing equality by improving the lot of those at the bottom, without others being worse off.” What gets lost along the way in our current measures of the success, is the reason we’re seeking to increase our GDP and “wealth.”¬†Wealth is a means to an end, not an end in itself. A nation needs a strong and stable economy to maintain social services and levels of safety and all the things that the UN has listed which makes citizens happy. But if a nation is unhappy, then despite any amount of wealth or services, the government has failed its’ people.

Australia ranks far ahead of Bhutan in the results – Australia: 9th and Bhutan: 84th. Perhaps Australia has the right environment and Bhutan has the right measurement?

Check out the UN’s¬†2016 World Happiness Report here:¬†http://worldhappiness.report/


Living in the “Land of Smiles”

Fleur (aka “teacher flower”) tells us what it’s like to live in Thailand as a musician and English teacher

Fleur moved to Thailand in 2016 after being offered an English teaching job in Chonburi (a province 1 hour south of Bangkok). She had just been on an artist residency at Sam Rit in Nakhon Ratchisima, Issan, then decided that Thailand was somewhere she could live. She was seeking a different lifestyle from the hustle bustle and expense of Sydney and wanting explore whether teaching was her calling. She’s now studying teaching online while working as a teacher in Bangkok.

What is moo ping?

Moo Ping is breakfast food which consists of barbecued pork on sticks and sticky rice. You can usually find this in the morning from street vendors. It’s delicious!

What is your favourite meal in Thailand?

Pad thai! Which is probably the same as it was before I moved to Thailand – it’s just so damn good. It’s amazing when you order it on the street. The Street Chef throws all the ingredients into a pan and its done it a couple of minutes.¬†

What’s the transport system like?

In Bangkok we have the BTS sky train. This is quite convenient if you live near a station (which I do). It is very clean and air conditioned. They have a security guard at every entrance. You aren’t allowed to take food or drinks on the train! There is also the MRT underground train which works quite well but there is only one line. It is great if you live near either of these but most people in Bangkok don’t. There are buses – some air-conditioned, some free. Tsong-taos are trucks which everyone pile into in a chaotic way and go in random directions. Vans and buses go to other provinces from Bangkok.¬†

You can also get a motorbike taxi or sedan taxi. These are pretty reasonably priced, especially if you ask the driver to put on their meter. Motorbikes in Bangkok usually carry helmets for passengers because by law everyone is meant to wear one. This law is rarely obeyed. Road-rules are obeyed more in big cities where the police are more strict. 

What’s your favourite part about living in Thailand and what do you find most challenging?

My favourite part is that it is a very relaxed place to live. People are generally kind. It is mostly safe and you can travel alone as a woman without feeling threatened.

Sometimes it can be a bit lonely and forming a social network with people you genuinely relate to can be hard. I guess not speaking the language well makes it difficult to have complex conversations with people so you always feel a little disconnected. Thai people have their own culture and even though they are welcoming a western person can never truly become Thai. 

What do you do on weekends?

A lot of people travel to islands and go sight seeing. I am studying and playing music so I try to spend time doing that. I also get massages weekly or fortnightly and spend time lying by the pool. I get groceries from the local markets like fresh fruit and stuff that is really cheap. There are also a couple of gourmet western supermarkets but they are a little pricey!

What are some common Thai expressions? 

Mai bpen rai (don’t worry/Hakuna Matata/no worries)

Alai Gaddai (whatever/whichever/doesn’t matter)

What are some “do’s and don’ts” in Thai culture?

  • Don’t point the sole of your foot at anyone
  • Dress a little conservatively ¬†– cleavage etc is not as socially acceptable here
  • Don’t talk about politics
  • Don’t point at people
  • Don’t touch people on the head
  • Females cannot touch monks
  • Smile and be polite
  • Take our shoes off before going into a temple, peoples houses and some shops
  • Be kind
  • Take food if it is offered to you

Read more about Fleur’s experiences in her article on hanacore.com Mopeds and Moo-Ping: My Experience as a New Teach in Thailand.

Fleur Article


The Origins of Tea

tea-quoteTea to warm the cockles and soothe the soul…

Tea is a much loved drink in many parts of the world and may be called Britain’s national drink. While tea has been around in England for hundreds of years, it’s origins lie in Asia.

2737 BC is said to the year when tea came into being, when Chinese Emperor Shen Nung was sitting beneath a camellia sinesis tree and some leaves dropped some water is servant was boiling. Being a herbalist he tasted the concoction and tea was born!

Tea was first observed in British history in 1658 having been brought to Europe from China, via Java, by Dutch merchant traders. It was at this time considered an exotic herbal tonic of the East and not consumed by the general population.

In 1662 King Charles married Portuguese Princess and tea addict, Catherine of Braganza who made tea fashionable in the court and among the wealthy classes. It was from then that the tea addiction spread to the rest of Britain. The the famous East India Company was there to facilitate this.

With the reduction of exorbinant taxes of tea in the 1700’s, the end of the East India Company’s monopoly of the tea trade in the 1800s and the rise of tea imports from other places such as India, tea became an affordable staple of British pantries.

It remains a key British pastime and a key part of the British diet today.

Read more about tea: