A Culture of Complainers

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I can’t find the exact article, but I recently read in the paper that Dutch people were the happiest people in Europe because they complain a lot.

Apparently, when life is good, there’s a lot more time to focus on little things to complain about. Besides, by immediately dealing with these bursts of negativity, there’s more time to focus on positive things.

I’ll buy that. I know I feel better after I’ve had a bowl of coffee and exposed my complaining-self to my friends. I also know from experience that Dutch people are true complainers. And make no mistake about it, they are proud of it; embrace it.

I complain, therefore I am.

While the Dutch may be masters of the complain-game, they are not the only players. In my job, I’m confronted with complainers from Shanghai to San Francisco on a daily basis. Obviously, these issues must be  pretty important for them to take precious time out of their day to relay these seemingly minor irritations to me.

I felt better than these complainers – the kind of people who’ve listed having just two choices of wine as a major complaint. Tapping away at my computer, I’d feel all superior, silently telling this fools to get some perspective.

(I really don’t like that word – it sounds so pretentious. “Ha, you may have your precious chardonnay, but at least I have perspective!”)

And then, I realized that I’m exactly the same! A typical day is full of “ughs”. Ugh, the bus is late. Ugh, my nail polish is chipped. Ugh, the line at Starbucks is too long for me to get a morning coffee and now I’m going to have to drink tea at work because I don’t like machine coffee!

Honestly, if that’s the worst that can happen to me, then what is my problem?  Our comfortable lifestyles have spoiled us. We’ve come to expect that if we want something we should have it. Just because. And if not, we’ll complain about it, because we can. To make ourselves feel better.

But  when does complaining stop facilitating a positive, happy attitude and start to breed more negativity?

I think we’re dangerously close to crossing  that line. It’s so easy to slip into the negative, especially when so many bad things are happening. I think we’ve got to take a more proactive approach and consciously focus on the good. So now, when my bus is late, instead of grumbling, I watch the sunrise and admire how pretty the world looks in the morning calm.

You’ll never get me to drink machine coffee, though.

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