For reasons of fate, María Elvira Talero lived in Finland. Here are his impressions of the country considered the happiest in the world.
According to the Annual Happiness Report, published on March 20 on the occasion of the International Day of Happiness, Finland is the happiest country in the world for the third consecutive year.
The study was carried out in more than 150 countries, placing Denmark and Switzerland in the second and third places of happiness, respectively, and Colombia in the 44th ranking. The indices are obtained from the analysis of variables such as income level, aid social, generosity, life expectancy, perception of the level of corruption, and well-being of immigrants, among others.
But what is the secret for this Nordic country of five and a half million inhabitants, ravaged by long, dark, and inclement winters, to maintain its position as the happiest country in the world? This is where the close bond I maintain with that nation can shed some light.
From the beginning
A first factor that undoubtedly contributes to the degree of happiness in this country is that since the 30s the Finnish state has equally protected pregnant mothers and babies, through a series of measures ranging from prenatal care to the very famous box made of cardboard provided by the state, which acts as a crib, and which contains all the necessary implements for the baby’s first months.
My son was born at the Women’s Clinic in Helsinki, which allowed me to appreciate the austerity, equality, and high efficiency of the public health system. The delivery is attended by trained midwives and specialist doctors are available immediately, in an emergency. The rooms are shared and the food is arranged in the form of a buffet in the corridor, which the mothers, organized in a row, serve themselves. The bathrooms are communal and spotless.
Once at home, the Kela social security system provides the cardboard box with all the necessary and excellent quality implements free of charge: mattress, blankets, diapers, scissors, brushes, rompers made with fine cotton, towels, and other items necessary to care of the baby. In restaurants, parks, public places, and/or banks there is a culture of child care and care, for whom playful spaces are created, facilitating the work of parents. Maternity leave is four months and the father is given almost two months.
In February of this year, a law was launched that will govern from 2021 and that allows both parents to have the same days of paid work leave for seven months. By promoting the care of children by their own parents, it seeks to strengthen the bond between parents and children and encourages men to actively participate in the care of the baby. In fact, the Finnish father of my son taught me a lot about his upbringing, in that early stage.
Nature is sacred
The Finns’ rapport with nature is special. Its relationship with the birch, pine, and fir forests that cover 65 percent of its surface, and with its more than 180,000 lakes, borders on the sacred. For them, walking through its forests, picking berries, fishing, and, above all, spending a few days in their cabins, is comparable to being in paradise. This love of nature is equally perceived in ministers, conductors, businessmen, or the common Finn. The cabins are built near a lake and rustic, to the point that some make use of latrines in the forest. Most of them have a sauna, a word originally from Finnish, which is one of the most deeply rooted traditions in this country, where it is estimated that there are about three million of these baths.
And it is that taking a sauna, which may sound exotic in other countries, is part of Finnish hospitality. Thus, in the middle of a visit, your host may ask you: would you like to take a sauna?, Like someone offering a coffee. If you agree, they will provide you with towels and the birch bouquet to hit your body with to stimulate circulation, and they will not flinch when you rush out to dive into the lake, as they may well be cooking the famous Finnish sausage, which forms part of the ritual.
Education and more!
I confess that, at first, when I took my son to pre-kindergarten in Helsinki, my heart as a protective Latin mother was disturbed when I felt him slip out of my hand to run off to meet his friends. When she had to pick him up at the little house in the woods, where they baked cookies, learned to sew, or painted, he showed no interest in returning home. And it is no wonder that Finnish education, considered one of the best in the world, in addition to being free and universal, has teachers with very high levels of education.
The child is not forced to get up early, he is encouraged to play; there are no homework and creativity is a priority in the personalized teaching system which, by not grading with numbers, avoids competition between students. It is for a reason that Finland is also recognized for its love and understanding of reading and that the Oddi Central Library in Helsinki won the award for Public Library of the Year 2019.
If to this feature is added the security of living in Finland, one of the least corrupt countries in the world, a culture that translates into its streets where people can walk peacefully, without fear of being robbed, we could come to understand why, Again, Finland is the happiest country in the world.