The Happiest Country:




access scenery breathtaking
benefit dampen dampen their spirits
ground find out speak your mind
equal spirit (2) footing (2)
trust content equal footing
factor satisfied comfortable
thrive provide unemployment
arctic poverty matter (2)
assert play (3) play a part
adapt share (3) conduct (3)
overall observe find/found/found (2)
case (2) trespass look forward to
invent spot (3) northern lights
sled tradition compensate (2)
law property agreement
allow officially day-care center
hunt no matter spend/spent/spent (2)
deny sunshine found (2)
key (2) fight (2) period (3)
extra attitude supposed to
cozy enhance opportunity
flow reflect (2) reflect upon
effort follow (2) go with the floww
shine daylight road to success
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And the happiest people on Earth are officially . . . the Norwegians. They eat lots of fresh seafood. They live with breathtaking scenery. And the long dark winters don’t seem to dampen their spirits.

For the first time, Norway has taken the top spot on the United Nations World Happiness Report.

Norwegian Man, One: “Is Norway number one?”
Reporter: “Yes.”
Norwegian Man, One: “Wow!”

Norwegian Woman, One: “It is not the weather, because it’s very cold. But I think it’s the nature and the people.”

Norwegian Woman, Two: “It’s a free country; you can speak your mind.”

Norwegian Man, Two: “We can appreciate changes, and we are also content with it.”

Joar Vitterso is a psychologist and happiness researcher. He’s been trying to find out what makes people contented with their lives — or not — since the 1980s.

And why are his own countrymen at the top of the international ranking?

Joar Vitterso, Psychologist & Happiness Researcher: “People are more equal here than they are in other places in the world. And that has lot of benefits to it; for example, people trust each other more when they are on an equal footing.

And trust, we know, is a very important factor for you to thrive and be comfortable and satisfied with your life.”

The northern city of Tromso can serve as an example.

The educational system is excellent. The state provides healthcare, and unemployment and poverty are low.

Joar Vitterso works at the Arctic University of Tromso — the world’s northernmost. He asserts that the positive attitude of people in the high north plays a big part in their overall contentment.

Joar Vitterso, Psychologist & Happiness Researcher: “In some parts of the world, you actually see that the less daylight, the more depression you can observe.

That is not the case in Norway.

In Northern Norway, it seems that people have found ways of adapting to the dark period: they have activities they look forward to conduct during the winter which compensates, and even more than compensates for the dark period.”

Skiing, the national sport, was even invented in Norway. Tromso has plenty of snow on the ground for six months of the year. The northern lights and sled-dogs runs are part of life.

During the short summers, many Norwegians love to go hiking with family and friends. The law allows everyone to make camp and even build a fire in the open.

Joar Vitterso, Psychologist & Happiness Researcher: “In Norwegian, it’s called ‘allemannsretten’. That’s a very long tradition in Norway; I think it’s almost a thousand years old.

You are allowed to trespass other people’s property. You can even hunt there, but it should be in agreement with the owner, but the owner cannot deny you accessing it and using it.”

From the age of two, children at this day-care center in Tromso spend their days outside — no matter what the weather.

Kjell Kampevoll co-founded this open-air day-care center — one of many in Norway. He believes the key to happiness can be found in the Norwegian’s closeness to nature.

Kjell Kampevoll, Co-Founder Open-air Day-care Center: “Yes, I really think that my kids are really happy. More kids play together without fighting.”

Birgit Hem and Conrad Helgeland live with their four children not far from Tromso. They both have jobs and share the housework. They make an extra effort to make their home cozy, “koselig” in Norwegian, especially when it’s cold outside.

Birgit Hem, Enjoys the Norwegian Way of Life: “I think Norwegians like having a cozy home and candles when it’s dark and make nice food, and be with their family and have a good time.”

Birgit Hem is also quite happy that she doesn’t have to worry about her children’s future.

Joar Vitterso says governments can do much to enhance their people’s happiness — but individuals can, too.

Joar Vitterso, Happiness Researcher: “I think that we need more attention toward what really matters in our lives. I think actually, it’s good for people to reflect a little bit upon what is important for me, what should I do with my life, and not just go along with the flow and follow what is supposed to be the road to success.”

Norwegians have their own word for a special kind of happiness: “Utepils” — to sit in the sunshine and enjoy a beer. During the Arctic summers with over twenty hours of daylight, Norwegians have plenty of opportunity these happy moments.


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1. Because Norway is a cold country with long winters, the majority of people are gloomy most of the time. True or false?

2. What are some things people say they like?

3. Have there been scientific studies on happiness and unhappiness?

4. Is Norway an egalitarian nation? Is there a wide or narrow gap between rich and poor? How might this affect how people feel?

5. Norway is a developed, democratic country with a high living standard. Is this right or wrong? Does this have an impact on people’s mental health?

6. Since Norway is so cold, do most people stay indoors as much as possible?

7. Norwegians are happy because they have lots of money and own luxury and sports cars, luxurious mansions and dine in high-class restaurants. Is this correct or incorrect?


A. My friends and I would like to live in Norway! Yes, no, maybe?

B. How happy are people in your community or society? Ecstatic and rapturous, very happy, generally happy, it varies, happy and sad, mostly sad or depressed?

C. What makes your friends or neighbors happy?

D. Why do some or many people get sad?

E. What might happen in the future?

F. What can or should people or the government do to make themselves happy?

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