Finland hires ‘happiness guides’ to help tourists this summer

Finns say the secret to their happiness is to get out into nature. (AFP Relax pic)

NEW YORK: It’s become the 21st-century version of the holy grail, that elusive quest for happiness.

This week, in the latest World Happiness Report published by the UN, Finland topped the charts for the second year in a row to claim the title of happiest place in the world.

Finland is capitalising on the renewal of its reputation as a tourism strategy to bring tired, harried, and stressed-out visitors to the land of happy with a “Rent a Finn” program that pairs ordinary Finns with tourists.

For three days this summer, select candidates will travel to remote, quiet patches of Finland’s wilderness where they’ll forage for wild berries and mushrooms, build fireplaces, roast sausages over open flames, and dip into a traditional Finnish sauna with their local Finnish hosts – also known as Happiness Guides.

Because the secret, Finns say, is actually quite simple.

“Our secret is in our nature, very literally. When others go to therapy, Finns put on a pair of rubber boots and head to the woods,” reads the promotional material for the campaign.

To be selected for the free three-day trip, applicants are asked to film a short video about why they want to visit Finland.

The contest closes April 14 and the trip is for June-August.

The strategy is not unlike a campaign launched back in 2011, when Iceland popularised the concept of pairing tourists with locals by encouraging Icelanders to open their homes to visitors.

The campaign was led by the country’s president himself.

In 2016, Sweden became the first country in the world to launch an open phone line connecting callers with random Swedes.

Callers could ask locals for restaurant recommendations, tourist activities, or just shoot the breeze.

Can’t make it to Finland? The tourism office also shared these six steps to be as happy as a Finn:

– Sweat it out in a sauna.
– Take a walk in the forest.
– Swim in icy waters.
– Go berry picking.
– Watch the Northern Lights.
– Seek out large spaces.