Travel News

I moved to Finland from the UK 40 years ago – here’s what life is like in the ‘world’s happiest country’

Simon Calder’s Travel

It’s that time of the year again in Finland. Mid-March is release date for the annual UN World Happiness Report and we’re top of the charts – for the seventh consecutive time. What Manchester City or Real Madrid are to football, Finland is to happiness.

Forgive us if we’re getting a bit blasé about this honour. Everyone likes a compliment but, frankly, there are more pressing issues. Our noisy Russian neighbour is rattling its sabres quite loudly and a wave of industrial action is responding to proposed austerity by our right-leaning government. Well-travelled, well-educated Finns are only too aware that spring is in full swing across Europe, but here the ice is still melting around our Baltic coasts and lakes. We would be happier if it all disappeared overnight.

When I first came to live in Finland as an English teacher in the 1980s, the country was a remote and unknown quantity, quietly tucked away between Sweden’s Volvo and Abba to the West and the Soviet behemoth to the East. Michael Palin’s musical Monty Python tribute described it as “sadly neglected and often ignored” while admiring its non-existent “lofty mountains”.

It wasn’t until Nokia was established as a ubiquitous global brand in the 1990s that Finland’s international profile – the Suomi kuva, or ‘Finland image’ – went up a few notches, and even then many non-Finns thought Nokia was a Japanese company. But joining the EU in 1995 gave it a big boost, and the monumental accession to Nato in response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine made a bold international statement.

Read more on Europe travel:

Many Finns are amused at how the previous stereotype of monosyllabic, gloomy reticence, echoed in the films of the Kaurismäki brothers Aki and Mika, has mutated to one of cheerful optimism. The stereotype was always an over-generalisation in any case, as stereotypes tend to be. Social distancing during the Covid pandemic was supposed to be easy for Finns, reputed to be especially protective of their ‘private space’. But that idea is contradicted by the fact that Finns love losing themselves in a festival or rowdy sports crowd as much as the next nation. Having said that, Finland is a big country with lots of space and plentiful natural beauty, so it’s relatively easy to be alone if you want to.

A delightfully colourful Helsinki


Click Here to Read the Full Original Article at The Independent Travel…