The pursuit of happiness is notoriously unpredictable.
Living in one of the happiest countries in the world makes it easier.
But exactly how do we evaluate how happy a country is?
For the last decade, the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network has been publishing its annual World Happiness Report. Researchers ask a sample of around 1000 people in each of 146 countries to rate their quality of life on a scale of 0 to 10.
Researchers then combine this survey data with existing data on GDP per capita, life expectancy, generosity, social support, trust and corruption, and perceived freedom to make life decisions.
The resulting data builds the overall happiness score for each country.
The 11 Happiest Countries In The World (And How To Live There in 2023)
When it comes to happiness, most people agree – a sense of belonging (healthy relationships), freedom, and control over one’s life are key factors.
That’s why it’s no surprise Finland consistently ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world.
In fact, Finland takes top position in the World Happiness Report 2023 – released in March 2023.
In Finland, people have a strong sense of community and belonging. They also enjoy a high degree of freedom and control over their lives. Plus, the Finnish government provides citizens with a social safety net that gives them a sense of security.
Finland also has a thriving economy and a high level of social mobility, which allows people to improve their lives without restriction.
What’s more, as an EU member country, Finnish citizens enjoy EU citizenship and full freedom of movement (to live, work, study, do business, or retire) across 30 countries.
All these factors contribute to Finland’s impressive ranking as the happiest country in the world. And, those happy Finns are even offering to fly people in for a free happiness masterclass.
How to live in Finland
Finland is an EU member state, so anyone with an EU passport can move freely to Finland whenever they want. Non-EU citizens will need a Finnish residency permit to live in Finland.
Close neighbor Denmark ranks just behind Finland, holding its second place on the World Happiness Report 2023.
Like Finland, Denmark consistently ranks high on measures of happiness – for a number of excellent reasons.
One important factor is Denmark’s strong social safety net (common to all Scandinavian countries). Danish citizens enjoy free healthcare and education, and the government provides generous subsidies for both childcare and parental leave. This security helps reduce stress and gives people a greater sense of stability.
What’s more, Denmark has a high level of social cohesion. There’s a strong sense of community, in which citizens trust one another and feel a shared responsibility for the common good.
Finally, Denmark has a strong culture of work-life balance. Danes enjoy a short 37 hour work week, plus ample opportunities to relax and pursue their hobbies. These factors all contribute to Denmark’s score as the second happiest country in the world.
How to live in Denmark
Denmark is an EU member state, so anyone with an EU passport can move there freely whenever they want. Non-EU citizens will need a Danish residency permit to live in Denmark.
Iceland is not only one of the happiest countries in the world, it’s also ranked as the safest country on the 2022 Global Peace Index.
It’s easy to see why life in Iceland is so happy. For starters, Iceland has a strong sense of community. Neighbors help each other out, and strangers are always willing to lend a helping hand.
There’s also a strong sense of togetherness in Iceland. Even during difficult times, the country comes together and supports each other. What’s more, Icelandic politics is progressive and most citizens are active participants in the democratic process.
Despite the cold weather, life in Iceland is never boring. The country has a thriving arts and culture scene, plus some of the most stunning natural scenery in the world. From snow-capped mountains to roaring waterfalls, there’s always something breathtaking to see.
And last but not least, Icelanders have a unique, dark sense of humor. Nothing is off-limits for a joke, and they really know how to enjoy life.
How to live in Iceland
Although it’s not an EU member state, Iceland is part of the European Economic Area (EEA). So if you hold a passport from any EU country, plus Switzerland, Liechtenstein or Norway, you can move to Iceland freely whenever you want.
Non-EU/EEA/non-Swiss citizens are subject to different rules, including visas and residency permits.
Switzerland is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, its excellent quality of life, and its high level of safety.
One of the key factors contributing to Switzerland’s happiness is its strong sense of community. In the ‘Security 2021’ survey, Swiss citizens reported high levels of trust in both institutions and fellow citizens.
This sense of community and trust is evident in the way that Swiss neighbors look out for one another. It also manifests in the many successful cooperative businesses in Switzerland, which workers own and run themselves.
Another important factor in Switzerland’s happiness is its commitment to environmental sustainability. Switzerland has some of the most stringent environmental regulations in the world, and is constantly working to find new ways to reduce its impact on the planet.
From electric car charging stations to recycling programs, Switzerland leads the way in sustainable development.
Finally, much of Switzerland’s happiness can be attributed to its stability and prosperity. The country has a strong economy and a well-functioning government providing high-quality services to the citizens.
