What it’s really like living in the ‘world’s happiest country’

What it’s really like living in the ‘world’s happiest country’


It is the annual release of the UN World Happiness Report in Finland during mid-March. For the seventh year in a row, we are at the top of the rankings. Similar to how Manchester City or Real Madrid are dominant in soccer, Finland reigns in happiness.

I apologize if we seem unimpressed with this recognition. While compliments are appreciated, there are more important matters at hand. Our neighboring country Russia is making aggressive threats, and our government’s proposed budget cuts have resulted in widespread strikes. As well-educated and well-traveled individuals, Finns are well aware that spring has arrived in other parts of Europe, but here, we are still dealing with melting ice on our coastal and lake areas. We would much prefer if it all melted away overnight.

In the 1980s, I moved to Finland to work as an English teacher. At the time, Finland was relatively unknown and located between Sweden’s Volvo and Abba to the West and the Soviet Union to the East. Michael Palin’s Monty Python comedy show referred to Finland as “sadly neglected and often ignored” while joking about its non-existent “lofty mountains.”

The following nations are ranked as the most joyful on the planet as of 2024.

Not until the 1990s, when Nokia became a well-known brand worldwide, did Finland’s global image, also known as the “Finland image,” improve significantly. However, many people who were not from Finland still believed that Nokia was a Japanese company. When Finland joined the EU in 1995, it received a major boost, and its membership in Nato as a response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine was a powerful international statement.

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It used to be that Finns were commonly thought of as being quiet and pessimistic, as seen in the films of Aki and Mika Kaurismäki. However, this stereotype has changed to one of being cheerful and optimistic. This stereotype was always too general and typical of most stereotypes. During the Covid pandemic, it was expected that Finns, who are said to highly value their personal space, would easily adapt to social distancing. However, this is contradicted by the fact that Finns also enjoy being part of festivals and lively sports crowds, just like any other nation. With that said, Finland is a large country with plenty of space and natural beauty, making it easy for people to find solitude if they want it.

A vibrantly colorful Helsinki

We appreciate the positive coverage, but as Finns, we believe that the United Nations should be observing something more nuanced than just “happiness”, which is inherently temporary. Some may argue for the use of “contentment”, accepting that life can be fulfilling within realistic expectations, especially in a society where the wealth gap is narrower compared to other countries. Despite the challenging winters, Finland has its advantages. Being situated in the north means that the long summer days with extended daylight serve as compensation for the short, dark ones.

There are no seismic events or volcanic eruptions. If you lose your phone or wallet, there is a high probability of recovering them. While educational standards may have slightly decreased from their top rank globally, they remain satisfactory. Most healthcare services require payment, but it is reasonably priced and of good quality once you reach the front of the line. There is a general increase in knowledge and admiration for the environment. Public transportation is widespread and typically operates smoothly. Despite the expensive cost of alcohol, excessive consumption remains common, although it is not viewed as “cool” among the younger generation.


For seven years in a row, Finland has been declared the happiest nation on the planet.

The Finnish people are often described as having a stoic nature, expressing a willingness to face challenges head-on without complaint. This quality is referred to as “sisu,” and it can be seen in both everyday tasks like clearing snow off a car after a blizzard, as well as in more significant struggles, such as defending against Soviet invasion during World War II. Sisu is believed to come from Finland’s agricultural history and is still present despite the rapid growth and modernization of cities like Helsinki.

If you choose to only visit the lively and diverse seaside capital of Helsinki during a warm summer day, without exploring one of the smaller towns with their struggles of unemployment and opposition towards immigration, it may be easy to believe that this is the happiest place in the world. The newly elected president, the multilingual and media-friendly Alexander Stubb, was quick to declare that Finnish happiness is based on three main factors: nature, trust, and education. Many Finns have become more accustomed to international recognition and simply laugh or shrug at the praise. They are not easily impressed, but they will be content if they can maintain their eight consecutive years of being named the happiest country next year.

I had a restorative experience in the Finnish city known as the “sauna capital of the world” while recovering from burnout.

Source: independent.co.uk