5 Things I Learned From Meeting The Happiest People In The World, Vanuatu

5 Things (Life Lessons) I Learned While Visiting Vanuatu From Hanging Out With Some Of The Happiest People In The World.

You learn a lot when you go traveling, especially from the people you meet along the way.

Out of all the places I’ve been, there is no place where I’ve learned so much about human beings as when we were in Vanuatu. Despite being one of the poorest countries in the world, these people have been rated the happiest in the world.

You shouldn’t believe everything people say about rankings, so we went there to check the out and have to admit that these people really do have something that most of Western society seems to have lost.

The way they lived reminded me of many things I already knew but so rarely actually saw, or did in real life, so for that I am so very grateful.

1. Trust:

These people will trust anyone and everyone for no apparent reason.

For example when we were going to buy some bananas from a market lady, she was lying under the table on a mattress fast asleep.

We had to wake her up, show her that we wanted to buy the bananas, but even then she just waved her hands towards the table and told us to put the money somewhere on her table, and fell back to sleep.

That kind of thing would never happen in a Western country, where the focus seems to be more on let’s make more money and trust nobody until they prove it.

2. Smiling And Saying Hi To Everyone All The Time:

My mouth was literally aching after spending a few days in Vanuatu. When you walked down the street at night, everyone would walk past saying ‘Goodnight, Sweet Dreams!’ – this wasn’t just because we were tourist either, they also acted the same to each other. They were polite and friendly without wanting something back.

Here in Europe, people often are only polite if they get something out of it, and they get very confused and at first a little suspicious  if you’re friendly and talkative to them for no ‘reason’. There it was more strange if you DIDN’T talk to the person sitting next to you in the bus van.

3. Take The Time To Enjoy Moments:

In the Western society I often feel like people judge you if you’re not always doing something, or always busy. The first thing people always ask me is what I’ve done lately and what my plans are for the future.

The vibe in Vanuatu was so chill. It really felt like time stood still, and you could find people just sitting under palm trees, laughing or sleeping by their food stalls in the middle of the day – enjoying life.

4. Take Your Time To Help A Stranger:

Taking the time to help a stranger is something that is so valued there, and I’ve never seen people putting in such a big effort to help you without asking for something back in return (like some tip). In many other places you will find people are simply way too busy with their own lives to stop and care for someone else’s.

5. Being Curious Of You As A Person:

Coming from Sweden, we ‘need’ a very large ‘personal space bubble’. Often we feel uncomfortable even when someone sits in the seat next to us on a bus.

Unless the bus is full, you will rarely see two strangers sitting next to each other when there are other free seats (I did it once to test, and the person next to me was very uncomfortable, and moved away).

Here in Vanuatu people sit right down in the seat right next to you in an empty bus, look at you with a big smile of their faces and starts a conversation right away. They are honestly curious about you, and really care to get to know you as a human being.

What are some lessons, and life reminders you have experienced while visiting people from other cultures?

22 Responses to 5 Things I Learned From Meeting The Happiest People In The World, Vanuatu

  1. Dylan Lowe July 12, 2010 at 11:47 am #

    What I absoultely LOVE about the ni-Vans is their concept of unconditional sharing.

  2. Aurora July 12, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

    Wonderful post! I've never been to Vanuatu (yet… It's on my list!) but this reminded me so much of the experience my family had when we visited Fiji. It was very much the same there. The people are all incredibly friendly, talking to you and smiling, waving and shouting “Bula” (hello) from the other side of the street. And just like you wrote on #3 no one really seemed stressed. Everything was so relaxed. Like the guy at one of the places we were staying, his job was to lend out the snorkeling gear to the tourists staying there. There were a few each day who came there to get stuff, the rest of the time he just sat there! And he didn't seem to mind! Here in Sweden (yes, I'm Swedish too!) that would NEVER happen! People would go crazy if they didn't have stuff to do! :P

  3. Erica Kuschel July 12, 2010 at 4:41 pm #

    There are so many things I take for granted here in Austin. I always strike up conversations with people while waiting in the grocery store, people open doors for me, you will almost always have someone pull over and help you with a flat tire… It is things like this that make me re-evaluate if I want to move to another city. I expect people to have the same courtesy and its just not the case. :)

  4. Adam July 12, 2010 at 4:42 pm #

    Awesome post. I've read this about Vanuatu before, and every time I read about it, it makes me want to go more. It's funny that people who live so simply and without all the comforts we're used to seem to be so much happier than we are. I know that we were happier on the road with only our backpacks as opposed to home where we have anything you could possibly want. Living simpler is just easier sometimes. Great post, thanks for sharing!

  5. Scotd July 13, 2010 at 8:25 am #

    Love this post. It represents one of the best aspects of travel – being moved and changed by other people. I hope it inspires other folks to travel respectfully.

