Book Review: Geography of Bliss – Eric Weiner (also my daughter as a tick)

I am happy today, and that is not a word I throw around lightly.  This mood that gave me the idea for today’s post.  Well, that and Vienna’s homework.  She asked for help with her Sociology: learn about a culture that is different from ours.

Side Bar: As I write this, she is reading over my shoulder.  In her words, she is, “like a tick, always watching” ….not creepy or anything…

As I sorted through my knowledge of other cultures (sociology is my favorite subject), I thought of the perfect book:  Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner. 

Bill Kuffrey

I got very excited and explained to her that Eric Weiner, a Foreign Correspondent for National Public Radio and a self-proclaimed Grump, had decided to spend a year traveling the world to visit the happiest, and least happiest places in the world. 

Side bar: I also told Vienna that I can’t concentrate while she is watching, and she said to pretend I don’t know she is there because most people that have a tick, don’t know. . .ok….creepier still. . .

We looked at the table of contents, each chapter covers a different country.  Which one to choose?

Piotr Wojtkoski

Chapter 5:  Iceland: awesome!  Visiting Iceland is now on my Bucket List because of this book.  Icelanders love chess and writing (heaven), and they go months without seeing the sun.  I’m from Seattle, I’ll fit right in.  When I go to Iceland, I will NOT eat harkarl, rotten shark, but I will think of Mr. Weiner’s description of it:

“The harkarl has an acidic, unnatural flavor.  Worst of all is the persistent aftertaste.  It lodges on the roof of my mouth and resists eviction, despite my attempts to flush it out with many glasses of water, a bag of honey-roasted cashews, an entire wheel of gouda cheese, and two bottles of beer.  By the time I return to my hotel, an hour later, the taste has, ominously migrated to my throat, and shows no signs of leaving soon.  I feel sick.”

A local man explained to him that the only way to get rid of the after taste is to drink svarti dauoi, or black death, the Icelandic national drink.  Weiner says the very nasty hang-over was a price he was willing to pay to get rid of that taste.  Harkarl, anyone?

Side bar: Vienna went to class, but not before warning reminding me that she, like a tick, will always be watching. Rotten shark and ticks…I think I’m going to have nightmares tonight, how about you?

Chapter 6: Moldova..ewwwww.  It is said to be the least happy nation in the world.  Maybe the problem is their music.  You know how uplifting music can be, right?  Well apparently it works the other way as well.  According to Weiner:

“Russian pop is–how do I put this diplomatically?–bad.  Very bad.  So bad that it may have contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

There you go.

Chapter 7: Thailand…ah, don’t read that chapter Vienna.  Their morals…different than ours.  The chapter begins with how despite his best intentions not to go, one night at 1 am he found himself in a bar. . .yeah, that is not the essence of the whole chapter, but enough for me to have Vienna skip it. 

Chapter 2: Switzerland:  I can’t forget Switzerland.  You know the saying one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  Well Switzerland shows us that one man’s misery is another man’s happiness.  Or something like that, read this and decide for yourself:

     “Why are the Swiss so happy?”  I ask Jalil.
     “Because we know we can always kill ourselves,” he says with a laugh, but he’s not joking.  Switzerland has one of the world’s most liberal euthanasia laws.  People travel from all over Europe to die here.
     The strangeness of it all sinks in.  In Switzerland, it’s illegal to flush your toilet past 10:00 p,m, or mow your lawn on Sunday, but it’s perfectly legal to kill yourself.
And so Switzerland has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.  How can a happy country have a high suicide rate?  There is a theory in the book. . .

If you like humor, sociology and philosophy, you will love this book as I did.

Vera Kratocvil

What?  Oh, you want to know which country she choose for her project?  Why Moldova, of course.  She read this line:

“”Getting to Moldova turns out to be nearly as tricky as finding it on a map.  It’s almost as if the Moldovans are off sulking in their corner of the globe.  ‘Leave us alone.  We’re not happy, and we like it that way.  We said go away!'”

“You should move there,” she said.

I had to laugh at that.  Evil girl. I guess she chose it for her report since she thinks I should move there, and she’s planning to visit…or wait, if she is truly a tick as she claims, she will just go with me.

We’ll send you a postcard.   


  1. One of the sisters on my mission was from Moldova. She was the daughter of a shepherd (or maybe a goatherd?). They lived in a tent with no modern conveniences. Living in an apartment with toilets in a city was a big change for her. And, having listened to Russian pop music, I agree. In fact, I have some on CD if Vienna wants to borrow it. 🙂

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