According to a recent study, the five happiest countries in the world are Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands. This makes sense to me, seeing as I've been obsessed with this region for years.
For the rest of America, France seems to be the country that is either most enticing or most repulsive. French women give us a massive inferiority complex, yet French men are still the butt of one too many grade school-esque jokes. As Sadie has pointed out on multiple occasions, Francophilia seems to sell particularly well to a certain subset of women. Yet I've never really understood the allure of Paris. To me, France sounds overdone, over-traveled, too well loved. After listening to a college roommate expand upon the many reasons she was "more European than American" (despite having visited Paris only a handful of times), I became turned off to the whole idea of loving a country more than one's own. I'm American, through-and-through (and just as real as Palin and the like).
However, all that changed when I visited Sweden. While I would never say "I'm more Swedish than American" (because that's just dumb) I did feel a weird affinity for the place, almost immediately after our plane touched down. There was something about the landscape, the people, the abundance of brick and the millions of towheaded kids that made me feel right at home. Though I only spent a few days there, I became fascinated by Swedish culture, romanticizing it until I probably sounded just as obnoxious as my French-obsessed college friends. According to my version, Swedish women were more stylish, more pulled together, and far sleeker than any other European women. Instead of wanting to co-op the French insouciance, I wanted to learn the Swedish minimalism and poise. For a former American Studies major this was, in a word, bizarre.
But that's what it's like when you fall in love with a place - or the corresponding version of femininity. It becomes something otherworldly, a utopia of sorts that exists only in your own mind. Swedish women aren't all sleek, black-clad blondes with perfect hair, mile-long legs, and a sort of cold friendliness, but something about the mental ideal represented perfectly the type of image I wanted to project. I know this, logically, but I still feel a certain "I told you so" satisfaction when I read about the happy, rich, and prosperous Scandinavians. For good for for bad, Sweden is my France. What's yours?
The World's Happiest Countries [Forbes]