Picturesque landscapes, massive glaciers and hot springs make the Nordic island of Iceland a visual treat. On the other hand, cruel climatic conditions, remoteness, and icy winters with 19 hours of darkness a day make the country seem rather uninhabitable. Despite having to battle sub-zero temperatures, Vitamin-D deprivation and miserable dark days, the people of this region are known to be some of the most contented. No wonder Iceland is one among the happiest countries in the world.
But the happiness is not just the result of Iceland’s low unemployment rate, high income and positive-minded people. One might be surprised to know that community pools or sundlaug too contribute to the serene lives of the people. In a sparsely-populated setting like Iceland’s, these pools serve as social spaces that facilitate human interaction.
Not every country has a sundlaug, but they sure have other spaces where people come to socialise. Pubs, cafes, community centres, and hot water springs, among many other such spaces, serve as interactive hubs. Clearly, humans always look for ways to stay in contact with one another. After all, man is a social animal. This should explain our innate need for social bonding.
In his book Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, neuroscientist Matthew D Lieberman writes that our need to socialise is as fundamental as our need for food and water. Even studies in child psychology suggest infants are born with an innate motivation to seek contact with others. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs too seconds the idea and explains that the necessity to feel safe, to belong, to be loved and accepted are basic requirements for an individual.
Human resource consultant Noopur Varma too agrees that social bonding is integral to our existence. She says, “When a person is new to a city or a country, there is an automatic tendency to seek someone from their own ethnic groups. This gives them a sense of cultural or regional belonging and understanding.” However, social bonding runs deeper than familiarity. To a certain extent, it also depends on an individual’s likes, dislikes, ideologies and value systems, irrespective of origin or ethnicity, Noopur observes.