Having an interest in a country and following a country’s progress from a remote location is one thing, but getting the chance to explore it from the ground is an experience that opens one to possibilities that one would have never imagined.
My first few days in Finland have essentially been of this nature. That Finland topped the list of the world’s happiest country is something that most of us know. In fact, it is possibly the starting point for many who have recently started admiring the country for what it is.
However, it’s only after speaking to the locals and Finnish experts did I learn about the factors that possibly played a part in the country securing the top rank. Most Finns are pretty modest when it comes to talking about their country being the happiest one. They take pride in the achievements of their country but with a healthy dose of scepticism. People in Finland are not afraid to question. In fact, posing critique and finding possible solutions to the weak spots is something that defines them.
Finland is a country that doesn’t shy away from looking within and inculcating lessons. It’s a country that gives immense importance to problem-solving and solution generation. If I were to describe Finland in one line, I’d say that it is a country that creates. From the basic income experiment that is currently underway on a pilot basis to the unique education system that provides free education at all levels to a political machinery that practices transparency both in theory and practice, Finland is a country that is not afraid to experiment.
“We Finns love to take risks.” This is what Johannes Kananen, senior lecturer at the University of Helsinki, told us while introducing us to Nordic social welfare system at the Think Centre in Helsinki. Kananen also shared information on the happiness index report and informed that this year’s report focused heavily on how migration affects happiness. Most notably, it was found that the happiness of immigrants in the country was a crucial contributor to the overall happiness of the country.
Finland, indeed, intends to make itself more inclusive of immigrants and others. Finland takes the role of reaching out to different communities seriously, something that came across as a message both directly and indirectly. It’s a country that seeks to welcome all. Be it its policy towards immigrants or efforts at improving gender-imbalance in the society.
Evaluating how Finland fares when it comes to accommodating diverse groups of people is something that cannot be gauged in a matter of a few days. That said, in the past few days, I have seen little instances that have warmed my heart and instilled me with a sense of optimism.