A welcome from our editor in chief.
You will surely not have missed the focus on happi- ness that is currently sweeping the globe. Think-tanks are developing different metrics to measure it, authors are making a lot of money offering up myriad titles dedicated to how to find more of it and countries are looking for new ways to make sure their citizens are overflowing with it (and hopefully attracting new resi- dents as a result).
Depending where in the world you’re reading this, you might have different measures for gauging both personal happiness and the general mood of those around you. For sure there are some universal pillars that unite most of us (good health, a tight circle of loving family and friends, a sense of security and regu- lar sunshine) but there are also elements that divide us – and they are based on geography.
In Australia, many are unhappy about the heavy hand of the nanny state: put on a hi-vis to do this, put on a helmet to do that, don’t stay out too late and, whatever you do, don’t drink on the pavement. At the same time, Aussies are happy about being one of the richest nations in the world. The high spending power allows them to escape their winters and enjoy summers in Europe, where there’s a more liberal approach to alfresco living.
In Lebanon it’s rather the opposite. There is very little in the way of nannying or societal guardrails but the country manages to tick over despite itself. Most Lebanese would love better rubbish collection and social services but would resist being told what time they should call for last orders or when they should be tucked up in bed. Indeed, Beirut takes a starring role in this issue (see page 195) as a city that understands the need for a liberal nightlife to keep the economy moving in the right direction – and allow people to push their limits.
On the eve of sending this issue to press I cele- brated a significant birthday. Much of the party brief centered on where I’d be able to host friends and family from around the world while ensuring maximum fun and frolics. For a brief moment, Beirut was at the top of that list.But it soon fell off as it was a bit of a hike for many who could only make it for one evening.
London was in the running for a few weeks but I struggled to think of venues and how I might keep everyone within a single neighbourhood to create a sense of cosiness in a sprawling city. In the end I opted for Zürich (good airport, excellent infrastruc- ture, diverse mix of hotels and liberal licensing laws) and a pair of venues that could host 130 friends. As we went through the planning and logistics in the weeks running up to the event, the main venue highlighted a rather curious house rule: “When your guests arrive they’ll check their coats, bags and phones here,” said the gentleman in charge.
Initially I thought he’d bundled those items together as a broad concept, so I didn’t think much of it. As I toured the space high above the city (this being Zürich, we’re talking six floors), I nodded with approval at the cream carpets, the matching 1960s sectional seating units, the brass lighting fixtures and the general feeling that this was wonderfully frozen in 1977. Then I came back to the comment about the garderobe.
“You mentioned that phones are also checked at the door,” I said with curiosity. “Is that an opt-in or opt- out concept?” Apparently not. “This is a house rule.We want people to be in this space and in the moment,” said the manager. “Do you really want a party where people are posting pictures the whole time, aware of the time and distracted from the reason they’re here in the first place?”
This was a man after my own heart. How clever, I thought. But would it work on the night? Would friends, no matter how understanding, get the notion that this might be an interesting experiment in happiness? I’m tapping out this note 24 hours after the party wrapped and I can confidently say that the evening/morning was a massive hit. That was not only thanks to the drinks, exceptional DJ and wonderful array of friends but also the lack of connectivity, which played a huge part in ensuring happy vibes.
Next time you have a gathering – social, business or otherwise – I recommend the check-your-phones-at- the-door rule. Not every moment needs to be posted, documented, streamed or digitally discussed. Some- times it’s a quite wonderful thing to simply recall being there and conjure up the best moments.
On that note, we do hope you find plenty of moments within this issue that demand you pause and think about not only the year ahead but also challenge what makes you happy at home, in your workplace, around your city and within the country you call home. We’re always keen to hear from you so please drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have any other queries (including the name of that DJ) my colleagues Hannah (email@example.com) in London and Luigi (lle@monocle. com) in Zürich can lend a hand.
Cheers to a wonderful 2019 (and Year of the Pig) and, as ever, thank you for your support.
A few things you’ll learn in our 2019 Forecast:
1. How Finland has become a giant laboratory of wellbeing by tracking its citizens’ health from cradle to grave, testing the latest ideas in education and pushing the boundaries on welfare reform. Is that why it’s the world’s happiest nation? (Page 30)
2. Why salons, debates and readings have boomed around the world as people look for moments of deep thought in among their fast, digital and unfocused daily lives. Join us in Paris, where we give you a front- row seat. (Page 59)
3. What happens when three small cities with clever entrepreneurial ideas flourish. And, just as importantly, come end of day their residents enjoy a quality of life that makes all the hard work worthwhile.We’ve found spots in Australia, Spain and the US – come and see for yourself.