Humble Happiness in New Zealand

Ranked number 8 on the World Happiness Index, seen as third most beautiful country in the world and even voted as greatest country of 2017, it has the statistics in her favor. With an obvious link between nature and happiness, were pretty sure happiness in New Zealand is stunning. Some people have told us that the true identity of the Kiwis can be found on the southern island, so that’s where we went on discovery!

After a few days we have met a bunch of lovely and inspiring people, but not any true local yet. Even though we collected beautiful stories, for a definition of happiness in New Zealand we prefer to also talk to a few locals. So we adjusted our approach and open the conversation with our first question… ‘are you a Kiwi?!

After a few more shots, we got lucky. Yet we’ve come to the conclusion that despite other backgrounds, immigrants also contribute to and define happiness in New Zealand. The integration of many overseas people might be a result from the relaxed and friendly NZ culture, or vice versa. We don’t really care, we just love it!

Work and life

One of the most important components of happiness in NZ is the work life balance. Recognized by many Kiwis but stressed by non-Kiwis (probably because of their reference scheme), work is considered important, but not more important than living a good, fulfilled life.

A Dutch lady who lives in Dunedin for over a year told us that the office lights are her indicator of this balance: “After 7pm, you see no lights on in the offices. People consider work done and see tomorrow as a new day to continue”.

And it’s not just the hours, but also the type of jobs that is seen as a key ingredient for happiness in NZ. happiness in new zealandMikael is from Canada and lives in NZ now: “people still have enough time to do things they like, be outdoors and be proud of whatever it is their doing. You don’t need to be a banker or consultant. It’s not about status”.

And that seems to be exactly why Kiwis are (still) able to appreciate the essentials: because they don’t focus on status or power. They are not in a continuous comparison battle and aren’t overly focused on personal achievements.

Kiwis realize they everything is organized very well and appreciate their good health and security system. People feel healthy and safe, and see this is something important for their own happiness. The basic needs of human well-being are very well fulfilled. And it seems like the beautiful nature is partly responsible for this!

Natural paradise

Everyone we’ve met is crazy about the nature. They all love being outdoors and consider themselves active and healthy. With hiking trails and mountain bike tracks everywhere, there is plenty of opportunity to do so.

And just about every 5km, you’ll find a sign that asks you to stop and admire the scenery.

Three friends in Wanaka immediately quoted: “We live in a paradise. And we have a good active way of life. People live freely here and share smile and greet each other. We all are outdoor the whole time. The scenery is big part of our happiness and makes us be outside and active.”


Yet living in paradise comes at a cost. The cost of living and traveling are considered high and play a role in the level of happiness for many Kiwis. It’s one of the biggest happiness challengers and often expressed as one of their main worries.

For us, it feels like the impact of costs on their happiness make it harder for people to realize what they have. According to some, it’s because they don’t really have anything to refer to. And this is beyond overseas experiences, as the population density is very low, to have some social interaction is something to actively look for.

Not so crowded

First of all, the fact that NZ isn’t very crowded is highly appreciated by many, many Kiwis. They experience plenty of room for themselves, opportunities to do things and numerous of untouched outdoor sceneries. They feel free to be who they are. And it doesn’t mean people don’t connect..

happiness in new zealandAndrew owns a nice coffee shop along the highway in Punakaiki. After having lived in the bigger cities, he came to the conclusion that his social calendar much more busy than in the city. “It’s bizarre. Here we make an effort to see each other and therefore do it. In the city you always have opportunities to interact and therefore often don’t do it”.


Yet this low density has a flip side: many live (very) remote, at least from other countries but sometimes even from their neighbors, making some a bit shy.

Andrew: “if you don’t actively seek any interaction, you can become isolated. That’s why I think many Kiwis are a bit shy”.

Happiness in New Zealand

And Andrew just summarized our experience: the Kiwis we’ve met are all very friendly and polite, but some seem to speak less easily about their pursuit of happiness.

They are modest and humble, and seem to appreciate the excellent society system.

The nature and physical lifestyle are key to their happiness, and assure that working to live is more important living to work is. They found a perfect balance, and seem to not be easily bothered by negative things. They live life without too much blabla.

It makes sense that they are ranked high on the World Happiness Index as well as on the Happy Planet Index. And, according to the latter, the high well-being score on the confirms our impression of perceived well-being by the Kiwis.

Yet, even though they are satisfied, they might not even be completely aware of everything NZ is already offering them, simply because they have nothing to compare it too. Therefore, their expression of happiness is not easily visible on first sight. Luckily they have a bunch of happy immigrants who are more than keen to do this!

Curious about New Zealand? Find some interesting facts here! 

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