On Friday, June 2, I wrote about Norway being the Happiest Place on Earth (with the possible exception of Disneyland, of course).
Indeed, according to the United Nations’ annual World Happiness report, the Land of the Midnight Sun is the world’s happiest country for 2017, despite steep taxes and gloomy weather.
Recently, Norwegian Ambassador to Mexico Merethe Nergaard talked about what makes her countrymen so blissful, and what the little Scandinavian nation can teach the rest of the world.
“It is not enough to enjoy a high Gross Domestic Product, which, of course, Norway does,” Nergaard told a group of diplomats and government officials during a reception at her residence to mark the 203rd anniversary of the drafting of her country’s magna carte.
“It is important to underscore that the basis of our democracy and our inherent happiness is directly derived from the trust we have in our national institutions, our ready access to health and educations services, the egalitarian division of our wealth, and our unflinching commitment to political and fiscal transparency. These are the core elements (of Norwegian society) that we most cherish.”
Nergaard then went on to make reference to a speech offered late last year by Norwegian King Harald V, which, she said, was particularly relevant in Europe today, given the recent surge in ultra-right and populist movements across the continent and an increase in xenophobia.
“Norwegians are a people from the north, the center and the south of the country,” she said, quoting her monarch.
“But they are also the people who have migrated to our country from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Poland, from Sweden, Somalia and Syria.”
The ambassador said that it is with this universal awareness of a multiethnic society that Norwegians have been able to forge a nation based on acceptance and tolerance rather than segregation and rejection.
She noted that Harald also said that “Norwegians believe in God, in Allah, in everything and in nothing.”
Nergaard also spoke about her countrymen’s willingness to embrace gender diversity and social nonconformity.
In short, Nergaard’s message was one of open-mindedness and tolerance.
If you don’t fear and hate outsiders, she said, it is easier to understand their perspectives and assimilate them into your society.
And while it may not always be easy to see past the potential threat of those who do not share your core religious and cultural values, Nergaard said that the reward for Norwegians’ has been an open and welcoming society in which almost everyone is content.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at [email protected].