Professor Danny Dorling: Finnish happiness is not so much about closing your eyes but opening your eyes

Professor Danny Dorling: Finnish happiness is not so much about closing your eyes but opening your eyes

Finland has ranked the happiest nation in the world three years in a row (World Happiness Report). What makes the scarcely populated northern country so successful? The Finnish Institute and Finnish Embassy in London brought together different perspectives to discuss Finland’s seeming success.

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The discussion was documented by illustrator Virpi Oinonen.

The webinar combined insights from the fields of research, art and journalism. The discussion included British perspectives from Danny Dorling, a professor of geography at the University of Oxford and the co-author of a book called “Finntopia” and photographers Paul Walsh and Rich Cutler from MAP6 collective. To challenge these views, journalist and London correspondent to Helsingin Sanomat Annamari Sipilä offered a Finnish perspective to the discussion. The Finnish Embassy’s Press Counsellor Heli Suominen moderated the discussion.

For professor Dorling , the question of Finnish happiness is all about the statistics, which clearly state that Finland is successful in many different areas. These facts also inspired the book Finntopia. “I didn’t write Finntopia because I’m a fan on Finland. I wrote it because I wanted to show that these things are possible, and we can learn from Finland”, Dorling said.

Photography collective MAP6 got to know Finland as a part of “The Happiness Project”. Walsh and Cutler examined Finnish happiness together with their colleagues through concepts of nature, space, trust, sauna and architecture. According to the photographers, the happiness of Finland can be seen just by visiting. “It is present in the everyday lives of people. You can’t escape it”.

Annamari Sipilä brought a contesting Finnish perspective to the discussion. According to her, Finnish harmony, equality and leniency also have their negative said effects, which should not be overlooked. “For example, when people strive for consensus, people don’t get used to critical voices. But we need criticism in order to learn” Sipilä said.

The audience of over a hundred people had the chance to ask the speakers questions. Many listeners wanted to know what are the factors that contribute to Finnish success.

Photographers Walsh and Cutler highlighted the importance of good governance and decisions that people truly agree with. Sipilä argued that trust is the basis of functioning society. Dorling noted that even though Finns tend to be very critical of themselves, Finnish success is not based on ignoring challenges.

“Happiness is not so much about closing your eyes, but opening your eyes.”

The webinar was a part of the Finnish Institute’s Present series. The discussions are documented by business illustrator Virpi Oinonen. Find out more information about the series and the full illustration of this discussion.