5 Intriguing Things You Didn’t Know About Finland, the Happiest Country

finland and its people

Year after year, Finland tops the charts as the world’s happiest country. What makes the Finns so cheerful despite bitterly cold winters and stark landscapes? As an outsider visiting this Nordic nation, I was fascinated to peel back the layers and explore the quirks and customs underlying their satisfaction with life.

1. Speeding Tickets that Match Your Pay Grade

My Finnish friend, Mikko, nonchalantly mentions he got a speeding ticket recently. Then he reveals it was over $100,000! I’m stunned. In Finland, fines are based on your income – the more you earn, the steeper your penalty. For rich people, speeding tickets can be downright astronomical. This “day fine” system ensures fairness across all social classes.

2. Sauna Sessions for All

When I ask Mikko where I can find a sauna, he looks confused. “Everywhere!” he exclaims. Mikko’s apartment complex alone has three saunas for residents to use. Even government buildings come equipped with saunas. With over 3 million saunas for just 5 million people, unwinding in one is a beloved national pastime.

3. New Baby Starter Kits

Mikko’s sister just had a baby girl, and like all new moms in Finland, she received a “baby box” from the government stuffed with everything from clothes to bibs to diapers. The box itself doubles as a crib. Providing these kits allows all families, regardless of income, to get their babies off to a healthy start.

4. Obstacle Course Racing…With Wives

Mikko invites me to watch “wife-carrying” races where men tackle obstacle courses with their female partners on their backs. Originally with actual wives, the sport now allows any woman teammate – as long as she weighs at least 49 kg. If not, they strap on weights until she hits the minimum! I couldn’t believe this zany sport existed until I saw it myself.

5. Drinking in Your Undies

The Finnish language has the perfect word for drinking at home alone in your underwear – “kalsarik√§nnit.” Mikko admits he’s enjoyed some kalsarik√§nnit sessions after stressful work weeks. The Finns even have a word, “sisu,” for perseverance against all odds. These untranslatable terms offer a window into the Nordic soul.

By embracing the fiercely independent and quirky sides of life alongside their generous social welfare programs, the Finns have constructed a society where happiness can flourish regardless of circumstance. While their unusual traditions may raise eyebrows, they seem to serve the greater purpose of bringing joy.

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