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- For the second year in a row, Finland ranked first in the World Happiness Rankings.
- The annual study ranks 156 countries based on their citizens’ happiness, according to their own evaluations.
- According to report co-editor John Helliwell, the contentment of Finland’s citizens more likely stems from their way of life rather than their DNA.
- The “Land of a Thousand Lakes” is known for its work-life balance, stellar education system, beautiful nature, and more.
- It’s no wonder that people in the Nordic country have the highest quality of life in the world.
For the second year in a row, Finland has been named the happiest nation in the world.
The Nordic country came first in the 2019 World Happiness Rankings, an annual study conducted by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network with the Ernesto Illy Foundation. The study evaluates and ranks 156 countries based on “how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be, according to their evaluations of their own lives.”
The study used quality-of-life markers such as income, freedom, trust, life expectancy, social support, and generosity to determine a country’s overall happiness.
With one of the world’s most impressive education systems, a modern stance on work-life balance, a symbiotic relationship with nature, and much more, Finland simply cannot be beat.
See what life is like in the happiest country in the world below.
For the second year in a row, Finland was ranked first in the 2019 World Happiness Rankings, an annual study produced by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network with the Ernesto Illy Foundation.
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According to report co-editor John Helliwell, happiness in the top-ranked countries is probably not attributable to genetics alone.
“It’s true that last year all Finns were happier than [the] rest of the countries’ residents, but their immigrants were also happiest immigrants in the world,” Helliwell told CNN. “It’s not about Finnish DNA. It’s the way life is lived in those countries.”
It’s the country’s second consecutive year at the top of the rankings, and it doesn’t take much research to see why.
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Between factors that affect quality of life such as social support, freedom, life expectancy, generosity, and others, Finland is among the best places in the world.
The Finnish education system is widely recognized as one of the best in the world.
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According to The Center on International Education Benchmarking (CIEB), which analyzes effectiveness amongst the world’s education systems, the key to Finland’s success in the field lies in its combination of “intense focus on teacher quality […] and [its] approach to accountability, curriculum, instruction, and school management.”
And the country’s capital city is a cultural and academic hub.
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Located on a peninsula in the Gulf of Finland, Helsinki’s Market Square is a popular place to shop for handmade souvenirs and try some of the local cuisine.
Much of the architecture in Helsinki is stunning.
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With its redbrick exterior, blue-capped roofs, and golden cupolas, Uspenski Cathedral in Helsinki is the largest Orthodox church in Western Europe. This beautiful building is a striking reminder of Russia’s historical influence on Helsinki and the country of Finland at large.
The country is filled with historical sites that date back hundreds of years.
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A quick ferry ride from downtown Helsinki will bring you to Suomenlinna, a massive seaside fortress first constructed in 1748. The landmark, which is spread across seven islands, has gone by a number of names and belonged to Sweden, Russia, and Finland throughout its long history. Now, the sea fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Its museums and art galleries are top-notch.
Though its beautiful location draws visitors from across the country and the world, Arktikum, a science center and museum in Rovaniemi, is the premier place to learn about the history and science behind the Arctic.
Helsinki is also known for its food scene.
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At the time of writing, the city is home to six Michelin-star restaurants.
When in Finland, there are plenty of local delicacies to enjoy.
Karjalanpiirakka are hand pastries originally from the eastern province of Karelia. They often come filled with potatoes, rice, or carrots, and can be eaten with egg butter on top, according to Visit Finland.
Finns often throw extravagant crayfish parties in the late summer and early fall.
Originally a Swedish custom, “kraftskiva” or crayfish parties help Finns take advantage of their short summers. The small, crustaceous treats are a not-so-cheap way to celebrate the warm season and the long days.
But visitors may not want to ask too many questions when trying poronkäristys, or reindeer meat.
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With ample amounts of B-12, omega-3, and omega-6, poronkäristys is a lean reindeer meat that many people in Finland pair with mashed potatoes and eat throughout the year.
The country embraces a relatively progressive conception of work-life balance.
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The country boasts the fourth-best work-life balance in all of Europe, according to a study by UK-based Totally Money, which specializes in credit eligibility and comparison.
