Tag Archives: Finland

If You Don’t Mind, It Don’t Matter

26 May

Finland was once again voted as the happiest country on Earth… which probably comes as a surprise to the hard-drinking, sauna-loving Finns. However, the answer to their success is not one of quality of life, but rather perspective.

What the researchers have discovered is that the Finns are happy because their expectations aren’t that high. In their general opinion, if you have your basic needs are met, that’s everything, and you are happy. There’s a lot to be said about that. I’ve only met one Finnish family, and they grew up American, but generally I found them to be pretty happy. Certainly I’ve met plenty of Scandinavian descendants in the American Midwest and they seemed about as happy as people get.

If you had to take Educational Psychology (“ed psych”) in college, you’re familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The theory goes that if you don’t have your basic needs, then you’re not concerned about more philosophical issues. In other words, if you’re starving, you’re not asking yourself, “What is my purpose in life?” You only worry about finding friends and soulmates when you’re not worried about the death squads roaming the streets. So the needs build on each other.

So until you’re in a comfortable state, and all your needs are met, you can’t address the bigger issues. In fact, you’re more likely to dwell on the bigger issues when all you lesser needs are met. To give a weird example, W.E.B. Dubois pushed “colored people” to finish high school and college, because he was convinced that the more you know about the world, the more you’re unsatisfied with the world as is. In other words, “Education makes you unhappy.”

So how do the Finns achieve this higher level of happiness? First off, as I’ve talked about polls before, some of it is how the researchers phrased the questions. If you believe that if your “belly is full and your bladder empty” so you’re happy, then that’s gonna skew the results. Now maybe you think that sitting in your house, drinking vodka with your pants off, is not your idea of happiness, but the Finns have a word for that. (The word is kalsarikännit = pants drunk)

Idioms can tell you a lot about how a culture views the world. Take “joulutorttu,” the feeling of having one too many. It’s actually a Christmas pastry with jam in the middle, and you’re going to burn your mouth on the first one. But you do it anyway, because of the “kaamos,” the long period of darkness during the winter. Or because the Finns tend to be more isolated than most, “lavatanssit,” the joy of meeting someone.

Well, hey… “Suomi mainittu!” (Someone mentioned Finland!) If I’m going to sum it up, I would say that Finns have real problems of dealing with the cold and dark much more than most people, so when you’re dealing with how do I keep warm continually (a survival need), you’re more happy when you do. Of course, I’ve never been to Finland–do you have a better perspective? Let me know in the comments below! Then if you need to keep warm, check out one of my books. However, if you need $1.99 to buy vodka, go ahead and download one of my stories for free.

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