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The World’s Happiest Country Is All About Reading, Coffee, and Saunas

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With more than 3 million saunas and landscapes as pretty as this, it’s no wonder Finland is the happiest country in the world.

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With more than 3 million saunas and landscapes as pretty as this, it’s no wonder Finland is the happiest country in the world.

Finland topped the World Happiness Report for the second year in a row, followed closely by Denmark, Norway, and Iceland.

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From the feelings that travel gives you when you’re exploring the world to how you hold on to those memories back at home, happiness is something we think a lot about here at AFAR. In fact, we’re dedicating our September/October issue to the topic for the first time, so naturally we were curious to see which country came out on top in the latest World Happiness Report.

For the second year in a row, Finland took the number one spot in the annual survey released on Wednesday that ranks countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be. Nordic countries, including Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Sweden, dominate the rest of the top 10.

In fact, the only countries outside of Europe to make the top 10 this year are New Zealand and Canada. The United States fell one spot, coming in at 19 in the rankings this year, after the United Kingdom jumped from 19 to 15 since last year.

Drinking coffee might not make you happy, but sharing it with friends outdoors, as Finns do, could help.
World Happiness Report 2019
  1. Finland
  2. Denmark
  3. Norway
  4. Iceland
  5. Netherlands
  6. Switzerland
  7. Sweden
  8. New Zealand
  9. Canada
  10. Austria

What makes Finns (and Europeans in general) the happiest people in the world? The World Happiness Report bases its annual rankings of 156 countries using data from the main life evaluation question in the Gallup World Poll.

In it, respondents are asked to rate their current lives on a 0 to 10 scale with 10 being the best possible life for them and 0 being the worst possible life. The countries that made the top 10 this year ranged from Austria’s 7.246 up to 7.769 for Finland at the top. South Sudan had the lowest score at 2.853.

While these results are based entirely on self-perception, factors that the Happiness Report says contribute to making these life evaluations better in each country include a high GDP per capita, a strong social support system among friends and family, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, absence of corruption in government and the business world, and generosity when it comes to donating to charity.

For those considering a move abroad, these categories are something to take into mind while starting your life as an expat. But Finland’s friendly locals, thriving culture and coffee scenes, and unfettered access to nature all make it a great destination even if you have only a week to take off on vacation.

Northern Exposure: Dipping into Finland’s Sauna Fascination

Helsinki opened Oodi, a 185,677-square-foot public library, in the city center last December.
Arts and culture lovers will be thrilled to explore Helskinki’s newest museums. In the past year alone, Helskinki opened Amos Rex, a world-class contemporary art museum, and Oodi, an energy-efficient public library at the center of the city designed to be the nation’s “living room.”

If being outdoors makes you happiest, Finland has plenty of that, too. Like many other Nordic residents, Finns have a close relationship to nature and get outside even during the coldest months. For those looking to relax in a serious way, Finland also has more than 3 million saunas.

Finns are more than happy to show visitors their country. In fact, you can “rent” a Finn to be your own happiness guide this year. Nearly a dozen Finnish locals from Katja in Helsinki to Esko in Lapland have signed up to host visitors at their country homes this summer to share how their connection to nature contributes to their happiness. Space is limited and only a handful of guests can be accommodated. To apply, visit rentafinn.com.

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>> Next: Plan Your Trip With AFAR’s Guide to Finland

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