Thats according to the World Happiness Report 2018. So whats the secret behind that ranking?
THE PERMUTATIONS ARE ENDLESS.
To some, a perfect city is combining New York’s vibrant nightlife in a setting like Sydney, Australia, with bars like those in Barcelona, and cuisine from Bangkok served in Mexican outdoor cafés. To others, it’s layering the French joie de vivre over the civic accommodation and elegance of Kyoto while playing in the exciting mercantile world in a glass tower overlooking the Hong Kong harbour.
Indeed, it is impossible to cherry pick like this simply because a city’s qualities cannot thrive out of context. But if it is at all possible to achieve a perfect city, it seems, at least on paper, that Helsinki is as close as it gets — dazzling, snow blanketed landscapes on which to gaze at the northern lights, a much-lauded education system, the first country in the world to give full suffrage to women, home of Santa Claus, a population that, according to a UN study, is the happiest people on the planet. A population, incidentally, as I found out on an early morning stroll through Helsinki’s Old Market Hall with a chef, who relishes silent pauses as much as a conversation, when there is one.
“As you can see, there are many different types of herring over here,” said chef Karri Knaapila of Krog Roba, the on-site restaurant in Hotel Lilia Robert, as he led me through the walkways of Old Market Hall. It is a beautiful building right by the sea that groups together cafés, bakeries, fresh meats and fish stalls. But it is not a market that comes with the hustle and bustle normally associated with fishmongers and butchers. No, this is a place whose atmosphere and mood resembles that of a museum's. Busy, filled with things to look at, but, at the same time, very very quiet.
“Do you come to this market often?” I asked.
“Yes,” Knaapila replied.
“It's a beautiful building,” I tried to keep the conversation going.
“Okay.” It was clear he preferred to walk in silence, and speaking only when absolutely necessary.
It’s not like the people are unfriendly. They are not. To me, Finns are like strangers you meet in a lift. Mildly polite, speaking only when necessary. Small talk isn’t a big thing.
Two days later, I found myself dining at Knaapila’s restaurant. The chef spent the entire service in the kitchen without coming out once. But his food, the juniper pickled salmon in particular, was outstanding. Clean, distinct flavours, layering on top of one another that brought out the natural flavours and freshness of the ingredients.
And that was when it hit me — rather than trying to form an impression and opinion of Helsinki through interactions with its people, I should have been focusing on what they do or have done in order to get a true picture of the supposed happiest place on Earth.
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