UNICEF just announced the results of a study conducted to find out about the well-being of children from the 29 richest countries in the world. Their criteria were these areas:  material well-being, health and safety, education, behaviors and risks, housing and environment.

Children from The Netherlands came out as number one in this survey. In the top, after the Dutch children, were Norway, Iceland, Finland and Sweden.  In the bottom third of this list was Canada, Germany, Portugal, Poland and the United States. Does this shock anyone? In this report, American children were ranked #26. The last country on the list was Romania.

This is being called the happiness report. How happy are children across the world? Are their basic needs being met? Are they safe, warm and well fed? Are they getting a good education? Do they have enough room in their homes for their family? Do they go on vacation? Do they get enough exercise and time outdoors? The list goes on and on and you can check the UNICEF web site to read the detailed report.

The Netherlands is the only country ranked among the top 5 countries in ALL dimensions of a child’s well-being. Children in each of these countries were asked if they were happy and 95% of the Dutch children said they were. I asked our children if they thought that this report was accurate to what they know of life here, and they thought it was. They said they were happy and that is always a good thing for a parent to hear. It does not say that a country or its people are perfect, far from it. And The Netherlands is not perfect. But something is working well here.

As I have written before, there seems to be a lot of family time here. I have seen a family of four, each riding their bikes, and all having a discussion as they wheel down the street. Remember that there are no school buses in this country, all children must bike or walk to school each day. And many are riding home for lunch as well. Primary schools close at noon on Wednesdays and that seems to allow for more time for children to be with their parents. That ties in with the fact that women in this country overwhelmingly work part time and they are likely to be home after school. Fathers can also take a Papadag (papa day), which means they stay home one day a week to be with the children. Dutch children get free medical care (and that includes prescriptions and dental, but not braces) until they are 18 years old.  There are many ways that you can look at your own family and see what causes happiness. But we all know that if a child is smiling, it is always a good thing. When they are happy, we are happy. I just wish that this joy, this sense of well-being, can be spread to children all over the world.

Hold the mayo—it is common practice to use mayonnaise on french fries in this country. You will get many stares if you use ketchup. A popular chain of “chip shops”, Manneken Pis, has announced a new flavor of mayonnaise. They are famous for offering a variety of flavors, but this is kind of unusual and yet, so very Dutch. You will now be able to get cannabis flavored mayo. It lacks the ingredients to make you high, but it will taste like cannabis. And you wonder why people are happy in this country? I think it is because nothing surprises them…you just have get back on your bike and smile.



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