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9 Differences That Make Finland a Happy Place to Be

Melissa walking in front of a Helsinki sign in Finland carrying a green bag she purchased at the design museum.

Finns don’t pursue happiness. Last summer, a Finnish woman named Meeri told me that the standard response to “How are you?” is “Nothing more than misery.” How, then, is Finland ranked the happiest country in the world for the seventh year straight

By design, determination, appreciation, low expectations, and common sense—that’s how. At least, that’s what I observed during our eight-day trip to Finland last summer. While there, Chris busied himself observing differences, like he does whenever we visit a new country. Each time, he tries to find 49 things that he’s never seen before.

Here are the lists he’s compiled so far:

From Chris’s list of 49 Strange Differences This American Noticed about Finland, I’ve selected nine that I believe contribute to the country’s general happiness. Most are small and might easily be taken for granted, but little things can make a big difference. 

Do These 9 Little Details Help Make Finland the Happiest Country in the World?

1. Lightening-Fast Credit Card Payments.

Credit card payments in Finland are a breeze, with transactions approved in less than a second. It’s like magic compared to the 10-second process in other countries. This might be the silliest thing that made the list. If you have multiple interactions in a day that involve two people looking at a machine and waiting for it to grant approval, you might agree with it making our list. Ten-plus seconds feels longer when these worries enter your mind: Has something fraudulent happened with my card? When was the last time I checked my balance? Will I have to ask this person if they have another form of payment? Are they using a stolen credit card? 

2. Organized Airport Luggage Retrieval at the Helsinki Airport.

There are lines surrounding the luggage carousel that say “Wait Here.” It keeps those waiting to see their luggage standing a reasonable distance from the carousel, so that everyone can see their luggage. It also keeps you from having to push your way through people to reach your luggage once you see it. It’s a calm, considerate, highly organized way to retrieve your luggage.

3. There are Grocery Stores in Finland’s Airports.

If you’ve just returned from two weeks of travel, chances are good that you need to purchase some fresh food and essentials. Instead of adding an errand to a long travel day, if you land in Finland, you can just pop into the grocery store and purchase what you need on your way out. If you’re vacationing in Finland and have booked an Airbnb or similar, you may want to take advantage of this convenience. 

4. Bathroom Towels with Loops.

Again, this seems incredibly minor, but the bathroom towels in the hotels we stayed in had little loops stitched onto them. You can hang each towel on a hook confident that it won’t slide off. I’m sure they exist elsewhere, but we’ve stayed a lot of places over the past few years. Our hotel rooms in Finland are the first place we’ve noticed them. The next set of towels I purchase will have those, so long as I can find them.

Kuru Resort Lakeside Villa with standalone tub, and sauna.
A sauna, a bathtub, and the gorgeous view from my cabin at Kuru Resort.

5. Heated Bathroom Floors are Everywhere in Finland.

Every hotel room we stayed in had a heated bathroom floor that kept our toes toasty. Even our train cabin bathroom on our overnight ride aboard Finland’s Santa Express train had a heated floor. I know they exist in the United States and that they’d be silly in certain climates, but in Finland they make so much sense. Who wants cold feet after getting out of a hot shower in the morning? 

6. Finnish Hotels Offer Co-Working Spaces with Fantastic Amenities.

Finnish hotels offer dedicated co-working spaces that offer more than tables, chairs, and space. There are lap desks available. They also have machines to place orders for food and beverages. You can have what you need brought to you so you can focus on getting your work done.

7. Split Duvets or Double Duvets on Beds.

Finland Lappeenranta Hotel Lähde Bed with double duvet or split duvet, and a cute Smeg fridge.
Notice the split down the middle of the bed?

Some call it the Scandinavian Sleep Method. All of our hotel beds in Finland (and Iceland) had two comforters on them—one for each person. I hog the covers. There’s no way for me not to hog the covers. Every night, in my sleep, I roll myself into a burrito. Always have. Probably always will. We will be looking for double duvets when we get back to having a place of our own. 

For those not in the know, Chris and I have been living the digital nomad life for about four years.  

8. Saunas are everywhere in Finland.

Most of our hotel rooms had a sauna. If there wasn’t one in the room, there was definitely a public one on the property available to use. Some offered both a room sauna and public saunas. If by some chance you’re in a place that doesn’t have one, chances are there’s a public sauna nearby to use. You can even sauna while on a raft rolling down the river. Saunas do a body and mind a lot of good. 

9. Noise pollution is kept to a minimum in Finland.

People use inside voices everywhere. It’s a quiet, keep-to-yourself kind of culture. I asked a nature guide if people ever listen to loud music or audiobooks while hiking trails. The first time I asked the question, she answered with a blank look. I explained that in the United States and Canada, I’ve noticed people listening to their music without using AirPods, Beats, or similar devices – completely oblivious or disinterested in the impact they’re having on those around them. Her expression shifted from blank to baffled. She chuckled as she said they did not. 

There’s a lot to love and to notice about Finland. After all, Chris observed 49 differences, and I took their Masterclass in Happiness.  The above are my nine favorites pulled from Chris’s list. Which are yours? 

Visiting Finland during the summertime? Don’t forget to pack this on your Nordic summer vacation

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