How Happy Is Your City?

During my years living in Melbourne, Australia, Eat With Me was very important to me. The small start-up aimed to connect people around the world through experiences centred around food; its events were how I met many of my closest friends in Melbourne. Although Eat With Me recently ceased operations, I was honoured to have the opportunity to write their blog for over a year, concepting, researching and writing posts related to food and community. Below is one of those posts.

vancouver

I live in Vancouver. Where the mountains meet the sea. Home of the world’s greatest park. Most liveable city in Canada (and former most liveable city in the world, until Melbourne knocked us off our perch). We’re used to winning things, to topping lists. We attract ire from the rest of Canada, whose residents are already jealous of our mild weather and orca whales and such. A Canadian satire site has poked fun at us for it, calling Vancouver ‘The Most City in the World.’

Sometimes topping lists signifies more dubious distinctions – like having North America’s most expensive housing market – but that reflects the desirability of living here. Right?

So it came as a terrible shock to us (slightly smug) Vancouverites when about a month ago we learned that we had topped an extremely undesirable list: Canada’s least happy cities. According to Statistics Canada, Vancouver is less happy than every other city in this great big country. Despite our mountains and mild weather and orca whales.

We tried to console ourselves with the news that same week that Canada was the world’s fifth happiest country. Surely being the least happy city in a remarkably happy country wasn’t so bad?

Still. Beat by Calgary. Montreal. Toronto, for heaven’s sake! How could it be?

As it turns out, the reasons are mainly related to community — something that many newcomers to Vancouver (myself included) can find lacking.

Indeed, a 2012 study focusing on connection and engagement in Vancouver found that the city is a hard place to make friends, and that our neighbourhood connections are cordial, but weak. Even if we bother to learn our neighbours’ names, we typically have never visited each others’ homes.

According to the Stats Canada report, “levels of trust and the quality of social connections in neighbourhoods and workplaces can influence happiness significantly.” And because my fair city is lacking in that department, we’re not as happy as we could be.

The point, you ask? These studies support what Eat With Me has long known: that a sense of community and neighbourliness is vital to leading a happy and fulfilling life. And since eating together is one of the best ways, if not the very best way, of building a sense of community, you should definitely attend or host an Eat With Me event in your city. It’ll make you — and your city — a little bit happier. Guaranteed.

More on happy cities to come soon. In the meantime…where do you live? Does it feel like a happy city? Tell us!