The Definition of Happiness – Money and food, that’s what makes people happy

Close friends Jürgen and Gabriela live in Paramaribo, the capital of Surinam. Jürgen is a local and Gabriela is raised in the Netherlands and currently living in Surinam to do an internship. Both look pretty happy and – not surprisingly – the two also tell me that they feel very happy. When I ask them what makes them happy they reply that their happiness comes from freedom, for instance the freedom to enjoy the stunning nature of Surinam, together with their friends. This is something the two know how to put into practice: together with their friends they go roadtrippin’ every weekend. On the way to their destination they usually stop at a local Warung to buy themselves some nasi (Surinamese rice), saté (chicken stewers with peanut sauce) and loempia’s (springrolls) so they can enjoy nature while eating some delicious local food.

On the day of the interview Jürgen and Gabriela are enjoying the peaceful atmosphere of Cola Kreek. A recreation Park where locals go during the weekend to relax in their hammock and swim in the refreshing black (!!) water of the creek.

Jurgen and Gabriela

Gabriela and Jurgen having fun during the interview

To me, people in Surinam seem pretty happy in general but when I ask Jürgen he tells me that he according to him people aren’t happy.

“Most people in Surinam don’t feel grateful or satisfied with their lives. If you ask an average person in Surinam if they are happy they will tell you “no because I don’t have money” or “no because I don’t live in a big house“. Surinamese people don’t tend to look for the little things which can make them happy like their children or family.”

Gabriela on the contrary thinks that people in Surinam are happier than in most countries . As a dutch girl living in Surinam, Gabriela sees that people in Surinam are happier than in the Netherlands because they know how to enjoy their country, their food, their parties and life in general.

“In the Netherlands people focus more on their jobs and less on enjoyment.”

Jürgen disagrees with this, according to him people in Surinam feel happy when they party but as soon as they get home they start complaining again.

“What does make people in Surinam happy? Money and food. But mainly food.”

Gabriela and Jürgen admit that even they feel unhappy at times. However, for Jürgen, his unhappy moments last only up to 10 minutes. After 10 minutes he looks at the positive aspects of the situation and feels happy again.

“My definition of happiness is to make new friends, and to have the freedom to choose whatever I want to do.”

Gabriela handles unhappy moments in a similar manner. Whenever she feels unhappy she looks for happiness:

“Happiness is something dynamic, every period in life knows a different definition of happiness. At the moment my definition of happiness is to travel, make new friends and experience new things.”

By: Fleur Terpstra