Why Finland Is the Happiest Country, From Someone Who Lived There

Estimated read time 3 min read

Finland has been dubbed the world’s happiest country for six consecutive years by the World Happiness Report.

But happiness in Finland doesn’t mean everyone is smiling from ear to ear or that there’s a carnival atmosphere on every street. The Nordic nation enjoys policy-based happiness from high-quality democracy and supportive public institutions.

While I lived in Finland for school from 2016 to 2019, it became very clear to me how much policies and the government had helped the country hold its happiness reign.

It’s hard to adequately capture just how much relief I experienced while living in Finland

For starters, people in Finland generally have a high sense of trust in their neighbors, and I felt that even as an international student.

I didn’t worry about whether strangers on the street had malicious intentions toward me, and I felt like I could express my political opinions (positive or negative) freely without the burden of self-censorship or backlash.

People also seemed to have a lot of trust in their local politicians, and I thought the election cycles were fair and pretty peaceful while I was there.

The best part of going to school in Finland was that it was free

Mahmudul Islam posing for a selfie in a park in finland

I loved my time living and going to school in Finland.

Mahmudul Islam

Because I started school in 2016, I was grandfathered into the country’s free education for domestic and international students. After a policy change in 2017, non-European Union students under certain circumstances may have to pay tuition fees, which vary depending on the school.

Not having to pay for school was a huge weight off my back, but I still had to find a way to pay my costs of living.

I was a bit worried about finding work when I arrived — especially since I wasn’t fluent in Finnish. But I got a job at a restaurant that gave me enough money to live on.

As a foreign student, I paid about 200 euros a year for a fairly comprehensive private health-insurance plan. But I also received free occupational healthcare through my employer, which ended up covering my doctor visits for joint pain, general sickness, ear-wax removal, and counseling sessions.

And I experienced all those financial benefits as an expat.

This overwhelming sense of security is at the heart of Finnish happiness

I think the key element behind Finnish happiness is its extensive welfare policy, which covers many basic necessities from “cradle to grave” and offers residents a heightened sense of security.

Because of this support from public institutions, Finns enjoy free healthcare and free education from elementary school through college, among other benefits.

Even working a service job, I had automatic deductions for pension and unemployment benefits from every paycheck that went to these publicly funded programs.

I think the lesson is that individuals should not be solely responsible for their happiness. The state and policymakers play a pivotal role in building a happy society.