What makes Finland the happiest country in the world

They are humble and have minimalist living standard
Rauma, Finland. [Representational Image]
Rauma, Finland. [Representational Image]Flickr [Creative Commons]

Finland is known as the happiest country in the world. It has remained at serial number 1 in “ World Happiness Index Report” for six consecutive years from 2018 to 2023. World Happiness Index Report” is an annual publication initiative of “Sustainable Development Solutions Network”  that measures the happiness of all the major countries of the world by surveying general public about various indicators of happiness. It is released every year on March 20.  Now the question arises what is it that make Finland the happiest country in the world. What is there to learn from Finns so that we can also become happy.  Dr Frank Martela, a Finnish psychology expert, happiness researcher, world-renowned speaker and guest lecturer at Alto University explained this  in his  CNBC article entitled “ I'm a psychology expert in Finland, the No. 1 happiest country in the world—here are 3 things we never do!

Don’t show, don’t tell : Finns never boast about themselves; their success, wealth or blessings. They are humble and have minimalist living standard.  Wealthiest People opt for public transportation. Since boasting and bragging give an air of superiority and make others feel inferior and discontented, people deliberately avoid bragging. They live happily together without distinction of class and category. There’s a famous saying by a 19th century Finnish poet: “Kell’ onni on, se onnen kätkeköön.” Roughly translated, in English as : Don’t compare or brag about your happiness.  Finns really live by this ideology; they don’t run after brands, luxury cars and fancy bikes to show off their success. They focus more on  what makes them happy and less on looking successful.  They set their own standards, instead of comparing themselves to others.  In Islam also boasting, bragging and social comparison are condemned and considered to be the enemies of happiness.

Don’t overlook the benefits of nature:  According to a 2021 survey;  87% of Finns reported that nature is important to them because it provides them with peace of mind, energy and relaxation. In Finland, employees are provided four week summer vacation. Most of them spend their holidays in the countryside where they can immerse themselves in nature.  Research has proven that spending time in nature increases our vitality and well being; and provides a fertile ground for the creativity. According to Martela, we should add some greenery to our life, even if it’s just buying a few plants for our home or preparing kitchen garden.

Don’t break the community circle of trust: Finnish people are known for their trustworthiness and honesty. Research shows that the higher the levels of trust within a country, the happier its citizens are. “The Lost wallet experiment” tested the honesty of citizens by dropping 192 wallets in 16 cities around the world. In Helsinki, Finland  11 out of 12 wallets were returned to the owner; followed by 9 in Mumbai; thus confirming the notion of Finland as the country with honest people. Likewise a group of Finnish people  in a survey reported that If  we  forget our laptop in a library or lost our phone on the train, we are quite confident we’ll get it back. Kids also often take a public bus home from school and play outside without supervision. Thus they have the community of trust and honesty. Most of the people don’t breach trust. Besides these three things, there are so many underlying factors that could explain the secret behind Finnish happiness.  Some of them are discussed here:

Work – life Balance: Finland is known for its employee friendly work culture characterised by low hierarchy, respect for difference of opinions; soliciting feedback and suggestions from workers. Not only this Finland offers opportunities for ensuring healthy work-life balance; employees are provided four week summer holiday; free  maternity leave of 160 days that can be extended for paid leave of almost one year; in order to facilitate the fathering role; paternity leave of 56 days is granted to employees.  Finns have the right to adjust working hours also. They have the provision to start or finish their work upto three hours earlier or later so that they can  have healthy work- life balance and attend to their personal roles.  This enhances the job satisfaction, work efficiency and happiness of workers.

Low corruption: Finland is known as the country with least corruption. People values honesty and sincerity. Since Finns don’t brag or show off  and have the minimalist living standard, they don’t feel any pressure to earn more and more using illegal means.

 High social support: Finland is known for its well knitted culture of sharing and caring. People prioritise their relations and have cordial and affectionate work and personal relationships. They offer emotional, informational and tangible support to each other, which add to their happiness and well being. Every Finn has somebody to rely on during hard times. Freedom to make decisions:  Finland is known for autonomy supportive parenting. Finish parents respect the difference of opinion and give their children freedom to think and act for themselves. This positive parenting contributes to the self-esteem and life satisfaction of Finns.

Egalitarian marital relationships:  Finland has high gender equality and thus marital relationships are egalitarian. Couples value mutual understanding and share household and parenting responsibilities. Finland is the only country in the world with best fathering commitment. This egalitarian nature enhances the marital satisfaction and adds to the well being and happiness.

Free education:  Finland offers free education from pre primary to university education. There is no tuition fee; this reduces the psychological and financial burden on parents and everyone can receive education freely and happily.  Not only this Finnish education system emphasises life skills training.

Takeaway:  Finland is called the happiest country in the world not because of its scientific advancements or organisational productivity but because of its values. We need to realise how immensely important such small values are for our happiness.  By being respectful, affectionate, trustful and close to nature we can enhance our level of happiness. Other thing that’s there to learn is that happiness is not an individual choice but our social and political milieu needs to be reshaped too. Like in Finland job policies are such that ensure work – life balance; education system prepares students for real life challenges; parenting and marital relationships are autonomy supportive and growth oriented rather than coercive and dominating.  Society is close knitted with people trusting each other and providing safe environment to each other. 

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