Joie de vivre – or ‘ Joy of living’ in its english translation – is a phrase used to express an enthusiastic, buoyant enjoyment of life. In use in France since the late seventeenth century, the term was chronicled by Emily Zola in his 1883 novel, La Joie de vivre. Since then Joie de vivre has evolved into something approaching us secular religion in the french speaking world but it is the Canadians who have taken the idea most to heart to describe their National temperament.
‘We have happiness in all aspects of life here’ says Melanie, a friend of a friend from Montreal. ‘ We have good food, good friends, good seasons – and joy de vivre is the commonly used term to describe happiness in Canada.’ Joie de vivre is especially prevalent in Quebec, the french speaking province that is officially the happiest place in the country, According to a study published in the Canadian public policy journal. Quebeckers are so happy that were Quebec a nation unto itself, it would be second only to Denmark in international life satisfaction rankings. ‘ It is because we are french, ‘ Melanie tells me, ‘ But you know, we are not France french.’ And this is an important distinction.
The first clue as to ‘Why’ comes courtesy of Canada’s infrastructure. High taxes, redistribute wealth to reduce inequality and fund free health care, great education – and a social safety net to catch you if you fall. Religious tolerance is wide spread and Canada was the first country outside Europe to legalise same sex marriage. It is good for women, with decent parental leave and Justin Trudeau, famously naming a gender balanced cabinet when he came to power ‘ Because it is 2015’.
‘ It is also a really safe place to live,’ says Melanie. ‘ We have low crime rate and strict gun control so we know we are not going to get shot going about our business here’ For many this may seem immaterial – an attribute to be taken for granted. But living near America, the absence of fire arms in your average home is distinct plus. ‘ We are not afraid in Canada,’ says Melanie, ‘ and this means we can enjoy life more. ” Brad, a colleague of a friend from Montreal agrees; ‘ I can walk around anywhere at 3 am without fear – and I cant remember the last time I saw one loose their temper. confrontations and public displays of anger are almost unheard of .’