Opinion: America should learn from the list of the happiest countries

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Avery Wong

Happiness in countries around the world rely on the success of their schools.

For the fifth year in a row, the people of Finland have voted their country to be the happiest in the world, according to a 2022 poll report from CNN. Following closely after are Denmark, Iceland, and Switzerland.

While there are a few exceptions, the list boils down to mostly Nordic and Scandinavian countries. Seeing this pattern raises many questions about these nations and forces people to be critical of their own. One of the most obvious questions being: how in the world did America, ‘the land of the free,’ not even make the top 10? 

For centuries, the United States has been a symbol of a place of equal opportunity and diversity. Despite this, many American citizens would not classify this country as a particularly happy one. 

According to an article from Forbes, the Nordic countries thrive off of their tightly-knit communities and traditions, unlike in America, where discrimination is rampant. These Northern European countries also have relatively low crime, homelessness, and unemployment rates, which make America’s statistics flat out embarassing. 

Similarly to the U.S., Finland centers around a democratic government in favor of its people. There are three branches of government led by a Prime Minister. Here is where the differences start to arise. Their Prime Minister as of 2019 is Sanna Marin, a 37-year-old member of the Social Democratic Party of Finland. She’s a woman and she’s not on her near-death bed; two characteristics America has yet to adopt. 

In fact, Marin has her own opinions on comparing these two countries. In an interview with The Washington Post, she promotes the nations which, coincidentally, all made the list of the most voted happiest countries.

“I feel that the American Dream can be achieved best in the Nordic countries, where every child, no matter their background or the background of their families, can become anything,” Marin said. 

What she means is, the U.S. may have coined the term “American Dream,” but it seems to have made achieving this nearly impossible in comparison to Finland. 

However, to have a country filled with citizens willing to say that they generally live happy lives goes beyond the government. 

One of the most common reasons why Finnish citizens voted in the way that they did was due to their excellent education system. In Finland, teachers receive the same amount of respect, and salary, as that of doctors and lawyers. Finnish public schools are funded better than in America, and they really try to focus on a deeper connection between the teachers and students rather than just rushing them all through the system.

From this, it can be deduced that happiness in Nordic countries is promoted from a young age, which is crucial because it allows the kids to develop a mindset that many students in America may never have the opportunity to feel. 

The evidence does not stop there. According to an article from Forbes, the Nordic area was also voted to have some of the safest countries in the world. This is based on a variety of factors including healthcare and crime.

Happiest countries by Avery Wong

But if America has one thing that Finland does not, it’s diversity. According to a demographic survey from Statista, just around 1% of the Finnish population is of African descent. 

Michaela Moua is a Finnish citizen who helped put on an event to spread awareness about black culture in Finland. 

“You don’t see us in the Finnish society. We’re a visible but invisible minority,” Moua said during an interview with BBC News

This is absolutely not to argue that people should be segregated by racial groups in order for a country to be happy. Humans are social creatures by nature, and by being around different types of cultures they are more likely to develop empathy and respect for those around them. The point is that although many people may consider the Nordic countries to be the safest and happiest in the world, others could be victims of hate crimes and racism. 

That being said, if America adopts some of Finland’s admirable structures such as their education system or value of tradition, it may not be such an embarrassment to compare statistics with Finland.

As a general rule, it’s a good idea for Americans to remember that they are, in fact, not the center of the world and that there are countries out there that are providing for their citizens better.