Happy Trails in Switzerland

Published on 9th March, 2010 in Global Bloggers by Amy Jost

Happiness – what a nice topic to discuss in English class. You can’t help but feel better just thinking about it.

We began our lesson from Global’s unit 6 writing down 5 things that make us happy. No ranking was called for, no judgments would be made, we simply had to document things that bring smiles to our faces. I demonstrated the activity with one thing which makes me happy, even though some might wag a moral finger at it: tasty, cold beer. Given the green light to enjoy this exercise without repercussions, my students were now off and scribbling away.

Next we discussed common items on their lists. Every student had chosen going on holiday – for a week or more – as something which brightened their lives. Long weekends didn’t cut it. Time to see my travel agent!

Sunshine and/or good weather was also a hit. That morning we were blessed with sunshine pouring into our classroom. Was it a coincidence?

Four of the seven business men in class appreciated being alone and enjoying peace and quiet. Life in Switzerland is at times idyllic, but it is a densely populated small country we live in (at least by my American and many other European standards), and obviously solitude is a rare and valued commodity.

When asked what makes people happy in general, my class came up with some additional ideas: new love, pets, sleeping in, family, money, and good health being among them.

We finished with the sobering question of how you would rate yourself on a happiness scale from one to ten, one being the least happy. I’ve read that Switzerland is one of the happiest places in the world. According to the results of the class’s feedback, I’d have to agree.

Our only ‘10’ was from an Italian father of two young children. He had brought in chocolates that morning, so perhaps we caught him at a good moment. Most of the others said they were 8’s and 9’s on the scale.

I definitely wasn’t feeling like an ‘8’ or a ‘9’ that morning. Luckily I was saved by the last Swiss German student, who we had labeled a ‘party pooper’ earlier in the lesson, due to his realistic view of happiness. He admitted to being only a ‘7’ on the scale. He and I both confessed that we were in the midst of mid-life issues. I’m not sure what his entail, but mine are in part connected to raising a teenage son, who I love dearly, but who, like most teenagers, doesn’t always (outwardly) love his parents.

So, as our lesson was wrapping up and I assigned homework for the week, my first request was that they call their moms and tell them that they loved them. Getting such a call would’ve improved my happiness score drastically, so I was doing my part to spread a bit of joy through the world, or at least in Switzerland. You’re welcome, moms!


  • So sweet, but your view of Switzerland being densely populated seem kinda askew when reading this from London. You can walk around Zug at 10pm at night and not bump into anyone, or maybe a stray couple like, on a Wednesday night. Quiet definitely is subjective!

    Sophsters on 12 March, 2010
  • Point taken, Sophie! Hope this finds you well in crowded London. We miss you in Zug!

    Amy Jost on 12 March, 2010
  • love this Amy =). At the moment my scale rating varies from day to day. Your article cheers me up, it’s insightful and reminds me of how much I do have.

    Liam Klenk on 15 March, 2010
  • Thanks for stopping by, Liam. Keep your chin up!

    Amy Jost on 15 March, 2010
  • Fantastic end to that lesson Amy. I wonder if I could not put that in a book as the last exercise. E.g.

    3. When you finish the speaking exercise, take your phones and call your mothers. Tell them you love them.


    Lindsay Clandfield on 16 March, 2010
  • Thanks, Lindsay! We love your book!

    Amy Jost on 16 March, 2010