What's the secret to happiness in Buenos Aires?

MrBart

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@ Sergio, excellent post!

I agree that there is a tendency to idealise and romanticise the simple life which poverty brings. However, it's also interesting to note that suicide rates are higher in developed countries and lower in developing countries.
 

Quickroute

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@ All - thanks for the comments - obviously both scenarios are extreme to make a point. What I'm asking you do to is question your own value system on what does bring happiness?

@ diosaarenosa: - Thanks - I left for the same reason

@ RWS - thanks for removing the Yank brand - Tis true to be sure I'm Irish and you bring up a very important point - charitable giving is of prime importance and supporting the less well off in your adopted home is crtical - but that's a whole other post!


@ Cath: Agreed - but at the The Suckers have a little bit more control over their fate and with a little less emphasis on wealth accumulation they might be happier as a family unit.
You also bring up an intersting point - "less well off" is not just about money - it's about health - Money can sometimes improve health but often not - again that's a whole other post!


@ Fettucini: I don't think we've met. I think the problem is the "all or nothing" approach to wealth accumulation. You expend so much time and energy on it you have less of yourself to share with family and friends.

@ criswkh - spot on!

@ sergio - I'm not romanticizing poverty or suggesting we donate all our money to charity and move to a villa slum where we'll attain happiness. Yes many poor people are very miserable and unhappy but lower income families often have a closer sense of community and family than their richer counterparts. I'm just suggesting we do a little self examination and maybe try to be happy with our lot in life instead of being preoccupied trying to get to the next level.

@ Mr Bart - Interesting stats on the suicide rate - very interesting
 

Stanexpat

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There have been surveys done of people living in various South American countries in which very high percentages, 70% or more in some cases, say they would emigrate from their home country if they could. Most of these people can't get a visa so they don't leave or immigrate illegally.

It's easy for us to say back home is a rat race, but I suspect if we had to live like most Argentines or earn the low pay they receive our attitudes towards home would change very quickly.

However the best thing about the Latin American culture is the close family ties and the close ties with friends. People are more sociable and place a much higher value on interpersonal relationships than say places like the U.S.
 

sergio

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Quickrourte, I couldn't agree more that we should all do some self reflection. I wanted to make the point that the poor people I know here are not happy. They have a right to a decent job, a reasonable standard of living and good health care, all of which they lack. I do not suggest giving it free to everyone but opportunity should be available to study, to acquire a skill and to work under dignified conditions. No expat that I know is willing to live under the conditions that most Argentines have to endure. As for close family relations: yes and no. There are a lot of family problems here. Many families with no father, abusive behavior, drug problems etc. Do not romanticize. People often live together out of economic necessity but that does not necessarily mean harmony.
 

soulskier

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Life is what you make it. I have met and become friends with people in Argentina with very little that are happier than friends back in the States with big houses, new cars, etc.
 

JHB1216

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I love this discussion. Feels like a college philosophy class and Maslow's hierarchy of needs

In my opinion it is all related to priorities of the person and sometimes the society itself. Family is important in both the Argentine and the USA cultures but I think the materialism of western society can undermine strong family relationships.

As was pointed out originally more and more time is spent working and getting that bigger house but it what was left out is how much work, a house can be. How much room do you really need? The bigger the house and the farther the family can be apart under the same roof.

And in recent times, most of those houses are 90% financed if not more. If the source of income is lost, the family with the big house and cars is out on the street like the Argentine family eating an asado on the side of the road.
 

perry

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There is a tendency to romanticise the Latin American family structure. While there is more time spent on family outings it does not equate to happier families. From what I know the divorce rate is high in capital federal and there are many broken families here. In regards to people living poorly being happier I cannot see any evidence of that with the tremendous use of drugs that is common here in the slums.

Being happy does not require extremes of living standards. Balance is the key and we all require a decent house. good food. high quality health care and respect between fellow human beings.
 

syngirl

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The poor family having their roadside asado is exaggerated -- for every family there might be doing that, there's another that kicks all of the kids out of the house for the day to go and beg and aren't allowed home until they have some money -- that have school-aged children, but don't send them to be educated because they need the immediate influx of money and can't see that education could provide the longer term escape from their poverty of today. Also that roadside asado scene doesn't exist for the extremely poor here -- think more along the lines of the thousnads of people that rush into the garbage processing plant (CESMA? I can't remember what it's called) at 5pm -- they get 1 - 1.5 hrs to root through the leftovers and get their meals.

I agree with Pericles about the romanticisation (?) of family -- I think a lot of people mistake physical closeness with family members as equating emotional closeness. In fact there are just as many secrets and just as many people harbouring grudges as with any American family. Maybe the dysfunctions are harder to spot at first, but they are definitely there!

And he has it right -- escape from poverty comes with education, but as Pericles point's out you need to provide food and a stable living situation before there's much hope for education. Many families in Argentina only send their children to school because the schools will feed them twice a day. Unfortunately the food they provide is terrible cheap stuff, not sufficient nutrition for a growing child.

The other blow to people at lower income levels are higher rates of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, HIV, and soaring teen pregnancies. Increased drug use, violence, broken homes etc.

Whereas the rich family in the scenario presented in the initial post have the education and experience that they can change their own situation no matter what happens, the poor in Argentina have little or no power. If you're a single mother here with no education, what are your options for bringing in an income?

Perhaps rather than assume one family is happier than the other in your scenario, it would be better to say the poor family suffer their lot, while the rich family always feels they deserve more, they deserve better.
 

igor

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What I see here is an attempt to apply a rational approach to an irrational feeling. Things are simple: you are either happy or not. If it takes you more than a second to answer this question and you start to rationalize, that means you are not happy, but you may be content. You may be comfortable with your financial situation, you may have a good medical insurance and drive a good car, but all this does not necessarily mean that you are happy about your life.

Kid:
- Mom, I gonna play snowballs with my friends!

Mom:
- Get a warm coat, or you'll catch a cold!
- Be back in two hours, you have do your homework!

Collective adult wisdom, that is projected here:

You can not be happy playing snowballs if you don't have a medical insurance that will cover your medical bills in case you'll catch a cold.
Only people who have a nice, warm house you can be happy playing snowballs, otherwise you are permanently miserable.
You should not play snowballs until you did your homework or you will not get into college.
Etc etc etc.

You just lost it, guys. The ability just to be happy. Without any reason.

And in this respect - yes, I believe Argentines are happier than Americans, for example. And it is not about poverty at all, it is about general attitude to life.
 

jp

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Interesting thread.

I worked with a research company a few years back that did a fairly comprehensive study of global youth - attitudes, opinions, hopes, dreams, fears.

The most miserable societies were invariably the most developed. Kids had little confidence in their future, felt pressured into conforming to standards and achieving goals they neither wanted nor felt they needed. Few thought they would enjoy the standard of living their parents had.

Happiest countries in the world? India and South Africa. Yep, despite crushing poverty, turmoil, violence and standards that make western eyes water people were happy and optimistic.

There might be a tendency to "over romanticise" way of life here, but there's also a tendency to reject the notion that people might actually be happy living out lives that differ substantively to our own. If you have certain values, goals, standards drummed into your from birth I guess it jars when others live out their lives according to their own standards, and are demonstrably happier about it all.
 
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