Local Culture Matters for Happiness, When Relocating for a Job


The happiness a person experiences may differ according to local values, says a UC-Berkeley researcher. Victoria Plaut and her colleagues studied the differences in attitudes between people living in Boston and San Francisco. Not surprisingly, their surveys showed people believe Boston to have cultural values described by words like ‘rigid’ or ‘traditional’. The word ‘freedom’ was  one of the main values for people living in San Francisco.

Next, the researchers examined public messages in both cities and found that in Boston the emphasis was more on community or groups. In San Francisco it was tied to individuality and innovation.

After their cultural research, they returned to surveys to gather information from 3,485 Boston and San Francisco residents. The focus of the surveys was family, finances, education, community and work. For people living in San Francisco, happiness was tied to work satisfaction. However, the Bostonians who were surveyed connected happiness to all five of the survey categories.

The same researchers conducted yet another survey – this time of public transportation riders in both cities and found a similar split. The Boston residents said they experienced happiness when their daily hassles related to family and work were reduced. The San Franciscans said happiness was tied to the number of uplifting moments they experienced during the day.

One way to consider how this research study may be useful on a personal level is to be very careful about moving to a new city for a job where the culture is unfamiliar. It also can be beneficial to try to learn as much about a new location or organization before accepting a job there, to make sure there is a good cultural fit.

Additionally, companies may want to think carefully about asking their employees to change cities and how to transition them for such a move. If there is not a good fit culturally it may cause unhappiness, eventually resulting in them leaving their jobs.

Image Credit: WolfmanSF, Wiki Commons