The ‘Happiest Countries in the World’ list does not reflect the ones attracting Black expats

·4 min read

Statistics and polls annually released to determine the happiest countries in the world don’t reflect where Black expats are migrating. 

“Happiness” is an emotional state typically characterized by feelings of joy, excitement, and fulfillment. While what makes an individual happy is completely subjective, we can generally all agree happiness is a top-tier emotion everyone should ideally experience. However, it’s no secret that for Black people, our experiences in life are often vastly different from our non-Black counterparts—as are our pursuits of happiness. So it’s little surprise that a study that rates the happiest countries in the world often overlooks the countries Black people—and particularly, Black Americans—are increasingly relocating to.

Black expats
Young woman exploring Lisbon, Portugal
Photo: Getty Images

The World Happiness Report is an annual study by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network that measures the happiness of individual countries. It uses global survey data from more than 150 countries to report how people evaluate their own lives. By the organization’s metrics, happiness has all to do with interest in well-being, while interest in income and consumption are not dire factors. The measurement of subjective well-being relies on three main indicators, including life evaluations, positive emotions, and negative emotions. Using data from the Gallup World Poll, it is these indicators that provide the basis for the annual happiness rankings.

By this report’s measure, Finland landed the number one spot as the happiest country in the world for 2022; a spot it’s for the last five years. Denmark and Iceland also ranked very high on the list. However, it’s worth noting that none of these countries have a high Black expat community. With that in mind, we’ve made our own list comparing which five countries made the World Happiness Report and the countries Black expats are increasingly relocating to based on happiness.

Finland…or Ghana?

Finland has been capitalizing on its status as the happiest place in the world, which is a nice brag, as are regularly witnessing the northern lights and the country’s low crime and corruption rates. Ghana, on the other hand, has been seriously welcoming Black Americans to relocate to the country since 2019 with its “Year of The Return” campaign. That year marked 400 years since Africans were enslaved and taken from the west coast of Africa and dispersed throughout the Caribbean, United States, South America, and Europe. In the three years since, Ghana has seen a huge influx of Black American settlers who claim they are happier there due to the huge Black population, lower prices, and access to the land.

Denmark…or Costa Rica?

Denmark landed at number two on the World Happiness list, ranking high in well-being. But in Costa Rica, the Black expat community has grown expeditiously within the last couple of years. The Central American country has a large native Black community known as the Black Ticos, who live on the Caribbean border of the island. When joined by other members of the Black diaspora, Costa Rica feels more like home with an infrastructure, climate, and landscape similar to the southern United States.

Iceland…or Senegal?

Iceland is the third top-ranking happy place in the world on the World Happiness list due to its continuous work in eco-tourism, making sure its land stays clean, and its citizens stay happy. There is actually a pledge you take to visit Iceland, vowing to leave the land as it was before you arrived. However many Black relocators have moved to Senegal loving the fact that it is one of the safest countries in Africa and the black expat community is flourishing. Senegal is a French-speaking country, also attracting French-speaking Black Europeans.

Switzerland…or Panama?

Have you ever heard people say “I’m Switzerland” when they don’t want to get involved in two or more opposing parties’ conflicts? Yeah well, Switzerland is a neutral country, making its citizens very happy that they don’t get involved in armed conflicts or support warring parties. However, the Central American country of Panama operates much the same way. The Spanish-speaking country’s housing affordability, retirement prospects, great weather, and strong Afro-Panamanian culture have attracted a large Black expat community.

The Netherlands…or Portugal?

The Netherlands (also known as Holland) was voted the number five choice of happiest countries to live to its great outdoors, standard of living, and the amount of income per capita. But Portugal is proving to be a definite vibe for those in the Black diaspora looking to call another country home. There are currently close to one million expats living in Portugal because of its beauty, low cost of living, and comfortable climate.

Noel Cymone Walker
Noel Cymone Walker

Noel Cymone Walker is an NYC-based writer specializing in beauty, fashion, music, travel, and cultural anthropology. She has written and produced visuals for several notable publications such as The Recording Academy/The Grammys, The Fader, Billboard, OkayPlayer, Marie Claire, Glamour, Allure, Essence, Ebony, and more.

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