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Word of the Year: Under-happy

Posted on: December 19, 2014

The folks behind Oxford named “vape” the word of 2014.

If there was a word of the year in Singapore, it might be “under-happy“.

Only a place like Singapore would under-happy find acceptable and mockable [1] [2] use like “ponding” did the previous years.

“Under-happy” was used to describe Singaporeans because we were not quite happy nor were we very unhappy on a scale of happiness. According to the Today paper, the study and scale originated from the Singapore Human Resources Institute (SHRI). There was a hint of political correctness in the description perhaps for fear that being labelled unhappy might make some important people really unhappy.

Maybe we are not as happy as we could be. Policymakers can examine the methodology, data, and conclusions of the SHRI study and suggest happy measures. But we need not wait for others to provide conditions for happiness when we can create our own.

I made myself happy by leaving a safe and secure work environment in favour of an adventure to the consultant’s universe. In doing so, I have created learning opportunities I have not experienced since my days as a graduate student in the USA over a decade ago.

At the moment, I do not make as much money as I used to, but I am not struggling financially. I continue to provide for and support my family. We still get to travel [example] and I take opportunities to speak overseas [example].

I have rediscovered that I can live comfortably and happily just like my wife, son, and I did when we were in the USA on a small stipend. The amount I received was so small we were technically under the poverty line, but those were the happiest days of our lives.

Ask any parent what they want their kids to be when they grow up. Once you get past the “good grades”, “good jobs”, and “good people” answers, you will invariably get the “I want them to be happy” reply. But to get there, some parents make their kids absolutely miserable.

How miserable? I do not know of any Singaporean child who has vlogged about their unhappiness with schooling, so I rely on this brilliant Korean proxy.

Video source

I firmly believe that kids who discover their passions will find their own way regardless of what we do or do not do for them. I have met many young edupreneurial and entrepreneurial individuals in the last few months that bear testament to this.

I am learning from them. I put my money where my mouth is and I can smile because I am happy.

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2 Responses to "Word of the Year: Under-happy"

His video makes me shudder. My wife is Korean and this is exactly what my nephews and nieces have gone through/are going through. Especially hard on them as some of them lived with us in Australia for a few years and found out that there is another way.
It is so soul-destroying. Korean youth suicide rates are scandalous and yet the U.S. is looking to them for guidance on how to fix their own broken system.
Until we started homeschooling, our son put up with an identical system here in Taiwan for two years.
I 100% share your belief “that kids who discover their passions will find their own way regardless of what we do or do not do for them.” Unfortunately, I am not so sure that I share it after seeing the damage that these parents do ‘to’ them, rather than ‘for’ them, by forcing this life on their children until they break inside.
Once again you provide inspiration that there are educators out there fighting for the kids and believing in the kids.


Sad to hear that other Korean kids can relate. Glad to hear that you have the courage and capacity to home school. Perhaps together we make enough ripples in our own circles so that people see the new pattern. 🙂

Liked by 1 person

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