20 Reasons for why Finland is the happiest country (again!)

Finland is the Happiest country, again! For the seventh year in a row, the country scored the highest and ranks top of the list. But what are the reasons for happiness in Finland?

Read all about the results of the report here!

In this article:

Some general thoughts on the reasons for happiness in Finland

How Finns define happiness

Whenever talking about this report to Finns, and about the question of what happiness means, many of the things mentioned kind of refer to a more outward understanding of happiness. Things like nature and a working society came up often, whereas, in other cultures/countries, the meaning of happiness seems to be more closely connected with things like community and belonging.

The meaning of happiness in Finnish

The sheer meaning of the word “onnellisuus” has a very strong meaning in Finland. Being happy in English is something that many perceive as something more casual, you can easily be happy about something, but being thoroughly, genuinely, deeply happy is a different status. The same actually in German (my native language): “glücklich sein” has a much more impactful meaning that how we often interpret it in English.

How local foreigners feel about Finland being the happiest country

There seem to be two camps here – those that wholeheartedly agree and feel proud about this result and those who experience a lot of frustration and disbelief. The latter camp ignites a whole different conversation, as to how integration and being a foreigner in Finland is related to the opportunity of experiencing true happiness in Finland.

Why do Finns have a hard time accepting that there is happiness here? Finns are naturally not really a nation that complains a lot, nor are they a folk that is really good at debating. But they are just as incapable at accepting a compliment, and the humble character that is deeply embedded in the Finnish culture also comes into play here. That being said, a lot of the things that lead Finland to the top of the list, are factually true and the top position is justified. And people tend to take many things for granted, if there are no serious worries in their lives. So most importantly…

Are we really talking about Happiness here?

If we look at the parameters that this study was conducted over, we quickly notice that a lot of them are in fact something that is measurable. But can you really quantify happiness? Debatable. The World Happiness report has received some criticism in regards to that, because what does happiness really mean and is that what is reflected in this study? According to many, this report should really be about “worrying least” or “contentedness”. Because happiness is way too subjective to put into numbers.

So what really made Finland top of the Happiness list?

1. Things just work.

Personally, this is one of the main things that make my life here easy and smooth, and that has contributed to a lot of misery in other places I lived in – stuff works. Busses come on time, the streets are cleared from snow and otherwise maintained well, my grocery orders arrive when it’s supposed to, my invoices get paid – lots of little things that make life worthwhile just WORK. For more on this, see #4.

2. Nature is all around us & the Everyman's Right

Nature is a big part of Finnish life, and even in the Capital city of Helsinki, we’re surrounded by the sea, National parks, islands and beautiful forests. Nature is free to use for anyone, if you want to go hike, pick berries or camp out – you can. Forest therapy is real, spending time in nature has proven to have a positive effect on our well-being, it reduces stress and anxiety and benefits our physical health as well. 

With nature easily accessible, it makes a big difference for everyone, and personally, I think it’s one of the main reasons for happiness in Finland. Even Finnish schools often incorporate outdoor education into their curriculum, allowing students to connect with nature and experience the benefits of outdoor learning.

3. Time, and respect for it

Time is valuable, your time is respected, and especially your free time. This also applies to punctuality and showing up. Regular working hours and weekends are respected, overtime and overworking aren’t praised or encouraged. The toxic hustle culture has no place in Finland, work-life balance is important.

4. Digitalisation in practice

Finland is a country that isn’t afraid to try new things and invest in pioneering technology. Digitalisation in Finland works and is a prime example of how successful implementation can benefit society as a whole, on an everyday basis.

Need to refill your prescription? Log in to the National health service with your bank ID, and a few clicks later you’re done. Some documents you have to order from city hall or your insurance? Takes a few minutes.

Things that in many countries can take literal weeks, is a few taps away. It’s efficient, secure and, to me, just proof of how it should be in this day and age. Oh, and there’s strong internet everywhere.

5. Transparency and trust

The support of the government is really present. While nobody claims things always go perfectly, there was little overall serious doubt in the strategy. A good example for trust in the state was during the pandemic and when the Russian war against Ukraine started. Of course, there is always criticism, but in the end, the outcome speak for itself. 

But also in other parts of life, you can trust what’s happening. Both in my professional and personal life, you can trust on something that’s been agreed, there is no doubt in a persons sincerity or trustworthiness – if you mess things up, you lose peoples trust. But you don’t have to fight for it to begin with – one of my main reasons for happiness in Finland.

6. It's a safe place to be

The part of safety goes a long way, when it comes to safe streets, low crime rates and a general feeling of being able to walk home alone at night without constant fear. Feeling safe is a basic human need and not surprisingly a reason for happiness in Finland. Again – not saying that nothing ever happens – but in the big picture this is absolutely relevant.

