Subjective well-being (SWB) consists of life satisfaction, frequent positive emotions (e.g., happiness), and infrequent negative emotions (e.g., sadness). Studies now suggest that there may be both universals and cultural differences in the structure, correlates, and mean levels of SWB. The Chinese tamale is presented as a metaphor for conceptualizing cultural variation in SWB. This research is reviewed and possible mechanisms underlying these differences are explored. It is proposed that most cultural differences in SWB are not categorical but are instead differences in magnitude. Because of this, the nature and extent of similarities and differences in SWB may depend at least partly on theoretical perspective. Limitations of the Chinese tamale metaphor are also discussed.