With the release of the annual World Happiness Report, it’s been confirmed that while we may think we’re a pretty cheery nation, the UK is actually a rather dreary number 19 in the global rankings – pegged to the post by a whole host of northern European countries – damn those happy Scandis! Here’s the top 10 happiest nations across the globe.
The Norwegians have done particularly well in this year’s poll, knocking the Danes off the revered top spot. Norway’s landscapes featuring craggy fringes of coastline that create dramatic fjords, and icy glacier lakes and mountains dotted with log cabins, and it’s the great outdoors that the Norwegians put their joyful outlook down to. The nation has adopted a high income tax which all goes into a nice big state pot. Everyone receives state-funded security and education, including a pretty sweet five week holiday with all the money from this pot, so they’ve got a lot to be happy about.
With its fresh country air and snow water lakes that cast pristine reflections of tumbling mountain landscapes, Canada is a haven for nature lovers and is a wilderness of deep blues, forest greens and icy silvers and whites. Canada’s inner cities are cosmopolitan and seriously cool, with restaurants breaking gastronomical moulds, (a streaming supply of poutine alone is enough to propel Canada to the top spot) and famously generous and warm inhabitants. Of course we can’t disregard the heartthrob that is Justin Trudeau. Now if you had him as your prime minister we’re sure you’d be beaming too.
After coming number one last year, Denmark is still ranked at a very respectable number two on the world happiness scale. Colourful inner-cities like Copenhagen and Aarhus are becoming all the more accessible to tourists who want a taste of the famous happy-go-lucky lifestyle. With canals lined with primary-coloured houses in that distinctly northern European style, Denmark is the idyllic setting for a ‘hygge’ lifestyle – the term the world went nuts about in 2016. The phrase essentially describes cosying up in front of a roaring fire with knitted socks and an endless supply of Danish cinnamon buns – we can get on board with that.
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Iceland is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates collide in an explosive way, resulting in a particularly active natural landscape complete with boulder lava fields, dominating ice-capped mountains, glaciers and feisty geysers, The sparsely populated, volcanic country of Iceland has the capital city of Reykjavik at its heart. With brilliant red, bright blue and buttery yellow rooftops adding popping colour to the otherwise silvery white landscape, the city is fun and vibrant with a great bar scene. Icelanders rank highly in terms of wealth, education and health, and with all that crystal clear air in their lungs, they’ve got a sunny outlook on life that doesn’t diminish even with those seemingly never-ending winters.
A nation of urban-chic cities contrasting with rolling Alpine hills, the Swiss have a lot to be happy about. All year round, the natives have the great Swiss outdoors at their disposal and the mountains become a playground for locals. In the winter months, ski resorts like Verbier and Zermatt come to life, while during the summer months you can take on the mountains by foot or explore its cycling paths. Switzerland is pretty developed, with a high level of wealth per adult. The country ranks highly for governance, civil liberties, quality of life, economy and human development – we also rank their chocolate highly too.
Ah Finland, the land of Christmastime – no this doesn’t mean the Finns are in a never-ending state of Christmas festivity, constantly drunk and kissing strangers under mistletoe. But it does mean the Finns have a real gregarious charm and are filled with the joys of life that our favourite winter holiday brings. Come winter, the pine forests are blanketed in thick snow and lit by the pearlescent hue of a winter sun – idyllic scenes for the ultimate Christmas card. In the Finnish summertime, the country embraces the short but oh so sweet season, with festivals, bustling bars and outdoor events. With all the saunas the Finns take, it’s no wonder they’re such a happy and relaxed nation.
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7. The Netherlands
Holland is known for its pretty Flemish buildings that line canals, those Dutch ornamental gables and their love of cycling. The Dutch do pretty well from tourism, with visitors from across the continent flooding to the capital Amsterdam, mounting a bike (far less elegantly than the locals) and maybe taking the odd break for a quick caramel-filled stroopwafel. Holland’s value of cafe culture is a big contribution to their happiness ranking, with natives valuing socialising as a staple part of community life. Hundreds of cafes are set up across the country, where friends can gather, contemplate and discuss political and philosophical ideas, or just chat about a new bike they’ve been eyeing up.
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8. New Zealand
Made up of the North and South Island, New Zealand’s geographical location in the southwestern Pacific Ocean has blessed the islands with otherworldly natural landscapes that are characterised by remote emerald lakes, volcanoes and sweeping green pastures. The population of New Zealand is actually relatively small given its size, and is made up of friendly Kiwis who are known for their conviviality, as well as the ethnic Maori population, with a harmonious coexistence between the two cultures. Sheep are known to make up more of the population than native New Zealanders, but rest assured they’re pretty content with life on the islands too, what with all that top notch grass they’ve got to gnaw on.
Sweden’s natural landscapes aren’t as famous as its Nordic neighbours, with the fjords of Norway and the snowy forests of Finland a lot to compete with. But its countryside is still beautifully dramatic in its own right, and Sweden has the joyous city of Stockholm as its vibrant capital. Stockholm is an exciting metropolis with a mix of modern urban chic architecture and Sweden’s Viking ruins. Swedes lead happy lives with a thriving economy and they put their happiness down to their love of travel and acceptance of other cultures.
It’s hardly surprising that the Australians are in the top 10, with all that vitamin D from the sun and seemingly perpetual blue skies making the Aussies so spirited. The country’s major cities are dotted around the coastline in between some incredible sun-drenched beaches, including the world-famous barrier reef. Australia’s centre is somewhat barren desert with iconic natural landmarks like Uluru rock pulling tourists from across the world. The Aussies constantly seem to be celebrating something with a classic barbecue, proving life really is a beach down under.