7. Finland still has real seasons

Now, this is to be disputed as a good or a bad thing, but from what I’ve heard and seen, a majority of people can appreciate the proper seasonal changes and conditions that go with it. We can both experience a beautiful, bright and clear winter with lots of snow and deep minus temperatures, watch the Northern lights dance; but also a hot and gorgeous summer with 30+ degrees, where we can swim in the lakes and stay up all night and take in the midnight light. Maybe a reason for happiness in Finland that not many really thought about.

8. A clean environment that is looked after

Finland, and even its cities, have some of the cleanest, safest air. The same goes for the water, actually! The tap water comes straight from the lakes and its both delicious and good for you. The streets and parks are clean and taken care of. I always say, that I feel like people in Finland grow up with a deeper understanding and appreciation of nature, because it is all so omnipresent here, and definitely a reason for happiness.

9. Finland is freedom

Finland is a country that is proud to take care of its people, and it reflects in peoples perception of freedom in many ways. The Finnish welfare state is a prime example of how people can really rely that things will be okay for you. 

There’s freedom here to try new things, to maybe also fail, you can love whomever you want and much more, including freedom of speech, press freedom, and personal freedoms, allowing everyone to live their life according to their values and beliefs.

10. Appreciation of the little things

My favourite point on the list. 

Finns have genuine appreciation for the small things in life, and the overall feeling of people living here is just being content. It’s not really in the nature of the Finnish people to complain a lot, and I guess this plays well into this ranking. 

We can enjoy simple things there, like a great cup of coffee, the smell of the forest in spring, the train coming on time, trustworthy and helpful neighbours, street maintenance in winter, clean beaches and silence.

11. Wellbeing and sauna culture

No other country has the sauna engrained in its culture as strongly as the Finns. Aside from the pure bathing aspect of it, the wellbeing side of sauna is essential. It’s about taking time for yourself, having a good conversation (yes, Finns talk in the sauna!) and embracing the health benefits of sauna. 

Additionally, it’s a neutral space that teaches Finns from a young age that everyone is different (bodies all look different) but also equal (we’re all just people). 

12. The spirit of Sisu

The Finnish concept of “sisu” embodies resilience, determination, and perseverance in the face of challenges, fostering your sense of inner strength and optimism. It’s about being realistic and managing your expectations, which defines the Finns really well. 

13. Minimal Bureaucracy

This relates a lot to the digitalisation part of things, but generally, the minimal bureaucracy makes everyone’s life so easy. Of course there is still some, but compared to other countries, the efforts needed here to get pretty much anything sorted are not worth mentioning. 

No matter if it’s insurance, healthcare or administration matters – you’re almost guaranteed to be able to do it quickly (and online). 

14. A sense of Belonging

Finally, Finland offers a strong sense of belonging and community, with a shared national identity and pride in Finnish culture and achievements, contributing to overall happiness and well-being.

 A common way to celebrate anything in Finland (such as the win of the ice-hockey work championship or a big hit at Eurovision) is to head to the market square (“torille!”). There is also a significant cultural connection to Finnish brands and wherever Finland is represented. 

15. Enjoy the silence

One of the best things of living in Finland is that people shut up unless you both agree otherwise. You can enjoy peace and quiet without the constant need to fill it with chatter. 

Silence is appreciated and important, both in the city and in nature. 

16. Unpretentious everyday

Finns are refreshingly relaxed and unpretentious – recently my favourite example was a visit to the opera. While some people were dressed up, just as many came to the evening in hiking boots and outdoor pants. It’s come as you are and it’s wonderful. 

17. A healthy bit of blunt Honesty

Finns are known for being minimal communicators and while it can be a bit intimidating for some at first, it’s something I really appreciate.

Straight-forward, no-fuss conversations without beating around the bush, might appear a bit blunt and harsh. But it’s direct, time-saving and efficient – and who isn’t happy about that. 

18. Innovative Social Policies

Finland is known for its innovative social policies, such as the basic income experiment, which aim to address societal challenges and improve well-being. They aren’t afraid to try out new things such as the four-hour-workweek, the Housing First initiative to combat homelessness, and much more.

19. They don't envy others

Finns have understood something quite essential: someone else’s happiness doesn’t take happiness away from you. It’s not a competition. One person’s success doesn’t diminish your own. In a world where there is constant envy and a lot of ungratefulness, the Finns attitude is often geared to the happiness of everyone and not just as an individual.

20. Being content is an acceptable goal

When we think of Happiness, big smiles and laughter come to mind, but it’s really about the absence of worry. It’s totally okay to be content and have nothing to complain about while enjoying the small things.