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Amigos + Familia = Felicidad

by Beth on July 19th, 2010

When I lived in Spain one thing that really caught my attention were the close relationships that Spaniards maintain with their friends and family.  You see it everywhere.  At the airport whole families wait at the arrival gate to welcome a family member home.  At the beach there are umbrellas with entire families gathered around; babies, grandparents, cousins.  In the parks most every picnic table has a group of people sitting around playing cards or chatting.

The other day my daughter commented that in Spain she knows her cousins’ cousins from the other side of the family.  One reason that Spaniards maintain such close relationships is that they don’t move around.  They value living close to family and friends more than a better paying job in a different city.

You really see how important relationships are in Spain when it is time to eat.  Spaniards can spend hours at the dinner table!  They have their meal, a first plate then a second plate, then dessert, then coffee, then maybe an after dinner drink.  The whole time they are talking and laughing, and, yes, sometimes arguing; but nurturing their relationships nonetheless.

So I wasn’t surprised when I read the other day that Spain is the second happiest country in Europe.  The results come from a Coca-Cola survey of the top sources of happiness in 16 countries.  The survey revealed that contact with family and partners was people’s greatest source of joy and the biggest highlights of their day included catching up with loved ones in the evening, eating with the family, and chatting with friends or colleagues.

Close relationships increase positivity.  So make nurturing your relationships a priority.  The next time you are tempted to eat lunch alone at your desk DON’T!  Go find someone to have lunch with.  Make sure you get home in time to have dinner with your family.  If your parents or siblings live out-of-town give them a call to see how they are doing, or even better, plan a vacation together.

And for those of you who are wondering, according to the Coca-Cola study Romania was the happiest country in Europe, Spain ranked number 8 in the survey overall, Mexico was the happiest country, and the USA was number 6.  Although I’m guessing Spain would have ranked higher if the survey had been taken after the Soccer World Cup.  Lots of celebrating with friends and family then!

  1. Francesco Frova permalink

    Yes, it is such a typical AND important moment of the day!
    Of course, I am talking about meal time in Mediterranean countries.
    As for Italy, similarly to Spain, we do wait for each other to begin, and it is a moment to share your feelings and thoughts, and, as you say, nurture the relationship.

    Something, which highly shocked me years ago while I was home-exchanging in Germany, was that during the weekdays they eat separated. They *might* coincide, but are mostly alone.
    While at lunch time they also eat at home but are forced to be flexible by a university-like high-school system, they carry over at dinner this disaggregation.
    When I pointed that out, they answered that like this they were “sharing real and deep moments only when we do want to, throughout the day or specific fun activities”.

    That was very stunning to me, one of the first time I experienced the culture clash.
    Probably the same other travelers may experience when coming through Spain, or Italy!

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