Hardly a Nordic utopia
We’re constantly told that Nordic countries are the happiest in the world, said Samuele Maccolini, but is that really true? Finland, for example, was recently lauded as “the best society on the planet,” after coming in tops in the United Nations World Happiness Report. It wins that honor through high marks in general satisfaction, trust, equality, respect for the environment, and education. But look closer—how do the people actually spend their days? Finns live in a monotonous landscape covered with conifers, particularly as, since the decline of cellphone giant Nokia, the economy has grown dependent on the paper industry. The climate is utterly unbearable: Summers are “infested with annoying insects”; winters are bitingly cold. Finns are obsessed with guns, with an ownership rate trailing only the U.S., Yemen, and Switzerland. They have one of the highest homicide rates in Western Europe, and their suicide rate is far above the world average. And while they certainly know how to party, they do it to excess, perhaps to escape empty lives: Alcohol abuse is a leading cause of death for Finnish men. With its orderly towns and cities, Finland does appear from a distance to be safe and calm, not to say boring. But this supposed “paradise on earth” is actually rather tarnished.