6 Reasons Why Norway is the Happiest Country
Less than 24 hours before I left on my two-week journey through Scandinavia, the annual World Happiness Report was released. Amid last-minute packing and excursion planning, I stopped to glance at the results. The coveted No. 1 spot was previously held by three-time winner Denmark — but in a three-spot jump — Norway managed to snag top billing in 2017. The study looked at six factors that foster happiness, ranging from health to generosity.
Who can argue? These are very solid, well-researched reasons that directly affect a person’s happiness and, in turn, that of an entire nation. Yet, while on my journey, I couldn’t help think about six “unofficial” reasons that could contribute to Norwegians being the happiest clams in the sea.
- Everything is spectacularly clean: Once you step foot in Oslo’s airport, you’ll know what I’m talking about. A “five-second rule” isn’t necessary here; the floors are actually clean enough to eat off of. The same goes for city streets and public transportation — everything is fascinatingly pristine.
- The Northern Lights are a casual thing: Seeing this natural phenomenon is commonplace for Norwegians living above the Arctic Circle, while tourists travel from around the globe to catch a fleeting glimpse of the Aurora Borealis. Dancing green lights across the midnight Arctic sky? Oh, that’s just another Tuesday night for them.
- Oh my fjord, it’s pretty: In summer, you can cruise through Norway’s breathtaking fjords; in winter, you can snowmobile on them. I had no idea that as we carved through soaring mountains on blindingly bright white powder, we were actually on a frozen lake.
- Polar Bears aren’t just in Coca-Cola commercials: Need I say more? Fine, a little more. While trekking to Svalbard, off the coast of Norway’s mainland, can be a bit pricey, it’s a place where these vulnerable bears roam free. With a bit of an easier commute, you can “mush” with strikingly swift huskies while dog sledding or watch humpback and orca whales breach the surface during winter months in Tromsø.
- The beer is perfectly cold: I think it may be the pristine Arctic water used in the brewing process, but the beer was equal parts crisp and frosty. It’s also pretty cool to say that the world’s northernmost brewery, Macks Ølbryggeri, is in your backyard.
- Iconic art is created here: Everyone knows “The Scream,” a world-renowned painting by Edvard Munch, but not many people may know he was born and raised in Norway. Or what about Henrik Ibsen, genius playwright of “A Doll’s House?” Yep, also Norwegian. These two icons have entire museums in Oslo dedicated to their work. (But seriously, there is no shortage of museums of any kind in Oslo – they range from displays of contemporary art to massive Viking ships.)