Trust the Finns to disagree with the fact
that their country is the best in the world!

"What about suicides, depression, alcoholism and
our cold, dark winters?" many Finns protested
yesterday, after Newsweek named their
country "the best country in the world".

Scored for education, health, quality of life,
economic dynamism and political stability,
Finland narrowly beat Switzerland (2)
and their neighbours and arch rivals,
Sweden (3). The Finnish foreign
minister, Alexander Stubb, was more
positive, urging the Finns "to
express their pride and sincere
joy for the honour".

But gloating does not come naturally to them,
even though Finland has topped the OECD
global education assessment
three times in a row.

There is an underside to the educational excellence.
Two bloody school massacres, in 2007 and 2008
claimed 20 lives. A tragic coincidence, certainly,
but Finland is a Jekyll-and-Hyde country.
There are both the positive and the negative
in extremes, just like sunshine: the
never-setting summer sun is offset by
several months of dark winter. These
adverse circumstances have created
an ordered, egalitarian society.

Please click on the image
to view a larger version.

Having been a very poor country up until the 1950s,
Finland has always relied more on co-operation
than competition and if you agree with the
Newsweek panel that low levels of inequality
and a small gender gap are desirable,
Finland is bound to outdo the UK (14).

In a matter of hours Finland's leading
tabloid newspaper, Ilta–Sanomat, pointed
out an error in Newsweek's survey: it seems
the magazine may have mixed up the top two
scores, and Switzerland should win by a
whisker. Sabotaging their own success
befits them perfectly: both the optimists
and the pessimists in Finland can agree
that the number two slot is their
natural lot in this world.

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