At the beginning we should ask a question: what is a happiness? Does it depend on our personal attitude towards life or costantly changing external factors? Does a happiness mean a continuous access to the health care or the life personal fulfillment? Findind a life-lasting friendship or hearts on Instagram? A happiness, of course, is a relative issue, and it is impossible to be evaluated objectively. Although, there is a happiness which we can measure with the help of a ruler and square. We can put it on a scales and weigh. On such scales many countries of the world, including Iceland, were put.
Iceland is one of the happiest countries of the whole world (the country took the 4th place in the ranking of 2008, and 3th place in 2007). Iceland seems to be an isolated country, where queues in the shops are a rare thing, where the climate does not encourage to stay there longer, where there are not even trees or trains, and the Icelandic women are not the most beautiful. Then, what makes the relatively small country a happy country?
On Iceland the time flows slower than in other European countries. Let’s close our eyes and imagine: a small house in the middle of nowhere, and a flock of sheep is running around. We are standing on the porch, warming our hands up with a warm cup, from which we are drinking a hot beverage with big sips. There is a cold wind, but after a moment the sun comes up, and we, with peace, watch the ocean that emerges from the horizon. Of course it is not the only scenario of the Icelandic life since the days in the capital city run faster than in the more remote parts of the island, yet it cannot be compared to the other European capital cities. The Icelandic people do not hurry, they get everything easily. There is not this weary rush of life, unbearable noise, fumes and the constant pursuit of something, not knowing what.
Many of us, including me, complain about the weather in their own country. The same thing do the Icelandic people do, no wonder, but many of them commute to their workplaces on a bike or start their day from a jogging. And here I should add that on Iceland even 8°C and a little bit of sunshine is a dreamy weather. Sometimes it is nice to spend time on the fresh air which is very clear, and parents often leave their kids in the pushchair outside, while they gossip in the coffee house.
Would any of us imagine spending a day without a mobile phone, TV or the Internet? The Icelanders, of course, use and benefit by all these conveniences, but they devote their time also to the contact with nature. They read a lot, write, paint and create music, and isolation and a kind of loneliness is nothing new to them, however they are able to make a good use of it.
On the one hand – hermits, on the other – totally opposite. The inhabitats of Iceland love to spend time together; they visit gym together, organise a barbecue or participate in a various kind of games and meetings. It surges especially in the summer, when the period of white nights starts. It’s not hard to confuse 3am with 3pm, when the time for working off the tough winter could not have an end. What helps to go through the months of cold and darkness is the Icelandic diet rich in fish oil, vitamin D and omega-3 acids. The healthy diet and active way of life result in a high life expectancy of the inhabitants.
Trust constitutes one of the most important terms in the mentality of Icelanders and its indications can be observed at every turn. It is also mirrored in the figures and statistics because the murder rate here is the 3rd lowest in the world. Thefts do not take place here almost at all, and I have not seen even one police car on my way. What is more, children go to school on their own from a young age, and what is not on the parents’ mind is to worry if their bundle of joy will arrive at the place happily. Here everyone trusts everyone. It results from the fact that Iceland is a small country and one can say that the human relations here look like these in the smaller towns or in a countryside, that is everyone knows everyone. That is why particular persons are enumerated in order of first names, not the last names in a phone book. The Icelanders usually do not lock their cars and houses with the key since it is simply unnecessary. The general trust and social cooperation are promoted by the government. As everyone has probably heard, the unemployment rate in Iceland is small (it amounts to 5%), and even if someone loses their job, they will not be left alone with it. Every redundant worker can rely on the help and suport of their families, friends, the government and whole Icelandic community. And this is why Iceland, even if in crisis, seems to be a happy nation. I can bet that if my car broke in the middle of the street, someone for sure would stop to help.
It is worth mentioning that Iceland is a friendly to families. Both mothers and fathers receive a 9-month leave after the child’s birth, which amounts to 80% of a regular salary. In Iceland everyone, not depending on sex, background or religion, has the right to equal education that is free at the level of high schools and academic institutions. Small kids learn through play, and the teaching of older children goes on such values as tolerance, trust, cooperation and democracy. A lot of scientific programmes are introduced, and education of adults is not unusual since Icelanders go for the ‘learning through whole life’.
Iceland, like every country, is faced with difficulties and crisis, but in spite of this fact 73% of the inhabitants of the small island admitted that they feel satisfied with their lives, whereas only a half of residents of western Europe and 33% of Americans answered the same question affirmatively. Mybe we also, like Icelanders, should slown down a bit and take a breath in order to live in harmony with ourselves and the society we live in every day.