Finland's New Tourism Campaign Wants to Show You Why It's the Happiest Country in the World

Visit Finland
Visit Finland

Finland has been named the happiest country on Earth for the second year in a row, according to the United Nations World Happiness Report for 2019. Recent government and health care reform issues notwithstanding, the Nordic nation has a lot to be pleased about, including a high GDP, strong school system, and long life spans.

Finns are eager to share the keys to their contentedness with the rest of the world. That’s why the country’s travel promotion organization, Visit Finland, is hosting a contest to bring international guests to Finland for a three-day tour this summer.

Dubbed “Rent a Finn,” the initiative will set guests up with a local host family in Helsinki, Lapland, Lakeland, or another part of the country. One guest will stay with Linda and Niko, a couple who live with their chihuahua, Helmi, on a Finnish island in the Baltic Sea. Another will stay with Esko, the mayor of Rovaniemi, which bills itself as “the hometown of Santa Claus.”

These “Happiness Guides” will help visitors connect to nature—one of the ways that Finns relieve stress. To apply, just film a short video introducing yourself and explaining your connection to nature and why you want to visit Finland. You can apply as an individual or as a group with friends or family. Then fill out an online application, upload your video, and submit it before the April 21 deadline.

Eight applicants (plus their friends and family) will be selected for the trip, with the cost of travel and accommodation covered. Guests who want to extend their stay are welcome to do so, but it would be at their own expense.

According to Visit Finland, there have been four times as many applicants from the U.S. than any other country. This isn’t entirely surprising, considering that the U.S. ranked 19th in the World Happiness Report—down five spots from 2017.

You don’t necessarily have to travel to Finland to improve your outlook on life, though. Here are 23 science-backed ways to feel happier without boarding a plane.

Snuggle a Raccoon While You Sip Your Coffee at Ukraine’s Raccoon Cafe

bozhdb/iStock via Getty Images
bozhdb/iStock via Getty Images

Raccoons are often misunderstood creatures. While many people see them only as furry little pests who root through your trash or hole up in your attic (which they sometimes do), others think they make great pets. Mark Kolesnykov, founder of the recently opened Raccoon Cafe in Kharkiv, Ukraine, falls squarely into the latter group.

The Raccoon Cafe gives customers the unique opportunity to interact with and give belly rubs to Liza and Bart, a lovable pair of raccoons Kolesnykov adopted from a local eco-farm when they were just babies (a.k.a. kits).

The animals have a special enclosure in the cafe, where guests can watch them play and, if they're lucky, give them a pet. The exterior of the cafe pays tribute to the masked mammals with a mural of Guardians of the Galaxy’s Rocket Raccoon and various raccoons dressed up as superheroes, including Spider-Man (Raccoon-man?) and Wonder Woman.

Though it only just opened, the Raccoon Cafe is already proving to be a huge hit; CNN reports that the space is attracting approximately 200 visitors per day, which means that some customers must wait up to 30 minutes for their chance to interact with and feed the pair (neither of which are things you should ever do with a raccoon in the wild).

Patrons who'd rather not get too close can also just watch the pair as they climb around their enclosure, play with their toys, and interact with guests—and each other—in a special indoor room that’s equipped with soundproof glass and special lighting.

Kolesnykov told UATV that part of the cafe's allure is that while people regularly see photos and videos of raccoons doing adorable things, few people have ever witnessed their behavior up close. In person, according to Kolesnykov, the animals are “livelier” and even more “mischievous” than what people have seen on YouTube.

The cafe, however, is not without its critics. Animal psychologist Andriy Hapchenko, head researcher at Feldman Ecopark in Kharkiv, expressed concerns to UATV about businesses like the Raccoon Cafe, saying that wild animals that are used for business purposes can often be harmed by the amount of human attention (and food) they're given. But Kolesnykov assures potential customers that he consulted with veterinarians before opening the space to make sure that Liza and Bart would be both safe and happy.

[h/t CNN]

This London Pub Might Be the Most Ethical Bar in the World

Ridofranz/Getty Images
Ridofranz/Getty Images

Pub owner Randy Rampersad is doing his part for sustainability. In June, he opened the Green Vic—a play on the fictional Queen Vic pub in the soap opera EastEnders—in the East London neighborhood of Shoreditch. The Telegraph reports it’s aiming to be the world’s most ethical pub: Rampersad eschews plastic and paper straws and opts for gluten-free wheat “straws.” He sources the bar's 100 percent recycled toilet paper from green-minded company Who Gives a Crap, and the communal wooden tables are upcycled.

“I wanted to make the world a better place and run my own business, but I was waiting for that eureka moment,” Rampersad told The Telegraph. He discovered no one had done anything like this before.

There’s no meat on the menu—the food is totally vegan, healthy-ish pub grub. You can add CBD oil to the “chkn" bites appetizer, and the burgers are made from ingredients like soy, seaweed, and sweet potato. The beers are produced by ethical brewers, too: Toast Ale uses unsold loaves and crusts of bread; Good Things Brewing crafts its beer from 100 percent renewable energy; South Africa’s Afro Vegan Cider donates money to an organization that funds equal pay for female farmers; and Brewgooder donates to water projects.

In fact, everything the Green Vic does has charity in mind. “We don't care about the money, I’m planet first and profit after,” Rampersad told The Telegraph. Up to 80 percent of its profits will go to charitable causes, including local food banks. As for the staff, one in four are from marginalized groups. The Green Vic plans to operate as a three-month pop-up pub while scouting for longer term investment.

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