How to live in Switzerland
Switzerland is unique in Europe because it’s not a member of either the EU or the EEA, but Swiss citizens still enjoy freedom of movement throughout Europe. Also, EU/EEA citizens can move freely to Switzerland.
Non-EU citizens are subject to different rules to live in Switzerland, including visas and residency permits. Swiss citizenship is one of the best, but most difficult citizenships in the world to get as a foreigner.
#5. The Netherlands
The Netherlands is one of the happiest countries in the world, coming in at number five on the World Happiness Report 2023.
Several factors contribute to the happiness of the Dutch people. For one, the Netherlands has a strong social safety net, which helps to provide basic needs like healthcare and education.
Dutch society offers a high level of personal freedom, with residents free to live their lives as they please. The typical Dutch mindset involves taking a pragmatic approach to life, preferring to overlook trivial problems. It’s also an extremely efficient society.
What’s more, the Netherlands has a diverse culture, with people from all over the world living and working there. This diversity creates a rich tapestry of traditions and customs that add to the tolerant Dutch way of life.
The Netherlands is well-known for its natural beauty, with its canals, windmills, and tulip fields providing a picturesque backdrop to everyday life – despite the frequent cloudy skies and rain!
How to live in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is an EU member state, so anyone with an EU passport can move and live there whenever they want. Non-EU citizens will need a residency permit to live in the Netherlands.
For US citizens, the Netherlands offers a special residency pathway through the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty (DAFT).
Luxembourg is a small country nestled between France, Germany, and Belgium.
Though often overshadowed by larger neighbors, Luxembourg is consistently ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world. In fact, it was recently named the sixth happiest country on the World Happiness Report 2023.
So what makes Luxembourg such a happy place?
One reason for Luxembourg’s happiness is its strong economy. The country has a thriving financial sector and is home to many large international companies. This provides residents with plenty of opportunities for well-paying jobs.
Luxembourg has an extremely high standard of living, with excellent healthcare and education systems, plus strong work-life balance.
Luxembourg is also a safe and welcoming country. It has a low crime rate and is known for its tolerant attitude towards immigrants and minorities. This makes it a great place to live for people from all backgrounds.
How to live in Luxembourg
Luxembourg is an EU member state, so anyone with an EU passport can move and live there whenever they want.
Non-EU citizens will need a residency permit to live in Luxembourg. If your goal is EU citizenship, Luxembourg offers one of the fastest naturalization pathways in Europe – just five years of residency.
Scandinavia dominates the list of world’s happiest countries, and Sweden is no exception. It ranks in seventh place on the 2023 World Happiness Report, lagging a few places behind leaders Finland and Denmark.
Sweden enjoys a high level of economic prosperity, with a strong welfare state that provides generous social benefits for its citizens. It also ranks highly in terms of personal freedom and environmental sustainability.
But perhaps the biggest reason for Sweden’s happiness is its strong sense of community. Swedish culture is built around the concept of lagom, translated as “just the right amount.”
The philosophy of lagom values moderation and balance in all things, from work-life balance to environmental stewardship. As a result, Swedes enjoy a high quality of life without much of the stress and overconsumption that plague many other nations.
How to live in Sweden
Sweden is an EU member state, so anyone with an EU passport can move and live there whenever they want. Non-EU citizens will need a residency permit to live in Sweden.
Norway is frequently lauded as one of the happiest countries in the world, even though it can’t quite compete with fellow Scandinavian neighbors Finland, Denmark, or Sweden (at least not in terms of the World Happiness Report rankings!)
Nevertheless, the differences are negligible. Just like its neighboring nations, Norway has a strong sense of community, with its citizens highly engaged in the democratic process – which is one of the world’s most robust.
What’s more, Norwegian politics are progressive, despite the country’s pervasive sense of nationalism.
Norway boasts a high level of gender equality, respect for civil liberties, and a generous welfare state that provides universal health care and free education. Norwegians also enjoy a high standard of living, with access to clean water, fresh air, and plenty of green space.
Some of the world’s most stunning scenery is found in Norway, from the snow-capped peaks of the fjords to the pristine beaches of the Lofoten Islands. Combine all that with an active outdoor lifestyle including plenty of fresh air and exercise – and it’s easy to see why Norway is such a happy place.
How to live in Norway
Although it’s not an EU member state, Norway is part of the European Economic Area (EEA). So if you hold a passport from any EU country, plus Liechtenstein or Iceland, you can move to Norway freely whenever you want.
Non-EU citizens are subject to different rules, including visas and residency permits.
Israel may be a small country, but it packs a lot of happiness into its borders. In fact, Israel is currently ranked number nine on the World Happiness Report.
So why is Israel such a happy place? For one thing, Israelis enjoy a high level of personal freedom, while there’s also a strong emphasis on family values. Israelis are extremely supportive of their families.
Another reason for Israel’s happiness is its thriving economy, with plenty of opportunities for growth. Israelis enjoy a high standard of living, including access to quality healthcare and education.
Israel also has a rich history and culture, immersed in natural beauty, with beaches, mountains, and deserts all within easy reach.
But perhaps the most important factor in Israeli happiness is the strong sense of community. Israelis are known for their warmth and hospitality, and they take pride in their rich cultural heritage.
How to live in Israel
If you’re Jewish (either by heritage or official conversion), you can live in Israel using a process called Aliyah. For non-Jews, you can live long-term in Israel with either a work visa or a study visa. Both require proof of sponsorship either from an Israeli employer or an educational institution.
#10. New Zealand
New Zealand attracted a lot of international attention during the pandemic, thanks to the unique policies of its prime minister Jacinda Ardern.
Thanks to Ardern’s approach, New Zealand experienced one of the lowest rates of Covid-related deaths in the world. If that’s not a great reason for happiness, we don’t know what is!
The Ardern government also introduced a Wellbeing Budget back in 2019, which allocated funds to initiatives to support mental health, tackle child poverty, and support indigenous communities such as the Māori.
New Zealand is also world-renowned for its natural beauty. With towering mountains, pristine beaches, and lush green forests, New Zealand is truly a place of wonder.
But there’s more to the country than just its physical beauty. New Zealanders are also known for their warm hospitality and friendly nature. Whether you’re hiking in the wilderness or enjoying a meal in a restaurant, you’re sure to be treated with a smile. Plus, Kiwis are quick to help out their neighbors. It’s no wonder so many people find happiness in New Zealand.
How to live in New Zealand
New Zealand has stringent and competitive immigration requirements. If you don’t already have family there, you’ll need either a job offer, a university place, or the ability to invest or open a business. For more information, check out the NZ government website.
Austria is a beautiful country with a rich history and culture, known for its stunning scenery – ranging from the majestic Alps to the picturesque Danube River.
But Austria is also known for its high level of happiness. In fact, Austria ranks 11th on the World Happiness Report 2023, ahead of the United States, Canada, and the UK.
This is for several reasons. First, Austrians enjoy an extremely good standard of living, with access to quality healthcare and education. They also have a strong social safety net, with generous benefits for families, retirees, and the unemployed.
Austria has a highly developed infrastructure, with well-maintained roads and reliable public transportation.
What’s more, Austrians place great value on work-life balance. They enjoy leisure time with family and friends, and they aren’t afraid to take time off.
Austrians have a strong sense of community and high levels of civic participation. People are generally supportive of each other and work together to resolve conflicts. This is a major factor in promoting a sense of wellbeing in daily life.
How to live in Austria
Austria is an EU member state, so anyone with an EU passport can move there freely whenever they want. Non-EU citizens will need an Austrian residency permit to live in Austria.
FAQs: The Happiest Countries in the World
What is the happiest place on Earth?
The happiest place on Earth is Finland, which ranked top in the World Happiness Report 2022.
What country has the lowest rate of happiness?
Afghanistan has the lowest rate of happiness in the world, ranking in last place out of 146 countries surveyed in the World Happiness Report 2022.
Are people happy in UK?
People in the UK are fairly happy overall, at least according to the 2022 World Happiness Report, in which the UK ranked 17th out of 146 countries.
Why is Sweden so happy?
Sweden is so happy because its citizens enjoy high levels of social support, high GDP per capita, a strong sense of community, healthy life expectancy, low corruption levels, and the freedom to make their own life choices.
Happiness can sometimes be elusive, but these countries are on the right track.
Europe (and especially Scandinavia) absolutely dominates this list of the world’s happiest countries – with nine of the list from either the EU/EEA or Switzerland (which enjoys the same freedom of movement rights).
Countries in Europe are also some of the safest in the world, plus they’re well-represented among the world’s most powerful passports.
If you’re in pursuit of happiness, having the permanent right to live in Europe might be just the boost you and your family need.
Read more about how you can start your journey towards EU citizenship.