Happiness Matters, Merkel Tells Germany

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The path to happiness is an elusive one for many and even more so for Germans it would seem. But Germany's leader Angela Merkel had some handy advice for her compatriots when she attended a wellbeing forum on Wednesday.

Despite being the euro zone's number one economy and avoiding much of the fiscal austerity causing misery in many European nations, Germans are not satisfied. Germany ranked 30th in Columbia University's annual "World Happiness Report" of 156 countries in 2012, one of the lowest ranking for a European country, and far behind Denmark, Norway, Finland and Netherlands. Even the U.K., whose inhabitants have a reputation for grumbling, was at number 18.

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So on Wednesday, Germany's leader attempted to offer some words of solace at a well-being forum in Berlin.

"We look at the stock exchange index or currencies on the news each morning and talk a lot about growth in terms of gross domestic product, but we often don't prioritize what is really most important to people," Chancellor Merkel said in an address at the forum on "What Matters to People - Wellbeing and Progress".

According to a survey by the Boston Consulting Group last year, only one in ten Germans believe the next generation can expect a better life than their parents. Ironically, the survey showed that people in more indebted countries, such as Spain, were happier and more optimistic about the long-term outlook.

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Told that Germans were more likely than others to view "the glass as half-empty rather than half-full," Merkel joked that their pessimism "could be a form of happiness, because they can see how to get it filled."

She also said she was surprised that, when hosting the 2006 World Cup, visitors came with expectations that it always rained in Germany and that Germans had no sense of humor.

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The stereotype of a dour German outlook has not been helped by Merkel herself, given her hard stance towards euro zone members and her insistence on austerity measures. Still, the German people approve of her handling of the crisis, with a Pew survey in May showing that 74 percent of Germans backed Merkel.