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What life is like in the world's happiest country, from a 28-year-old who left the U.S. for Finland

Photo: Jade Ventoniemi

When I first visited Finland back in 2017, I was enchanted by the marshmallow-like trees, picturesque landscapes and lakes, and the season of midnight sun — but it wasn't just the country's natural beauty that impressed me.

Public spaces and homes were outfitted with a variety of recycling options. During my trip, I didn't witness any homelessness. Kids as young as six-years-old safely took public transportation on their own, and I saw many senior citizens navigate their walkers to the grocery store with ease.  

Finland's society seemed like it was built on a foundation of both independence and care, and that stayed with me. My now-husband is from Finland, and in 2019, when he had an opportunity to pursue his professional basketball career back home, I jumped at the chance to join him there.

Today, he is still playing basketball and I'm an entrepreneur. 

Photo: Jade Ventoniemi
"Here I am relaxing next to Lake Vesijärvi and soaking up the long-awaited Finnish summer sunshine."

At the beginning of 2024, after several years of working as a content marketing specialist, I launched my own marketing firm. My clients are Nordic companies in the tourism and retail industries. In my corporate job, my income was about $4,348 per month. Now that I'm working for myself, I made about $21,739 in the first quarter of the year.

I feel so fulfilled by my life in Finland. Here are the three biggest reasons why I love living here. 

Life is organized around being in nature

Being in nature is a daily or weekly lifestyle staple here, and many Finnish cities are located near well-marked outdoor spaces. It is very common, for example, to cut through and use forest trails if you are running errands by bike or on foot. One of my favorite places is the beautiful Tapanila forest, which is about 100 yards behind our home.

Then, if you walk 100 yards in front of our house, you arrive at beautiful Lake Vesijärvi. We boat on it in the summer and ice skate on it during the winter. My favorite coffee shop in the area is by another lake, Kahvila Kariranta, which I bike to most days. 

Finnish people don't let inclement weather affect their enjoyment of nature. Even in the deepest, darkest parts of winter, I've enjoyed walking, biking and skiing. I've even gone swimming in a hole in a frozen lake. It was incredibly refreshing.

Photo: Jade Ventoniemi
"Taking a minute to enjoy the greenery on Kelvenne Island. Kelvenne is a part of Päijänne National Park and is one of Finland's largest esker islands."

In the U.S., I would mostly avoid being outdoors. I lived in Florida and it was very hot and humid all the time, so I counted down the moments until I was in an air-conditioned car or store. I would also not go into a forest by myself back in the States. The prospect of that feels more dangerous than restful.

These daily doses of nature have improved my mental health. When I'm in the forest, my mind slows down and I breathe more deeply. It really does feel like a form of therapy.

People here tend to stay active well into old age

I've found that it is easy to maintain healthy habits here because there is a culture of lifelong fitness. For example, when I went cross-country skiing for the first time, I remember watching as a three-year-old went by with his mom, followed by a man who looked to be in his 70s.

Even though I was unsteady on my feet, I still felt so welcomed and encouraged during this experience. That has been the case whenever I have tried any new activity since moving here. 

Photo: Jade Ventoniemi
"Here I am on a Christmas ski vacation in Lapland. I was introduced to cross-country skiing when I moved to Finland five years ago, and now it is one my favorite hobbies."

Since Finnish people seem to just mind their own business, they don't really look at you with any kind of judgment if you're struggling to learn something new. There's nothing to be embarrassed about. There is a real sense of possibility that comes from seeing people try something outside their comfort zone, without fear.

In many cities, there are also organizations that arrange sporting clubs and lessons for people of all ages. I've done CrossFit, functional training in the forest and I also teach a weekly spin class. These activities have introduced me to some great friends.

Finns emphasize societal well-being

I've been struck by how much everyone seems to care about each other here. It seems like things are designed to make life easier and to help people thrive.

New parents have generous leave packages at work. Taking time off is required by law, and there is a significant culture of pay transparency. Every year, the Finnish government shares everyone's taxable income, and anyone can take a look.

Higher education is free for citizens or those with specific resident permits. Public transportation is functional and convenient — and parents with a stroller can even use buses or trains for free. Recycling is easy to understand and accessible. Public healthcare is affordable and often free of charge.

All this infrastructure makes me feel safe.

Photo: Jade Ventoniemi
"My in-laws and I went on an excursion to Oulunka National Park in Kuusamo, Finland. It was my first time hiking or river rafting, so it was a big adventure for me. That trip was packed with nerves and excitement."

Being from the Southern USA, one of the biggest things that surprised me when I got here was how quiet it was in malls and public spaces. I was also struck by the lack of socializing, smiles and small talk in public or with strangers. While that might seem chilly on the surface, I've found that when you get to know Finns, they are warm and genuine. 

Finland is the first place I lived after college and the first place my husband and I lived together. I think that being surrounded for the last five years by a society that values slow living, nature, self-sufficiency and staying active has shaped me in significant ways. Since I've moved here, I'm so proud of the person that I've become. 

Jade Ventoniemi is an American who has called Finland home for the last five years. She is a former NCAA basketball player, a content creator and the founder of a marketing firm called Bright Soul Oy. Jade lives in Lahti, Finland with her husband and their mini poodle. In her free time, she loves to be outdoors, and jumps at the chance to swim in a frozen lake or explore a local forest. You can follow her journey and life in Finland on Instagram or TikTok.

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U.S. Dollar figures converted from Euros on May 17, 2024.

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