Three cities, one country: The people & places series (3)

The Dixie Cups at the New Orleans Jazz & Herit...

The Dixie Cups at the Jazz Festival (2006) in New Orleans, Image via Wikipedia

We try to go to Disneyland, Florida every other year. The first year we went, my son was a year old so the trip was really for his dad. Every other trip since then has become better and better for father and son. I’m not a thrillseeker and I absolutely HATE rollcoasters. Call me a control freak but I just can’t cope with that speed and no hand breaks. I’m sweating just thinking about it. My head kept telling me, ‘Jump! Save yourself!’ And I have to untell it and say, ‘No! Stay! Save yourself!’ Oh dear.

Last year though, we took a chance and went to three cities in the US. It was a big risk because with two young children, I expected to have a headache, a backache and a cracked voice by the end of it all. But I really enjoyed it! We went to Florida, New York and New Orleans. Each city was special and gave me a real insight into people, life and the art of holidaymaking. Finally we had gone on a holiday that was a winner for father, mother and the kids. I describe each city in a few lines.

New Orleans

The most delicious food in the world! Incredibly tasting. We attended the Jazz fest as well- it was like music to my ears. The strangest thing I’ve ever seen is here too- Graves above the ground and ghost-like trees hanging over them. I’m told that the ground is so water-logged, dead bodies will float away with the sea if buried in the ground. Eek!

New York

I loved the style and energy in this city (a little too expensive for me though). The history of hardwork and film was rich. And taking a tour through Broadway? Priceless. Seeing the excitement and smiles on my husband’s face was enough to make it one of the best trips ever.

Florida

Even though I’m not into rollcoasters, I did enjoy the 3D shows and watching my kids laugh and play. But most of all, I LOVE to shop in Florida. Fantastic shopping exists at Florida Mall and Prime outlet. So. it’s credit card heaven. After hiding my money in New York, I happily used it up in Florida. No regrets…..until I got home to the UK and found the exchange rates had skyrocketed (sweat sweat)!!

This marks the end of my People & Places series, which was a joy to write. Thanks for reading!

Not the race card: The People & Places series (2)

Best place to be black

I swear I’m not pulling the race card (and yes, I am a black woman). But the other option was unthinkable, that is, to completely ignore the fact that it is more comfortable to be black in some countries than others.  What I’m referring to specifically is the opportunities to make something good out of your life, your career, and your dreams. My 2 cents is that one of the best places in the world to be black is the United States of America. The way I see it, a country like the US more than ever has given a perspective of the world to youngsters that I think will change the way they think forever. For example, the image of poverty versus wealth in many multi-racial countries is one of: black people are poor and white people are rich. A country where a youngster, like my 5-year old black son can look at the top of the society and see educated, respected black men and women is priceless. In the same vein, he can see black people begging on the streets. This is fine with me as  long as he also sees white people begging and educated, respected white people at the helm of society’s affairs. It’s a balanced perspective where the glass ceiling evaporates and anything is possible if you work hard.

Seeing a world of opportunities (photographed by R "Doc Enigma")

In the US, this is possible, making  it (in my mind) one of the best places in the world to be black.

Black entrepreneurs

Many African countries have prosperous black entrepreneurs. Of course, these countries are fantastic places to be black. I think African countries do count in my argument as some African countries make doing business a little easier for indigenes. In South Africa, there are several incentives for black aspiring business owners as the nation breaks away from their past of apartheid.

Also in Nigeria, dozens of indigenous companies have erupted that directly compete for the market e.g. the oil and gas services market. The government encourages a certain percentage of indigenes to be employed in international corporations. In addition, entrepreneurs like Aliko Dangote and Mike Adenuga have proven that it’s great to be black in Nigeria.

Conclusion

I’m writing about blacks because I’m black. I haven’t walked in the shoes of any other minority group. So overall, I think there are countless opportunities for smart, ambitious people, regardless of race. It may feel at times that a black person  (or any minority group for that matter) has much more to prove. And it’s probably true but it is my experience so far at most of the time, once you prove yourself, everyone else usually gives way. In the corporate world, diversity is becoming more and more important…and fashionable. Diversity makes companies look good. So if you are in the minority, put your best foot forward and I believe you’ll go places. Dust off that business idea or proposal, re-write your CV with a renewed confidence. I wonder… where else is it cool to be in-the-minority?



