The reason why Norway was ranked #1 in the World Happiness Report 🇳🇴
This is the first story I write about an experience I had. I will try to relate my 4 days stay in Oslo with the reasons that made Norway ranked 3rd in the World Happiness Report 2019, 2nd in 2018, and 1st in 2017.
In April 2019, I had the chance to visit Norway, a very cold yet very warm country. Its coldness comes from its weather being so close to the north pole, but its warmth comes from, believe it or not, its people. Yes, Nordic people who are somehow known for their brutality and toughness turned out to be very kind and welcoming.
We landed there in the Airport of Oslo-Gardermoen, some 40 minutes away from the city center by train. It was almost midnight on a very cold night. That kind of cold was very unusual to me, a boy coming from the cool southern Mediterranean weather. We had to carry our heavy luggage for 30 minutes across the empty streets of the city. Yet, it would’ve been harder for us if we didn’t get help from locals. They offered some very valuable pieces of guidance and advice for us to make it to the warmth of our hotel rooms. Some random guys showed us the way and even accompanied us until a taxi driver, seeing how lost we were, gave us a ride to the hotel FOR FREE.
That was our first night, the night in which I realized that this city is SAFE. Safe to the point that, at 1 am, girls were hanging out solo with nothing to fear. Something that wouldn’t be imaginable in most cities around the world.
During the next few days, people continued to impress me.
First, they all had some basic if not advanced level of English, from the eldest to the youngest of them. It was easy to communicate with people there, they were all capable of understanding your questions and providing you with the answers you need.
Second, they had no problem with sacrificing their time in order to offer help. They would go with you to other parts of the city in order for you to reach your destination. I still remember the old couple that almost canceled every plan they got on a sunny Sunday just to help us get the boat trip we were wishing to have.
It was 7°c, I was freezing to death. But people were enjoying the weather. They were in hoodies. Kids were happily playing and riding bikes under the April sun. Some people were even swimming in what they called beaches, beaches that had not a single grain of sand.
On our last day, we went on a guided tour. It was the day I managed to get the puzzle pieces together and see Norway clearly.
The tour was of course for free. The friendly guide, who was Swedish and not even Norwegian, was doing it voluntarily. And it was up to us to choose whether to give donations or not. This was the core principle that was followed by the government in Norway and that was successfully downscaled to the people. Or maybe it was the other way. Either way, “do not force people to do things they don’t want to do. Instead, show them why they should do it, and they will eventually do it.” If we had to pay to take that tour, we would’ve never taken it. Instead, we would’ve gone on our own free trip. But of course, it would never be the same, and we would’ve never gotten the same amount of knowledge. But since it was free, we went on it to realize how fortunate we were to do so and to finally voluntarily pay the donation.
There was a question that the guide asked us just after crossing the street: “did you notice that we crossed a red light? Have you ever seen people crossing the red light in Oslo?” I said “yes, I did! And I didn’t believe how people in such a developed country could do such uncivilized acts, and go without proper punishment.” At that moment, she smiled and said: “That’s how we live here in Norway”. Life in Norway was simple. If you want to cross the street and the signal was red yet there were no cars nearby, just cross it … it will hurt nobody.
If you don’t want to do the military service, which was mandatory for both genders, you just need to write them a letter or an email expressing why you don’t feel motivated to do it. “I’m not motivated is a sufficient argument” as she put it.
You are in need and can’t afford to buy a new coat, you can find free coats in front of a store with a note saying “if you have an extra one, leave it here. If you feel cold, take one” . To my surprise, the number of coats was increasing. Transportation wasn’t free. But we didn’t pay a single penny for it during our whole stay. It was so simple, if you have money to pay, you can pay with your credit card or phone (or whatever method except for cash of course since it’s a cashless city), if you don’t have the money needed, don’t pay and no one will force you to. To my surprise, people were paying. I didn’t see a single cop or control authorities during our whole stay in Oslo. Again, something that is so strange for someone who comes from .. well .. a third world county.
There is still a lot to say about Oslo, the green capital of Europe. Maybe I will cover that in more stories to come. But the lesson we get here is why do we find all the five Scandanavian countries ranked among the top 7 countries in the happiness index? Because people there are not forced to do anything. Yet, somehow they are mature enough to act “civilized” even though they are not forced to. It’s when people do the right thing although they are not forced to, everyone will be happy.
“Traveling — it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”
― Ibn Battuta, The Travels of Ibn Battutah