How is happiness in Australia defined?

Our upfront excitement about discovering happiness in Australia is huge. A country well-known for its beauty, laidback lifestyle and perfect barbecue spots, promises us lots of happiness encounters. And after being a month down-under, we’ve had quiet a few of those encounters, ranging from the outback to the rainforest and the bustling cities. Lucky for you, we’ve summarised our discoveries about happiness in Australia!

Outside sunshine.

Everyone, truly everyone, loves to be outdoors. We see children of 7 years old performing shows on the waves like they have been surfing for decades, we worked with farmers in the outback who see the freedom of being outside on their own land as happiness, and have met tons of people who immediately refer to life outdoors when talking about happiness. And with the huge amount of national parks and sport facilities, everyone seems to be hiking, biking or doing water sports regularly.

Jess is one of those Aussies who can’t imagine living far away from the ocean. She grew up in Harvey bay and set up her own water sport business with her partner. Yet she decided to work for zigzagtours (highly recommended, see this post about the whitsundays) 2 days a week so she is actually spending time on the water, not in the office.

Chantal and Andrew and their three children are a beautiful family who life in the North, Daintree. They live life with family and friends and are grateful to be part of a strong community. “Everyone knows each other here and that I really like a lot”.

Andrew took us on his daily walk: a barefoot walk through the cane fields with the kids and dog everyday, just to clear his mind and spend time with the kids.

Work to live or live to work.

In the more rural such as Daintree, personal development and growth is still less high on the agenda than in the coastal cities. People here tend to focus on living a good life with family and friends, and see work as a mean to achieve this.

And in coastal areas we’ve seen this trend too. With many jobs in tourism and hospitality, people have a lot of social interaction and connections. This is different than what we’ve seen in many European areas, where people are often looking for a long-term career path with the most promising and ambitions futures, whatever those might be.

Andrew could have moved to Cairns to get a “supposedly” better job, but that is not an option for him as this area has everything he needs: the community, the outdoor opportunities and the freedom to do what he wants to. That sums up his definition of happiness too: being free.


When we hit the road (for just a few hundred kilometers) into the outback, freedom became the main topic of discussion in our talks. We’ve encountered many people who have a property as big as Belgium. Freedom is what motivates them, as they are born and raised in a situation where there was no one telling them what to do. They are used to having complete autonomy and value their freedom. It’s this sense of freedom that tends to lower any perceived (social) pressure, insecurity or oppressed feelings. They can be who they are.

What’s remarkable however is that in this same remote area, some citizens seem to be less exposed to global trends and developments, leaving ethical topics as gender equality and gay marriage a sensitive subject of discussion.

Yet the freedom-thing is sticky. And it hit us. Because it’s not only in the outback that freedom is highly appreciate it, many Aussies place great importance on this. The question is, how do we define freedom? For the people in the remote areas it’s living life without any disturbance: being able to behave on their own land like they want to. For others, it might be financial freedom, or a freedom deceived from less social pressure. But when do we experience freedom? Is it when we have many opportunities to choose from?

Full of opportunities.

The country’s prosperity is providing endless opportunities for its citizens. From jobs to education to becoming an entrepreneur, Australia seems to be the place, something valued extremely by the aussies. And it’s not just the opportunities themselves, it’s also the impact it has on their mindset. Aussies have a positive outlook on life and consider themselves very optimistic. Something they are aware of and proud of btw ;-).

And the opportunities are recognized overseas. We’ve met many foreigners who decided to move to Australia and see this step as a way to increase they happiness level.

Maeve moved from Ireland to Byron Bay to leave a rough year behind. She had no idea what she would do when she arrived, but within two weeks she has a fulltime job, a nice couple of friends and an unexpected offer to stay in a beautiful apartment.

But this decision is for sure not just based on the financial prosperity, but even more because of the Aussie way of life.

Laidback and chill.

Everyone we meet is extremely open and relaxed. Quiet often, it’s not even us approaching people but aussies coming to us just to have a chat. They are genuinely interested and keen to have a social interaction.

Everyone seems to say “no worries” more than anything else on a daily basis.

We see many people in cities as Sydney and Melbourne (cities we love btw!!) lurking for a relaxed, laidback lifestyle too. If you ask people in the north, they are convinced there is a big difference.

Yet the border between laidback and nonchi-not-giving-a-shit seems to be very thin. And for us, this raises some concerns.

Sometimes not being laidback but actually feeling the urge to care and contribute is necessary. It makes you happy! You just need to determine on which things you DO give a f*ck about, something Mark Manson, or his book, can help you with. And the question is whether just caring about a healthy and fit lifestyle is all you need to care about?

We for sure believe that a good physical condition is important and contributes to a good mental health, but the fit life culture in places like Bondi Beach might be more an escape to hold an a certain identity than to just be fit.

Happiness in Australia is for free!

With a place in the top ten of the World Happiness Index (#9), and a city ranked as the best place to live, the statistics are in their favour, and so is our experience. Australia, like Switzerland, seems to have the daily life organized very well. From public toilets and barbecues in the park to public transport and healthcare.

We’ve experienced the majority of aussies to indeed be happy. Very happy. People are extremely laid back, especially in the north. But also in most coastal areas, people consider work as a means to have a great life and don’t seem to live to work. People are very open and interested. They value humor a lot and love their slang as a way of expressing themselves. Most importantly, they care for freedom. To do what they want to do, be outdoors, and make decisions themselves.

In the larger cities, people still try to stick with the Australian laidback lifestyle, but with economy-boosting we wonder if they are able to do that. But, even though they might not be as laidback as the rest, they still make time for a nice brekkie (breakfast) with friends, catch a wave or have a good barbie (barbecue).

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