On happiness

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roundtheworld

This will be a tough one. It seems like since quite some time there are so many books, blog posts, magazine and newspaper articles around, which try to help out on this topic. Most of them call for change. Some of them tell you that the world changes fast and requests more and more from you, so the last thing you are is happy. But nearly all of them fail. And what I definitely don’t want to do is to tell you how to become happy. But in the last couple of weeks, there were some situations that made me think about happiness and that sometimes a different perspective might make your day.

A short while ago we were in Cuba. Cuba is great. Cuba is different. But the majority in Cuba is definitely poorer than any tourist visiting it. The monthly average income in 2012 was 22 dollars. If you’d live there you would see it, experience it and feel it. The world for the tourist is different. There are special buses, hospitals, hotels, etc. which try to offer good service, but the prices are almost on a western level. We drove around with our rental car and stayed two nights in a really good resort almost at the most western tip of the island. The resort specialized in diving and snorkelling. It was well maintained, the staff was really friendly and helpful. But all the people we saw at breakfast and dinner looked a little grumpy, sad and sometimes even arrogant. Nobody seemed to smile. Nobody seemed to enjoy. A Cuban band did their best, but it didn’t help. Some people even left the restaurant, because they thought the food was too expensive. Some others even complained about being Germans, no joke. On our way back we took one of the staff members with us, so she could avoid the long bus ride. She told us that this was the normal behaviour. She works there during the week, with her son living at her mother’s while she is working the whole week in the hotel 150km away. She feels lucky to work there, but how strange must it be for her to see those tourists living in a place she could never afford herself, if even we noticed their negativity.

We got some help to get all our luggage to JFK airport. Thanks again Erik and Ariel! When we arrived at the airport we still had to take the airport train, and were on our own. One guy didn’t hesitate a second, jumped in and carried one of our backpacks. He was really nice, funny and helpful. He made a lot of jokes about the amount of luggage. And yes, I guess we look really funny in other people’s eyes. He is part of the service personnel at the airport. He stated that a lot of people were in a bad mood at the airport, not smiling at all. If he then compares his situation, standing for 8 hours a day there and being nice to grumpy people he doesn’t know, he’s definitely not on the bright side of life in that moment. If he tells them so, at least they laugh. He’s pointing out how much better off all those people are at the moment, while he’s there serving them. I have to admit this thought seldom occurs to me.

During the week we spent some time with our relatives in the US. Brigitte noticed that we were smiling all the time and taking things as they come. That was one of the nicest compliments. Try to see the big picture instead of all those little problems, which can easily ruin our day if we let them. To see the big picture, it sometimes just helps to see the world through the eyes of the people around us.

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