What does Norwegian happiness look like?
Observations and reflections from an 8 day visit to Norway.
The KonMari Method™ teaches how to create a lifestyle that brings you joy. As a KonMari consultant, sharing and teaching the "choose joy" method is central to my life. And since joy and happiness are synonymous, I have always been intrigued by the World Happiness Report. In the recent 2018 Report, Norway ranked 2nd, whereas the United States ranked 18th.
We all know that data can easily be skewed, especially with a small sample size of 1,000 people annually. Regardless, the Scandinavian countries have secured the happiness title for so long that I wanted to experience it for myself. I was curious how their homes were designed and if I could visually observe Norwegian happiness. Would I notice a difference in their lifestyle, mannerisms and interactions?
Meik Wiking wrote The Little Book of Hygge, The Danish Way to Live Well, which shares ways to incorporate the tangibles into your home and life. Some examples include drinking hot beverages by a crackling fire, installing specialty lighting, burning candles and wearing cozy wool socks. I was also interested if this is something that Norwegians actually do and how it would look.
I spent 8 days in Norway to catch a glimpse as to why they are deemed some of the happiest people on the planet. I was excited about what I observed.
I stayed in four different Norwegian homes in and around Bergen, which is on the western side of the country. The accommodations were minimally furnished, simply decorated and incorporated natural elements. The homes also had radiant floor heating which made each place feel super cozy. Both the homes and restaurants had an abundant display of candles and some of the best ambient lighting I have every experienced. The hygge hype was real.
As for the happiness level of the Norwegian people, I was surprised to find that it was not overt. They didn't appear to be more happy than the average American. In general, they seemed friendly but not overly kind. In my mind, I was expecting to see a slightly subdued version of R.E.M.'s "happy shiny people holding hands." I envisioned at least enough obvious merriment to give the impression Norway was vibing high.
Reflecting back, I admit it was a bit unrealistic to think that the majority of Norwegians would visibly express the utmost happiness as they went about their daily routines. But am I the only one who bought into this messaging? The reports and media releases regarding this magical land of happiness programmed me to believe that Scandinavians were basking in joy all day, every day. Serious FOMO.
Instead of pure glee, I observed Norwegians to be calm, composed and content. There was an air of relaxed easiness about them. They were the complete opposite of anxious, hurried and restlessness. But they weren't moving so slow that you felt like you were on island time. In this context, it felt like they were happy, just not in the way I had imagined.
Contentment is also synonymous with happiness and joy, but that is not what comes to mind when I hear the word happiness. And I believe that contentment has a different outward appearance than happiness. Contentment aligns more with satisfaction and being grounded, for which the Norwegians seem to have an edge.
I am aware that my perception impacts what I choose to see. And that this is my individual interpretation during a very brief visit. However, it was a powerful reminder that happiness is very personal and doesn't always appear as you would imagine. And there is a wide range in how people choose to express their joy, happiness and/or contentment.
It was also a confirmation that as much as I enjoyed Norway, I wasn't missing out by not living in the ultimate land of happiness. I am thankful to learn from the Scandinavian countries and their way of life. And I'm also grateful to release the belief that because I live in a country ranked 18th, somehow I'm getting less of an opportunity to be fulfilled. It was just another beautiful reminder that the ego will always want something better and that it is important to stay focused on creating your own version of contentment right where you are.