  6. GlobalButterfly July 14, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

    I almost started tearing up towards the end!!! I'm so envious of their lifestyle. I try to live me life similar to them and I always feel like others around me are judging me. Why do I always have to be so happy, Why do I always trust everyone, etc? I think it's sooo wonderful to grow up in a society like theirs. I can't wait to visit Vanuatu one day!

    PS Awesome pic!!!

  7. Angelo Pisano July 14, 2010 at 8:46 pm #

    Spending 6 weeks in Turkey teaching English made me realize that a lot of my fellow interns were brushing over their interactions with certain individuals and going with full gusto into others. This sort of goes along with being curious of each other, but I like to add the element of EFFORT. If we give effort to be warm with one another, soon we will build an empire of TRUST… YAY! p.s. let me know when you go on that massive road trip through America

  8. Sofia July 17, 2010 at 12:40 pm #

    Yes! They have such a healthy outlook on many things, like sharing :)

  9. Sofia July 17, 2010 at 12:45 pm #

    Hey Aurora! Thanks for sharing your expeience! I've heard that about Fiji too, we will definitely go there next time we're around that area, I can't wait!
    Haha yeah, we think we always have to be doing something, or at least look like we're very busy..! :P

  10. Sofia July 17, 2010 at 12:51 pm #

    Hey Erica! So nice to hear that random conversations is so common where you live! Here people are very helpful when you ask for it, but nobody comes up and talks with you for no reason.
    It's sad that people don't talk with strangers, we really miss out on so many great conversations and meetings..

  11. Sofia July 17, 2010 at 1:06 pm #

    Hi Scotd! I agree with you, traveling is a life changing experience thanks to the people you meet and the impressions and new life perspectives they give.

    I hope it inspires people too, by being open and respectful you get so much in return.

  12. Sofia July 17, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

    Hey Andi, thanks!!

    Yeah I was envious too! It was such an eye opener for me, and I promised myself not to forget what I had learned and really start living it myself no matter what people thought.

    I think you should take those comments as compliments! ;)
    I believe that those who judge you and give those comments would like to be happy all the time and trust people themselves, but just can't handle seeing someone else doing so..

  13. Sofia July 17, 2010 at 1:21 pm #

    Hey Adam! Thanks, I'm glad you like it!
    Yeah it's funny isn't it, how people who have less material things often are happier.. That makes me realize how useless all that extra stuff really is, and like you say, when traveling you realize that you really don't need much to be happy, and how the happiness you felt before over all your things was just fake.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts!

  14. Febby Aja August 30, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    I saw in the tv program about vanuatu people too, it s exactly the same with what u mentioned above…
    I was in Fiji few months ago and experiencing also the friendliness , but i have a feeling that ni-Vans is far even more friendly…..Might be Fijian often see caucasian tourist around and thats such a common thing…after all, thanks for sharing ;)

  15. søgemaskineoptimering February 28, 2011 at 8:31 am #

    She is not only a world-famous athlete, but a mother-of-five, a successful businesswoman and one of the country’s top athletics coaches. She is best known for her prowess on the track: as well as her world championship win and her stunning Commonwealth …

  16. Soft Chewable Lovegra November 28, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

    If the rematch is anything like the first meeting, we’re in for a treat. …. Five things we learned about the Cardinal in their 28-14 win over Notre Dame …

  17. Esaf Yasin February 12, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    Wow i dont believe that kinde people still exist. so u had best time of ur life at best part of earth.

  18. surethingtravel August 7, 2012 at 8:06 am #

    Really Love Vanuatu…The people are so welcoming and are always smiling. The place is so wonderful and we’re planning to go back again. Thanks to Sure Thing Vanuatu Travel who organises our trip and forgiving us discount to our package. :)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tweets that mention 5 Things I Learned From Meeting The Happiest People In The World, Vanuatu – As We Travel - Around The World Travel Blog -- Topsy.com - July 12, 2010

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nuria Santamaria. Nuria Santamaria said: RT @AsWeTravel: 5 Things I Learned From Meeting The Happiest People In The World – http://su.pr/9XqGtH #lp #rtwsoon #vanuatu #happy #travel [...]

  2. Explore seven continents and beyond wrapup | ExplorerDad - July 20, 2010

    [...] When there are so many beautiful, sun drenched tropical paradises in the Pacific to choose from sometimes it’s the people that make all the difference!  This post from AsWeTravel reminds us of 5 Things (Life Lessons) Learned While Visiting Vanuatu From Hanging Out Wit… [...]

  3. Weekly Travel Question – How Do You Choose Where You Travel To Next? – As We Travel - Around The World Travel Blog - July 22, 2010

    [...] countries we didn’t even know existed until just shortly (1 week) before arriving there (i.e. Vanuatu) and yes, we have had to deal with some unexpected challenges (airport customs not letting us [...]

  4. 5 Things I Learned From Meeting The Happiest People In The World, Vanuatu – As We Travel – Around The World Travel Blog | Chicago Mac/PC Support - March 11, 2011

    [...] [...]