World’s Happiest Countries 2023

Who are the world’s top 10 happiest countries 2023?  Finland was voted the Happiest Country In The World.  For an extended list, check out this blog .  Finland seems to always seem to take the top spot, along with their fellow Nordic countries.  But how is happiness quantified?  

World Happiness Report

According to World Population Review, the world’s happiest country is determined by a particular following process. “Researchers analyzed comprehensive Gallup polling data from 149 countries for the past three years, specifically monitoring performance in six particular categories: gross domestic product per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make your own life choices, generosity of the general population, and perceptions of internal and external corruption levels.”

Top 10 World’s Happiest Countries 2023

  1. Finland
  2. Denmark
  3. Iceland
  4. Switzerland
  5. The Netherlands
  6. Luxembourg
  7. Sweden
  8. Norway
  9. Israel
  10. New Zealand

What makes these Nordic countries so happy?  It’s another form of pilgrimage we all seek: happiness.  What is it about the people or areas that keep high on the happiness charts?  In this blog, I will share lessons learned from a previous trip to Norway.

Nordic Happy Country

Years ago I chose to visit Norway in May, not the typical picture one imagines when you think of this region in the world.  I know part of the allure of the Nordic culture is higgle, that sense of coziness doing the cold months. In less than 24 hours, Oslo had captivated my heart.  I somehow landed on a surreal weekend, where the weather was 80 degrees, the sun was out, and people were joyous.  I had no plans, except what I observed from watching a Travel With Rick Steves Norway episode online.  As soon as I arrived at my hotel, I dropped my bags and tried to head straight to a Fjord cruise.  I was out of luck, as the tickets were sold out for the day, but I booked tickets for another day.

It was time to wander. I decided to meander towards this modern art museum: Astrup Fearnley Museet.  Each corner I turned, I observed locals and tourists embracing the sun.  They were eating in cafes outside, or sitting on built in benches looking out onto the water, grabbing ice cream cones, or bicycling around the city.  

I arrived at the museum before closing time. It was what was behind the museum that mesmerized me. I saw a makeshift beach, it was exactly what I was looking for.  Sun bathers stretched on towels after a careful dip into the pebbled cool waters that lined the city.  Children tempted their dogs to be splashed in the water as a form of cooling off. Dogs dried off their fur. Tourists took selfies, that served as proof they were in the water.  Stand up paddleboarders carefully passed by.

Dive Towards Happiness

Even further behind the museum was an impromptu diving board.  Teenagers showed off their cliff diving skills with somersaults into the sea.  Crowds gathered and watched as they overcame their fears and exuded their bravery.  As I observed all this, tears spontaneously came to my eyes. This is beauty and happiness.   What I was witnessing was why Norway was continually voted one of the world’s happiness countries.  There was a childlike nature to the city, which felt joyous and carefree.  What we were all participating in did not cost any money.  

For a brief moment, we were all happy.   We were present and embracing the sun, gathering by the water, surrounded by exterior art exhibits, and observing people show off their talents. I forgot how much I missed this, how much I missed summer.  It was nostalgia, in a land I have never been to.  It was this universal nostalgia that we all have, almost as Jung would say this universal unconscious we all briefly tapped into remembering. 

There were other brief observations I made while in Oslo that highlighted the beauty.  Norway is more ethnically diverse than I had imagined it to be.  I thought it would be full of tall blonde Caucasian Thor like Vikings.  What I found is that the culture is highly ethnically varied.  I spoke to a salesperson who physically shared the same Asian like features as me and seemed to have an American accent.  When I asked her where she was from, she said Norway.  It was shocking, she could have been me.  I shouldn’t be surprised that numerous people have been attempting to speak Norwegian to me.  I could be a local. 

Happiness and Art

Another beautiful aspect is that art is everywhere.  The city boasts an excessive amount of museums.  Yet, the art just doesn’t sit in four walled spaces.  It is everywhere in the city.  It’s also not just boring run of the mill art, it exudes sensuality, joy, suffering, and all the vicissitudes of life.  Catch out this provocative piece that lined that the exterior of city hall:

These pieces all tell a story, you can’t help but be curious about.  The city boasts the popular Scream painting by Edward Munch, but he wasn’t the only artist from here.  Gustav Vigeland spent his life’s work beautifying the city.  And it shows.  A park shares over 200 of his sculptures, which is free for the public to enjoy. How can you not love a city that embraces art throughout everywhere you turn?  I am biased to feel that when art is accessible to the people, there’s a pivot towards happiness. 

Art doesn’t just exist in the city, it exists on the people.  So many people have tattoos here, which I find quite beautiful.  Many of the tattoos aren’t tiny either, but massive on people’s backs, forearms, or legs.  They wear their artist armor with pride.  It shouldn’t be a surprise then since I have six myself, that people began to question my Norwegian residency. 

Love of Oslo

All of the restaurants and cafes were full of happy people. These individuals were reconnecting with their loved ones: close friends, family members, partners, and co-workers.  The extended daylight and gorgeous weather lifted everyone’s spirits. Or so I thought.   In 2017, Norway was crowned the happiest country in the world.  As noted above, Norway ranked number 8 in the top 10 world’s happiest countries 2023. Nordic countries to vacillate between the top spots.  It must be in the genes or water.

These are my observations with only venturing into a tiny slice of Oslo. I later took the fjord cruise, and further saw the beautiful landscapes of land and sea the country has to offer, and stepped foot into other aspects of the city. But I already fell in love with the beauty, and the juxtaposition of city, nature, art, pedestrian and bicycle friendly, ethnically diverse tattoo driven people. I believe we all have the capacity to live this way, we simply just need to remember. 

“Remember this, that very little is needed to make a happy life.” — Marcus Aurelius 

Check out a previous post on living life like a tourist .

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