I recently came back from a holiday traveling around Vietnam and Cambodia. What struck me about the region more then anything else is how friendly, pleasant and happy the people there seem. Particularly in rural areas where people live very simple lives but on the whole seem content.
Ho Chi Minh City has a similar population to London but the Saigonese seem to behave very differently to my fellow Londoners. They walk much more slowly, they are calm and patient and it is considered culturally rude to lose your temper. People in London can often be rude, impatient, negative and selfish in public. Don’t get me wrong, I would not live anywhere else in the world but on many days I definitely feel a love hate relationship towards my city. Do the Saigonese know something we don’t?
As with many Global cities, London clearly attracts ambitious, career driven types with alpha personalities. People flock to London from all over the world hoping to realize their dreams. Just walk into any bar or restaurant in Dalston, Shorditch or Soho and you’ll find that many of the staff are ether stylists, photographers, designers, film makers or musicians. There are very few places in the world with such a high density of talent in one place. As so many individuals are competing for these creative occupations, often London can turn into a city of failed dreams rather than a city of success.
London is also a city of contradictions. It is the wealthiest place in the U.K. but it also has boroughs that have cripplingly high levels of poverty. It is very easy to be trapped in a mindset of always wanting more when you live in a place with such an extreme and obvious wealth gap. Being surrounded by acute wealth leaves us feeling like we will never have enough to be happy. What about focusing on what we actually have, and how fortunate most of us are to be living in one of the greatest cities in the world? A city which embraces a variety of world cultures, nurtures creativity and celebrates the freedom to be who you are without apology. In light of recent terrorist attacks it put such things in a little more in perspective.
Perhaps we can spend a little more time focusing on haves rather then have not’s. Gratitude takes only a little bit of effort. We can treat it as an exercise, one which you have to remind yourself to do every day. After a while and with the right level of dedication it has the potential to turn into a permanent way of thinking. So take a moment each day to reflect on all the things and the people to be grateful for and the positives in your life.
I started practicing this ritual a few years a go when I was going through some tough times and it worked wonders. Every night before I fall asleep I think about five things, which made me happy that day. They could be minor things such as ‘I had fantastic sushi for lunch’ or ‘I had a good chat with a friend, I am so happy I have such a good friend to talk to’. Now that I live with my fiancé we practice this ritual together and we have so much to be grateful for. By generating this sense of gratitude, the mind becomes more positive, healthier and altogether we become more pleasant to the people around us. Perhaps this is how the Vietnamese think without even being conscious of it. Who knows, excluding bank accounts, I’m sure in many ways they are ‘wealthier’ people than us.