It’s March 18, 2022, in Helsinki, the capital of Finland. Many people around the city – alone or in groups in malls, parks, and bars – stare at phones or laptops. Anticipation dances in the air.
Then comes the news.
The 2022 UN-sponsored World Happiness Report is announced.
Finland has once again been named the World’s Happiest Country!
The report goes viral. Finland has been crowned the happiest country in the world for the fifth year in a row. Denmark, the second country on the list, lags far behind in total points.
Finns cheer, hug, raise toasts. But there are no fireworks, noisy parades, crowds in the streets. Reserved by nature, Finns don’t flaunt their happiness. They don’t draw attention to their good fortune.
Who has happiness, must hide it, says an old Finnish saying. Finns don’t want to make others feel bad if those people are unhappy. Finnish culture values modesty, humility, and consideration for others.
The Finns are happy despite their country’s harsh climate. It has long, dark winters with frigid temperatures. Lack of sunlight during winter is supposed to lead people to sadness and loneliness. Cold weather is supposed to make people tired and sluggish. Yet, none of those factors seem to affect Finnish happiness.
So, what is Finland’s secret?
Finland sleeps on a deep happiness well, powered mainly by a strong sense of community. Its strong democratic institutions guarantee freedom of speech and ensure that public money does not fall into the pockets of a few. Finland has a very high standard of living, with free healthcare and education and with very low rates of crime and corruption.
And Finns have a positive outlook on life. They participate in ice-skating, snowmobiling, skiing, dog mushing, and even floating among ice floes in winter, and jogging, swimming, and football (soccer) in summer, among many other sports.
Or maybe because Santa Claus and his reindeer, huskies, and elves make their home in Rovaniemi, a town up north, in Lapland.
Or maybe because they make habitual use of sauna and massage. It is not uncommon for people to take saunas several times a week. There’s a sauna in almost every Finnish home: over three million saunas, more than any other country in the world. The saunas are places not only to unwind but also to socialize and heal.
But times have not always been easy for the Finns. It’s not just the winter weather and darkness that should leave them saddened and listless. They have had a history of terrible hardship. A few hundred years ago, for example, a third of all Finns starved to death in a famine. Following that was a plague that killed huge numbers.
Then, in the 1800s, Russia twice conquered the Finns. A third of all Finnish males were murdered, enslaved and sent to be worked to death in Russian mines, or died from starvation. Another famine almost immediately followed; 15 percent of all Finns died.
The Russians attacked again – twice – during World War II. The Finns also had to fight the Germans. The Finns, though vastly outnumbered and outgunned, held out for months. In fact, Simo Häyhä, a Finnish farmer, usually known by his nickname, The White Death, became the most successful sniper in history. Eventually, Russia wore Finland down. Finland had to give up some land and pay the Soviets 5.5 billion dollars*, but the Finns retained their independence.
But that was then, and this is now. Finland is still an independent democracy. In 2015, it ranked first in World Human Capital – an index that measures employee knowledge, skills, good health, and education – its newspapers are among the best in the world, and from 2011 to 2016 it was ranked the most stable country on the planet.
Not bad for a country with a population of only 5.6 million!
—*in 2020 dollars
Finland Activity 1
The tests for verbs are:
They ________ . She _______.
Use them to see which of the following are verbs and which are not verbs.
Use the Control F function to find the words in the essay.
For each word, say the part of speech and the test you used.
Finland Activity 2
Singular verbs end in s. Plural verbs do not.
Determine which of the verbs in Iceland Activity 1 are singular and which are plural.
Finland Activity 3
The tests for nouns are:
The_________ The __________ named ________. (Fill in either blank.)
Use the tests to see which of the following are verbs and which are nouns.
- Apply the tests as the words are used in the essay.
- Do not name the part of speech for words that are not nouns or verbs.
For each word, say the test.
The_________ They _________.
The __________ named ________. (Fill in either blank.) She ___________.
Finland Activity 4
Use the tests to see which are nouns, which are verbs, and which are not nouns or verbs.
Do not identify parts of speech except for nouns and verbs.
Write and submit an essay on one of the following general subjects. Exactly what you write on is up to you. The essay must be suitable in content and vocabulary for the indicated grade level.
Excellent essays have a chance to be published on this website and be eligible for the contest’s cash prize. For further information see “Reading or submitting an essay” under Read Me First.
Teachers and parents can (and should) also participate. Use the instructions in Read Me First to guide your students through the process. Then, if you wish, submit a corresponding grammar exercise. For further instructions, see Read Me First – teacher or parent participation.
Teachers and Parents:
Want a chance to have your students’ writing published on this website – and possibly win an additional $500 for your classroom?
Have your students choose a subject from this list. Write an essay of 200-500 words. Follow the directions exactly. It is best if you do this activity as a class. Then, as teacher, add an exercise. Make sure you approach nouns as this website does and not as traditional grammar does.
You can make an exercise like the one here, or you can develop an exercise of your own. The more creative and effective your exercise is, the better your chance to win the prize.
Note: You do not have to do this part of the process. Your students can submit an essay without it.