Two in three Germans say they're happy

Wunderbar! That's how a majority of Germans personally feel, according to a new survey. Many respondents said, however, that they think the nation as a whole is unhappy.

Despite the reputation Germans have for seriousness and angst, a new study has found that 66 percent of Germans are happy with their lives.

When asked what was important for a happy life, 51 percent of respondents told YouGov, a polling firm, that good health was one of their top three fulfillment factors.

A good relationship with a partner came next at 32 percent, followed by having enough money at 25 percent.

Read more: Why do we feel good when we help others?

Living in a nice home was also seen as important by more than a fifth of those who took part, with a similar number simply agreeing on the importance of "fun and joy" in everyday life.

Barriers to happiness 'not surprising'

While many Germans said they were fulfilled, some 27 percent of respondents admitted they were currently unhappy.

5 untranslatable expressions of joy

Denmark: 'Arbejdsglæde'

The Danish word "arbejdsglæde" describes the joy that Danes feel about their work. The term not only exists in Danish, but also in Swedish and Norwegian. In Nordic countries, obviously, being personally happy with your job is considered more important than a fat salary or a brilliant career.

5 untranslatable expressions of joy

Ireland: 'Suaimhneas croi'

The Irish have their own word for happiness — not about their work, but rather about the moment when a long working day finally comes to an end. That feeling of deep satisfaction that overwhelms a person once they've completed an important task is expressed by the Gaelic term "suaimhneas croi," that has something to do with peace and heart. It's certainly seems hard to pronounce.

5 untranslatable expressions of joy

Spain: 'Sobremesa'

If you want to stay on a Spaniard's good side, you should never wrap up a meal right after the food is done. In Spain, people appreciate their "sobremesa," which means spending a lot of time drinking coffee or a schnapps after the meal. This activity may even take longer than the dinner itself.

5 untranslatable expressions of joy

Sweden: 'Gökotta'

Getting up early in the morning to listen to the birds — that's what Swedes call "gökotta." The term consists of "gök," which means cuckoo, and "otta" which means earliness. According to the Swedes, this activity will bring you a deep feeling of happiness and joy for the rest of the day.

5 untranslatable expressions of joy

Norway: 'Utepils'

As soon as the days start to get longer and people enjoy the first rays of sunshine after a long winter, a striking phenomenon can be observed in Norway. People of all (legal drinking) ages come out to enjoy the weather and have an "utepils", or "outdoor lager," a beer that's consumed outside. For Norwegians, it's a very special moment of joy.

Just under a fifth of those surveyed thought the greatest hindrances to a happy life were poor health and not having enough money. Lack of a good relationship came next (8 percent), followed by a general absence of fun and joy in life (5 percent).

"Even if a majority of Germans are happy, one in four Germans describe themselves as being unhappy," said Philipp Schneider, head of marketing for YouGov Germany. "The greatest barriers to happiness, meanwhile, are not surprising."

While many Germans said they were personally happy, even more (71 percent) believed their family, friends and work colleagues to be happier still.

However, the story was reversed when they were asked about the German population in general. Less than half thought their compatriots were, on the whole, happy.

Values vary with background

According to the marketing and social research group Sinus, which was also involved in the study, an individual's social grouping was an important indicator of how happy they were likely to be. People from more socially privileged, less traditional backgrounds were deemed more likely to be happy.

Read more: A look at what makes Germans happy

Now live
03:37 mins.
Euromaxx | 01.01.2019

Why music makes people happy

Meanwhile, the emphasis that people from different groups placed on different factors also varied significantly.

"For the so-called modern mainstream, for example, the family and a reliable and harmonious social environment are the key to happiness," said Sinus managing director Manfred Tautscher. "For the cosmopolitan avant-garde, on the other hand, happiness means being able to live an intense and unconventional life."

A total of 2026 adults were questioned earlier this month for the poll, released a day ahead of the United Nations International Day of Happiness.

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

Related content