Happiest countries: The people & places series (1)

I’d like to share what I discovered about countries and what makes them tick in this series I have called “People & Places”.

While most researchers agree that happiness is subjective, it is most often measured by the country’s wealth. I must say that I have an allergic reaction to surveys that immediately use “happiest” and “richest” interchangeably or assume that the richest country is the happiest country. I do agree that any country where its people don’t have the basic needs e.g. security, food, shelter cannot be considered as happy in the first place. Based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a person will not worry about self actualisation if they have nowhere to live for instance!

Does happiness equals wealth?

Denmark and its sister Scandinavian countries are usually at the top of the happiest countries list. Experts believe that their happiness comes from impeccable healthcare, quality education and the number of people who are thriving. I  came across a survey that broke down this ranking by including rating for:

  • % of people thriving
  • % of  people struggling
  • % of people suffering
  • daily experience rating (from 1  to 10)

Of course, Denmark was no 1 with over 80% of its population thriving and almost no one suffering. The final ranking appeared to ignore the daily experience rating, which for the most part resonated the other 3 criteria. However, I noticed that at least two countries in the Top 20 had daily experiences below 6 while some countries in the bottom 100 had daily experiences of more than 8! Does this boil down to expectation levels? Or perhaps what is often referred to as subjective life satisfaction?

A wealth of happiness

Interestingly, when daily experiences are accounted for, countries like Costa Rica and Dominican Republic come tops. I suspect that happiness can be made objective if one assumes that wealth brings joy. It can. But often, real happiness comes from the support system in the environment e.g. strong family networks and acceptance.

Strong family networks lead to happiness (photo courtesy of http://www.istockphoto.com)

Other surveys like one carried out by Ronald Inglehart from 1999 to 2004, use subjective wellbeing to rank happiest countries. By asking people:

Taking all things together, would you say you are: 1. Very happy, 2.  Rather happy, 3. Not very happy, or 4.  Not at all happy?

This survey saw countries like Nigeria and Mexico come tops. Overall, many people felt happy about the freedom to practice their religion for instance. When this question is combined with how satisfied folks are with life in general, many South American countries top the list including Puerto Rico. Denmark is also in the Top 3. So alas, Denmark is a happy country on all counts.

Taking from Peter to pay Paul

I think that happiness is a strong word and that it can be tied to too many abstract things in life for example, what you expected to achieve, what you perceive limits you etc. There is a sense of entitlement that is usually very strong in developed countries. When this “sense” is violated, it can bring unhappiness. Where Americans are saying, “Where’s my healthcare?”, poor countries will be happy to get any health aid from missionaries and aid workers. While I have concluded that wealth brings some degree of happiness, I also believe that working together to close the gap between the rich and the poor will foster happiness. Closing this gap will mean that:

  • Fewer people see limitations to their advancement in life
  • The wealth seems more evenly spread and hence may reduce resentment and crime

The developed world tries to do this with state benefits and fiscal policies that tax higher earners. It is no coincidence that Scandinavian countries have the highest tax rates in the world. I don’t know what effect this has on people’s happiness in general. The poor man may be happy but are we excluding the rich man who feels like the more he earns the more he has to give away? Then he strives to earn even more to keep more but more is taken from him instead. And so the cycle continues.

Conclusion

Happiness is based on one’s expectation of life. I have found more and more that happiness does not necessarily come from having lots of money. The more that is achieved, the more there is to achieve. And for me, the farther away I am from my values and…my core as I chase self actualization.

I choose happiness (photo courtesy of http://www.istockphoto.com)

In the search for this self actualisation, I start to lose what I have began to call “The luxury of being average”. Just knowing that friends and family love me as lil o’ me, average on all fronts becomes a difficult thing to know. It is this part of me that leads to me to research what makes countries happy. Afterall, countries are communities that have to support each other to survive. This is me exploring how the next phrase of my life could be happier in the somewhat unlikely event that someday I may just have the clothes on my back and my loved ones in a distance, cheering me on.


%d bloggers like this: