Why is Finland a reference for happiness?

HELSINKI : For the fourth year in a row, Finland sits at the top of the World Happiness Report, a ranking of the world’s happiest people.

The Nordic country is ahead of Iceland, Denmark and Switzerland. By comparison France came in 21st place.

Searching for happiness? Perhaps it’s to be found in Finland. For the fourth year in a row, the Nordic country is ranked as the happiest country in the world.

That’s despite the fact that the climate is difficult, with temperatures plunging to -30 C, and the very short days where sunshine is rare. So what’s the Finnish secret?

A respectful social model

Élise left France during her studies in economics to spend a year away in Finland between 2017 and 2018.

For the fourth year in a row, Finland tops the World Happiness Report. — iStock pic via ETX Studio
For the fourth year in a row, Finland tops the World Happiness Report. — iStock pic via ETX Studio

The young woman, then 20 years old, discovered Helsinki, a city where she felt safe.

“Generally speaking, there is a great deal of respect, no one comes to bother you on the street, in nightclubs or other places. Women are much freer to dress and do whatever they want,” she explains before continuing.

“On one occasion, a person came over to talk to me and when I told him I wasn’t interested he apologised and left.”

As for Finns having a reputation of being not very outgoing, even solitary, the Frenchwoman notes that “they can seem somewhat cold at first, but once you get to know them a little you’re quickly made to feel part of the group,” she smiles. Student living is highly developed.

“There are entire buildings that are self-managed. The students do what they want and it doesn’t turn into a squat as you might expect. As a result, the students are very united, regardless of their major,” she says.

A strong attachment to nature

With forest covering 70 per cent of the territory, Finns are very close to nature. “In Helsinki, you are close to the beach and within a few metro stops you can get to large forests and natural parks,” explains the former University of Helsinki student.

Also the law has been adapted to allow everyone to walk through the forests and pick berries. This is the “right of everyone.”

The Finns are also respectful of the environment. “Barbecues are often organised on the beach. I have never seen a single piece of waste lying around afterwards, same thing in the forest. It’s a very clean city,” says the young woman.

So are straightforward interpersonal relations and proximity with nature the main reasons for satisfaction?

“People here trust the government, feel safe and are satisfied with their social security and the level of education.

“All of this contributes to this sense of well-being. And this should be one of the key indicators when making political decisions,” explained Frank Martela, philosopher and researcher at the University of Helsinki and specialist in happiness, on France Inter.

The title of happiest country in the world has made some of those directly concerned smile, as Tom Nuttall of The Economist related on Twitter in 2020: “Finnish minister enthusiastically introduced as representative of “world’s happiest nation”. Finnish minister: “If that’s true, I’d hate to see the other nations.”

ETX Studio

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