Nature lovers flock to Nuuksio National Park, which is less than an hour outside of Helsinki.
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One of the country’s 40 national parks, Nuuksio National Park boasts natural scenery like lakes, forests, and rugged, rocky land.
The Finns are generally enthusiastic about the outdoors, and their active nature could in part explain their high life expectancy and generally healthy lifestyle.
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Between hiking, biking, kayaking, and skiing, Finns keep themselves busy and active outdoors all year round.
And even though its polar positioning means cold temperatures and short winter days, the Finns draw a lot of perks from their country’s northern location.
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Finland is one of the most famous destinations for viewing the Northern Lights.
There’s a SnowCastle built entirely out of snow and ice in the town of Kemi in Finland’s northernmost region of Lapland.
Wander the cold halls of this ice castle to stumble upon ice statues or enjoy a meal in the IceRestaurant365. There are even hotel rooms you can stay in that are completely constructed from snow and ice.
Finland is about as close as you can get to the North Pole, so the Finns have a village devoted to Santa Claus himself in Lapland.
Located in the Arctic Circle, Santa Claus Village is the year-round home of ole Saint Nick. Visitors can rub shoulders with Santa and his elves while exploring the Christmas Exhibition.
Visitors can hitch a sleigh ride from real-life reindeer.
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Lapland is known for its population of horned, hooved creatures. There are roughly as many reindeer in the region as there are people.
Ice swimming, which involves plunging into freezing-cold waters during the winter, has become something of a national pastime.
While people who live in fairer climates probably would not dare to dip their toes into icy waters during the winter, Finns have made the bold act into something of a national pastime. Helsinki-based journalist Katja Pantzar even went as far as to credit the practice for bolstering her overall happiness and well-being, per CNN.
They also love bathing in saunas, which may help explain their generally positive spirits and healthy lifespans.
According to Visit Finland, “many Finns think you can not grasp Finland or its culture without bathing in a sauna.” In addition to sauna’s soothing, calming effects, researchers have identified some potential health benefits stemming from the practice, according to Harvard Medical School, which reports that some people with asthma have experienced less wheezing, while people with the skin condition psoriasis are said to feel relief from itching.
While bathing, Finns often whip themselves with “vasta,” a bundle of fresh birch twigs, to smooth their skin. Sometimes, they even roast sausages on the sauna stove, according to Visit Finland.
After enduring dark and cold winters, Finns relish their long summer days.
Believe it or not, this photo was taken at midnight during one of Finland’s famously long summer days. For more than two months of the year, residents in the country’s northern regions can bask in sunlight for 24 hours per day.
Those warmer days are the perfect time to explore Finland’s relics, like Olavinlinna Castle.
Olavinlinna Castle was built into a rock outcrop in the middle of a lake in the southeastern town of Savolinna in 1475. The castle has been restored a number of times since then, but it still stands in the same location after withstanding the damage of multiple fires and centuries of wear.
Located roughly 280 miles southwest is Turku Castle, a fortress constructed in the 1280s.
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During the building’s nearly 750 years of extistence, Turku Castle has served as a defensive stronghold, a court, an administrative center, a prison, a storehouse, and a military encampment. Now, it’s visited by tourists and a place to learn about life in medieval times.
The islands that dot the country’s coastline are rife with beautiful lighthouses, like Bengtskär.
The tallest lighthouse of the Nordic countries, Bengtskär sits just off Finland’s west coast and can be reached by boat throughout the summer months.
Quaint towns filled with old, wooden homes like Old Porvoo provide charm to visitors and residents alike.
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Since more than 70% of Finland’s territory is covered in forests, locals historically lived in wooden homes. Although the country has modernized considerably, some of these old-style wooden villages, like Old Porvoo, a town northeast of Helsinki, are still set in their ways.
With all the country has to offer, it’s no wonder that its residents are considered to be among the happiest and most generous on the planet.
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“[People in Finland] do care about each other,” Helliwell told CNN. “That’s the kind of place people want to live.”
Finns are so generous, in fact, that they’re attempting to teach foreigners the secret to happiness this summer.
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Visit Finland is launching a “Rent a Finn” program this summer. Eight Finns have signed up to teach visitors the secret to being happy through showing them how the locals live.
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