The Happiest Places in the World: The 2021 Edition

The Happiest Places in the World: The 2021 Edition
A community lunch in Helsinki, Finland, Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Even as India ranks 139 in a total of 149 countries ranked on the Happiness Index, we look at glimpses of what makes the top ten, the top ten

Prannay Pathak
March 20 , 2021
05 Min Read

It's the news of the week—Finland is the happiest country of the world. For the fourth straight time, no less. In a report sponsored by the UN and conducted by the data company Gallup, Finns were declared to be happiest people. As many as five Nordic countries made the top ten, corroborating the long-held notion about the umcompromisable values of happiness and social well-being associated with this part of the world.

In India, while some of us have already added the top ten to our travel bucket lists (it's a shocker if you didn't have them there already), others are concerned about our rank: India is depressingly, but not entirely surprisingly, placed at the 139th spot in a list that has 149 nations. The World Happiness Report considered criteria such as social support, personal freedom, corruption and crime—all of which counts on which India happens to have fallen far behind. If GDP fell by 23 percent in 2020 and unemployment plummeted to a sorry low, contentious farm and citizenship laws have shaken up morale like never before.  


Here's looking at the creme de la creme this year through a series of photographs. Our selections do not claim to mirror the said countries and cultures comprehensively, but show you a few facets of why they made the list.

1. Finland

Bright, sunny day and paddleboarding in Toolonlahti BayThat Finland took the top spot wasn't really a shocker; the country has always been known for its "measures of mutual trust" and overall sense of satisfaction and security. And who can forget the unofficial pastime-cum-sport: stand-up paddleboarding?

2. Denmark

Children get into the great outdoors at the Frederiksberg Gardens in CopenhagenJust 33 hours of work a week is enough to shut up and accept the fact that Denmark is indeed one of the finest places to live. But throw in a minimum wage amounting to $20, free university education and access to medical care. Denmark also generates the highest amount of wind power in the world. But great work-life balance is enough, really.

3. Switzerland

Swiss musicians play the alphorn during Gruyere's Cheese Festival
To most Indians, Switzerland is three things—Yash Chopra's movies, a prestigious title for every scenic place in our own country, and the home of banks hoarding the black money of our corrupt. However, among the factors that make the Swiss the happiest people in the world are a great bond with nature (nature conservation is central to the Swiss idea of life), mandatory enlistment, access to a healthy lifestyle, cheese and chocolate, and ... Roger Federer?

4. Iceland 

A jazz band plays in a Reykjavik streetSure, Iceland publishes the most books in the entire world. They even have a thing for it—jolabokaflod refers to Christmas book flood, a Yuletide tradition when book publication is an all-time high. It's not rare to come across music bands playing in the streets either. But it's really a shared assurance and high trust levels that have kept Icelanders happy for generations. And no, we are not forgetting harkl

5. The Netherlands

The Dutch love to cycle. Could that ever be stated enough?
It has to be said—which country in the world where the rich aren't afraid to or insecure about travelling via public transport, would be unhappy? 

6. Norway

Norwegian teens march on Constitution Day, in Trondheim
Well, Norway has the answer to Denmark's hygge. It's called koselig, and it means a sense of cosiness and feeling one with nature and in the company of others. A shared love for omfort food, lots of walks in nature, and a strong sense of democracy and diversity, and you've got a surefire cocktail for bliss. Can you disagree? 

7. Sweden

Skiing and the icy Swedish landscape
Forgive us for saying this but the whole of Scandinavia can be one big country, going by the kind of values they share and the overall feeling of common well-being and trust that they insist on fostering. Again, great work-life balance, free healthcare, lots of scenery, and all of the great things it is known for in the world, from its music, the Ice Hotel in the Lapland, and of course, IKEA and H&M.

8. Luxembourg

Luxembourgers sure like them wheels
They often say it's easy for Luxembourg to be happy, and we don't really disagree. It's roads are full of the swankiest wheels, it's cityscapes are among Europe's most gorgeous and it ranks real high on GDP. Luxembourg also produces exquisite wines. The country has three official languages, culinary influences from Germany and France, and the first-ever PM to marry a same-sex partner. 

9. New Zealand

A Maori couple dances in Tamaki, Auckland
After its superb handling of the pandemic, the only question is—why is New Zealand, the only non-European country in the top ten, not higher up? New Zealanders have always been known for their sense of social and personal resilience. PM Jacinda Ardern is one of the world's best-liked leaders, and the country is a shining example of the kind of diversity and acceptance the modern world must be pursuing.

10. Austria

People throng stalls at the Christmas market at Castle Hellbrunn
Again, Austria happens to be a country with one of the highest standards of living. They are known for their close relationship with nature and the great outdoors. The Austrian wine region yields some of the finest wines of the world—which is certainly a big factor. 

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