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Is life perfect in the Nordic countries?

By December 14, 2017October 3rd, 2023FinGlobal

Is life perfect in the Nordic countries?

December 14, 2017


Despite the chilly weather, life in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden) seems almost perfect with all of them ranking in the top 10 of the Health & Wellbeing subcategory of InterNations recent 2017 Expat Insider Survey – with Denmark coming in at 3rd place out of 65 countries and Finland coming 1st  in the Family Life Index for the second year running. So let’s explore what makes their quality of life so exceptional and see if there are any downsides to expat life in these countries.

Happiness abounds

The first ever United Nations World Happiness Report produced in 2012 rated Denmark as the happiest country in the world, and the other Nordic countries weren’t far behind. In 2017, Norway has leapt from 4th place in 2016 to 1st place in 2017 followed by Denmark. Both countries rank highly in all the main factors found to support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance. Finland wasn’t far behind in 5th place and Sweden came in at a respectable 10th place.

Excellent family life

Over the years the Nordic countries have consistently performed well in the Expat Insider’s Family Life Index and in 2017, they dominate the top 5, with Finland retaining its top spot due to the country’s strong performance in the Quality of Education subcategory. It’s not just expats who rate the quality of education highly. Finland also tops the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report when it comes to education. Finland and Norway also score highly in the Family Well-Being subcategory making it into the ‘top three’ with Sweden following behind in 8th position and Denmark at 13th place.

Wonderful work/life balance

The Nordic countries also perform very well in the Working Abroad Index with Denmark, Norway and Sweden making it into the top 10 countries with over two-thirds of respondents rating their work/life balance positively. Denmark took first place in this category due the fact that full-time employees can devote two-thirds of their day to personal care and leisure! The Nordic countries also have shorter working hours, with Finland’s full-time average working week being 38.5 hours, which is nearly six hours less than the global average of 44.3 hours.

High costs dampen things down

Despite the Nordic countries scoring so well in work/life balance, it seems their leisure hours may be costing them, as all four of the Nordic countries are amongst the most expensive places to live in the world and property prices are particularly high.

Out of the 65 countries ranked for cost of living – where the cheapest (Vietnam) scored 1st position, Sweden came in at 50th position, Finland came in at 51st position, Denmark followed at 55th position and Norway was the most expensive at 62nd place.  Norway however did feature in the ‘top 10 countries where expats earn more than they would in a similar position back home’, coming in at 9th position.

If you’re thinking of moving abroad to one of the Nordic countries, contact FinGlobal for more information about financial emigration from South Africa, retirement savings, foreign exchange services and claiming tax refunds.

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