One of the factors that we used when we were choosing the best town as a base for our lifestyle overhaul was something I call the friendliness quotient. I find that mathematical names make things sound important but it really is not analytical at all instead it is a feeling you get about a place. How friendly are the people who live and work in this town? How happy are the people visiting this town. How happy do you feel when you walk down the streets, visit the family parks, or step into a store? Do people smile at you when you pass? Do they say hello? Do they notice something about you that makes them want to strike up a conversation? That sounds like a nice place to live doesn’t it? In many places, and yes these are usually large cities, people will be stoned faced, head down, and trying not to engage with anyone, which is what I tend to do when I am in one of these less friendly places.
I figure if people are happy to be somewhere then they will show off this happiness and I like to live and visit places where people want to be. Even in happy towns you will have a few places whit a lower friendliness quotient. When you go shopping for example there can be a huge variation in the friendliness quotient from store to store. When you enter a store how happy are people to be there? I do not mean the people that are paid to say hello to you but the customers who have a choice to be there or not. I walk into some of these ‘mega’ stores and I feel like I am entering some sort of anti-Disneyland (you know… the unhappiest place on … never mind). In other stores (yes they are normally smaller); some people will actually smile when they shop. The happiness quotient is very noticeable when shopping with our two-year-old twins as there are some stores where they just seem at ease and enjoy engaging with other customers and other stores where nothing will make them happy until we leave.
I think it goes without saying that people enjoy being around happiness and outward displays of friendliness yet there has been a real emphasis in our society to teach kids not to be friendly to people we do not know. Annika, who is almost five, is a very friendly child. She loves to talk to people walking their dog or people in the checkout isle of a store. We are now stuck in this dilemma and we are unsure how to proceed. We have had some comments from people we have met that told us we should teach Annika to be wary of strangers as she is just too friendly and who knows if she will approach or trust the wrong person. Of course as parents we are very aware of those types of dangers but it seems like a real shame to scare Annika from being a friendly child. It seems wrong to make her be less happy out in public. After all we took the effort to make sure that we chose a town with a very high friendliness quotient.