The World According to How Emotional Everyone Is


Ugh, El Salvador. Always on their period, right!?!? I can’t tell you the number of times El Salvador has woken me up in the middle of the night because they just watched an ASPCA commercial and need to come over and eat some Ben & Jerry’s. But then Russia—have you ever seen that dude upset? It’s like, bro, sometimes you just need to let it out and have a good cry. Come here. Snugz.

A new Gallup survey asked people in every country on earth a series of questions (such as “Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday?”) intended to determine how “emotional” they are—the Washington Post has a color-coded map so you can compare your emotional stability with your neighbors’. In this case, “emotional” refers to extreme positive and negative feelings—so it’s not just uncontrollable weeping, it’s also pee-pants laughing (the two aren’t differentiated in the survey, so you won’t be finding out which countries are the happiest or saddest).

First of all, this survey is difficult to write about in a non-awkward way. I spend so much of my time trying NOT to generalize about “what people are like” based on what they look like and where they come from—I basically have no idea how to speculate about this without uncomfortably undermining a couple of my core principles. But I SHALL TRY. For instance, I have learned that it is fun to anthropomorphize entire nations and pretend like they’re your bros (Bahrain! Let’s party!). Progress!

And second of all, the survey does offer some interesting, if not wholly surprising, insights into why we feel what we feel. So let’s take a look.

Now, in my experience, humans of earth are a bunch of sourpusses who occasionally acquire enough money to buy pleasantness, enough alcohol to trick themselves into feeling it, or enough perspective to somehow cultivate their own. Is that unfair? It’s not that I’m unhappy all the time, but life is hard, even when it’s relatively easy. Life is fun, but it’s a struggle. And if this map is any indication, emotional volatility is a bit of a luxury item.

Much of the map seems to correspond with gradients of economic prosperity. Europe gets more emotional as you move west; the Americas are described as “exuberant,” which I assume means PUMPED; most African and post-Soviet nations are uniformly stoic and grim. Again, this isn’t a survey of happiness or sadness, it’s emotionality. So, just to anthropomorphize again for a sec, Sudan and Russia aren’t your friends who are constantly moaning and creating drama—they’re the ones who don’t want to talk about it. Never a great sign. I imagine, for certain people in certain places, too much emotional vulnerability would be a hindrance to ever getting anything done.

But some significant exceptions indicate that cultural factors are at work as well.

Singapore, for instance, though a relatively prosperous nation, comes in dead last—the least emotional country on earth. And, according to the Post, they’re well aware of it:

Singapore is the least emotional country in the world. “Singaporeans recognize they have a problem,” Bloomberg Businessweek writes of the country’s “emotional deficit,” citing a culture in which schools “discourage students from thinking of themselves as individuals.” They also point to low work satisfaction, competitiveness, and the urban experience: “Staying emotionally neutral could be a way of coping with the stress of urban life in a place where 82 percent of the population lives in government-built housing.”

The Philippines, on the other hand, no stranger to poverty and strife, came in first by a landslide (for reasons left unexplored beyond “Catholicism”):

The Philippines is the world’s most emotional country. It’s not even close; the heavily Catholic, Southeast Asian nation, a former colony of Spain and the U.S., scores well above second-ranked El Salvador.

On the other hand, all the cultural tropes I’m familiar with—Britain’s “stiff upper lip,” Parisians just being generally OVER IT—don’t seem to apply. So, there obviously aren’t any concrete conclusions here about why we express our feelings the way we do. But as an occasionally overemotional basketcase, it’s nice to see emotionality portrayed in a neutral—if not a positive—light, for once. Oh, you’re SO EMOTIONAL…just like scenic Italy!!! Score.

Photo credit: nailiaschwarz / Stockfresh.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin