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Happiest Countries In The World To Live And Work

Happiest Countries In The World To Live And Work

If you’re looking to move your life overseas, it makes sense to choose a country where you know the locals actually enjoy living. Our happiness data is based on residents’ self-reports of how they themselves evaluate the quality of their lives, including factors such as friendliness, safety, environment and inclusion.

Here are the happiest countries for expats and digital nomads to consider in 2022.

A young couple on a roadtrip with their dog, sitting on the back of their truck at the edge of a forest
Overall happiness comes from a combination of factors // GETTY IMAGES

What are the happiest countries in the world?

Overall happiness comes from a combination of factors, including everything from the influence of the environment around us, to how open and accepting the people are in our community.

Here at William Russell, we understand that for expats moving to a new country, finding a place they can find happiness is high-up of the list of priorities. That’s why we’ve used our expertise in international health insurance, along with some recent quality of life statistics from The World Population Review, to shortlist the world’s happiest countries based on culture, diversity and inclusion, environment and sustainability, and quality of healthcare.

And, to find the happiest cities in the world, we looked at the World Happiness Report’s Cities and Happiness: A Global Ranking and Analysis. The rankings rely entirely on city dwellers’ self-reported quality of life, measured in terms of their subjective well-being, making this data entirely driven by the people and how happy they feel in their cities.

Our round up of the happiest countries in the world 2022


Two young female friends walking through the city with their bike laughing and having fun together
Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world // GETTY IMAGES

The happiest countries in the world to live and work

1/ Denmark

  • Happiest city: Copenhagen
  • Happiness score: 7.53/10
  • Quality of life index: 186.25

Culture

Denmark’s happy vibes come from within – and by that we mean ‘Hygge’. Hygge is a Scandinavian concept meaning ‘snug’ or a feeling that evokes ‘cosiness’ and is an integral part of Danish culture.

Family is very important to Danish people, and the concept and practise of hygge, i.e. doing activities together as family/friends, is a huge part of the reason Denmark scores so highly on happiness.

Folklore also plays a big part in Danish culture. Many traditional folk talks, songs, and dances are still prevalent in Danish culture today, and in many rural places the making of folk costumes are an important part of everyday life.

Diversity and Inclusion

Denmark has a history of being one of the most LGBTQ+ inclusive countries across the globe, with the capital Copenhagen being renowned as a welcoming and inclusive destination for people of all genders and sexualities.

Copenhagen, Denmark’s happiest city, is also largely accessible to wheelchair users. Every train station has an elevator to the platform, and all the train carriages have ramps for easy access. There are some attractions that are not completely wheelchair accessible due to the age and architecture, such as Rosenburg Castle, however most attractions have now been adapted to allow for wheelchairs.

Population demographic of Denmark (2018 census)

Ethnic Background

Population Percentage

Danish
86.3
Turkish
1.1
Other (largest groups are Polish, Syrian, German, Iraqi, and Romanian)
12.6

Ethnic groups most common by ancestry

Healthcare

The healthcare system in Denmark is often ranked as one of the best in the world. Denmark has both a public and private healthcare system, with private healthcare becoming more and more popular as employers offer insurance as part of their benefits scheme.

If you decide moving to Denmark is the right choice for you, you’ll need to get a Central Person Register (CPR) number and a Yellow Card. Once you register for your CPR number you’ll be issued a yellow card, which is proof of your insurance and allows you access to health care in Denmark.

Environment and Sustainability

Denmark’s happy capital, Copenhagen, is the world’s greenest major city, an undeniable factor contributing to Danish mental health and happiness. Total sustainability is a country-wide goal in Denmark, and its capital hopes to become completely carbon neutral by 2025.

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Close up of two female seniors taking a selfie while hiking in the forest
Swedes make sure they find time to spend with their families and friends // GETTY IMAGES

2/ Sweden

  • Happiest city: Stockholm
  • Happiness score: 7.37/10
  • Quality of life index: 170.19

Culture

Sweden is a very egalitarian country and, as such, place a lot of value on ‘lagom’. ‘Lagom’ is a Swedish word that can be roughly translated to ‘in moderation’. Swedish people don’t believe in the practice of ‘showing off’, and are generally quite humble and find boasting to be impolite.

Music is a huge part of the happy culture in Sweden, bringing people together through the power of lyrics and live performance. No double contributing to the country’s overall happiness score are bands such as ABBA, or more recently Robyn, Europe, and Ace of Base.

Diversity and Inclusion

Sweden’s happiest city, Stockholm, has some of the lowest crime rates against LGBTQ+ people in all of Europe. Also known as ‘The Open City’, Stockholm is well-known for its acceptance of members of the LGBTQ+ community. While Stockholm has no designated area of queer establishments (culturally known as a ‘gaybourhood’), Södermalm is considered one of the top LGBTQ+ areas.

Population demographic of Sweden (2020)

Ethnic Background

Population Percentage

Swedish
80.3
Syrian
1.9
Iraqi
5.2
Finnish
3.1
Other
15.0

Ethnic groups most common by ancestry

Healthcare

Similar to Denmark, you must have an ID card and personal identification number before you can access public healthcare. It will take 1-2 weeks for your card and number to arrive, so consider registering before you arrive in Sweden.

Swedish healthcare is decentralised, meaning responsibility lies with the regional governments to make sure the healthcare in their area is up to standard. Because of this, the standard of healthcare may differ between regions and municipalities so, if you require extensive healthcare, you should research this first.

Environment and Sustainability

The entire underground transport system in Stockholm runs on green electricity, and transports around 850,000 people every single day . And, since 2017, all public buses in Stockholm have been running on renewable fuel, which was originally a goal for 2025.

Stockholm also uses district heating and cooling, a system connected to almost 90% of the city’s buildings, making it one of the largest systems in the world. Stockholm is snowy and cold for much of the year, so a heating system that runs on renewable energy is invaluable.

A grandfather teaching his young grandson to fish during sunset in summer, sitting on the dock and laughing together
Canadians are among the happiest people in the world // GETTY IMAGES

3/ Canada

  • Happiest city: Toronto
  • Happiness score: 7.30/10
  • Quality of life index: 157.25

Culture

‘Canadian values’ are a core part what makes Canada such a happy place to live. Values like egalitarianism, social equality, and peace are all referred to as Canadian values due, in part, to the relatively centrist parties that have dominated Canadian politics throughout history.

Much of Canada’s culture is influenced by the Indigenous peoples of Canada, and the 34 other ethnicities found within its borders, even the name Canada comes from an Iroquoian word meaning ‘settlement’ or ‘village’. Canada’s culture has also been heavily influenced by both the French and English settlers from the 16th and 17th centuries.

Diversity and Inclusion

Canada’s happiest city, Toronto, is one of the biggest queer hubs in the world, and it’s one of the only cities in the world to have multiple ‘gay villages’. Canada is one of the world’s frontrunners when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights, and was even took first place the Gay Travel Index’s ‘most LGBTQ+ friendly places to visit’.

Population demographic of Canada (2021 census)

Ethnic Background

Population Percentage

Canadian
15.6
European
52.5
North American
22.9
Asian
19.3
Latin, Central and South American
2.5
Caribbean
2.1

Total response ethnic groups most common by ancestry, data will add to more than 100%

Healthcare

Known as ‘Medicare’, the Canadian public healthcare system covers everything deemed ‘medically necessary’, but does not generally provide dental, prescription or vision coverage. However, private insurance is available for these things, and everything covered by the public healthcare system.

Canada’s 13 provinces manage and administer their own healthcare, rather than the system being centralised. Unfortunately, this means different provinces have different enrolment regulations. Some may have waiting periods, or certain requirements other provinces might not have.

Environment and Sustainability

Canada’s happy capital, Toronto, became Canada’s first Bee City in 2016, to help bring awareness to and conserve declining bee populations, and promote pollination as part of their sustainability efforts.

In 2009, Toronto introduced the Green Roof Bylaw, which requires the addition of green roof space on buildings above a certain size. The idea behind this was to encourage the public to grow their own food or other plant life to help reduce CO2 emissions.

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Happy couple having fun surfing at the beach and running towards the sea holding their boards
Australian's know how to make the most of their downtime // GETTY IMAGES

4/ Australia

  • Happiest city: Melbourne
  • Happiness score: 7.30/10
  • Quality of life index: 178.41

Culture

The Aussie’s laidback, egalitarian lifestyle is a huge contributing factor to their happiest country status. Australian’s are strong believers in equal opportunity, and as such don’t have a class system as we do in the UK.

It might be a stereotype that the Aussie’s happy lifestyle is heavily focused on play, but that wouldn’t make it wrong. Aussie’s know how to make the most of their downtime, with sports being a major source of competition and comradery across the country.

Diversity and Inclusion

Having only been colonised in the late 18th century, Australia has one of the most diverse populations in the world. In fact, as many as a quarter of Aussie residents were actually born overseas, making them naturally tolerant to all races and ethnicities.

Australia is also recognised for being a fully inclusive and welcoming place for the LGBTQ+ community.

Population demographic of Australia (2021 census)

Ethnic Background

Population Percentage

English
33.0
Australian
29.9
European
29.7
Aboriginal
2.9
Asian
11.5

Total response ethnic groups most common by ancestry, data will add to more than 100%

Healthcare

Australia have one of the best publicly funded healthcare systems in the world, providing safe affordable healthcare to all its permanent residents.

For expats (without permanent resident status) and digital nomads, healthcare will need to be paid for privately.

Environment and Sustainability

In 2019, Australia made a renewed commitment to the environment and sustainability as way of promoting better health and happiness across the country. This was in response to a report by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, placing Australia 38th out of 162 countries for sustainability.

Australia is now on a mission to improve its sustainability ranking, by working toward 17 clear goals including: clean water and sanitation, sustainable cities and affordable and clean energy. They hope to achieve all these goals by 2030.

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Father and son paddling together on the shoreline having fun
New Zealanders are known for their welcoming demeanour and strong values of kindness and friendship // GETTY IMAGES

5/ New Zealand

  • Happiest city: Auckland
  • Happiness score: 7.23/10
  • Quality of life index: 176.3

Culture

New Zealand’s inhabitants are made up of a variety of ethnicities, the majority being of European descent, with the second largest group being the indigenous Māori people. While Kiwis proudly embrace cultural diversity, they acknowledge that Māori culture is an important part of their national identity – and filter these philosophies through all aspects of life.

New Zealanders are known for their open-mindedness, welcoming demeanour and strong values of kindness, tolerance and friendship. As a people, Kiwis tend to treat others fairly, and so expect to be treated fairly in return.

Good work-life balance is seen as important by the population, as is an appreciation of the great outdoors. With a culture centred around well-being and holistic living, one can understand why the country is ranked as one of the happiest in the world.

Diversity and Inclusion

New Zealand is a world leader in LGBTQ rights, with plenty of activity to support and celebrate the gay community. This is a testament to the open-mindedness of the Kiwis, whose accepting culture welcomes people from all walks of life.

Pride events have taken place in this country since the early 1970s, with Auckland’s Hero Parade and the Big Gay Out being highly anticipated yearly events. Queenstown in the Southern Alps of New Zealand is also popular for its thriving LGBTQ scene. The Winter Pride/ Gay Ski Week in September, for example, is a beloved attraction for queer adventure-seekers looking for a romp in the snow.

Population demographic of New Zealand (2018 census)

Ethnic Background

Population Percentage

New Zealand
64.1
Indigenous
16.5
European
6.1
Asian
15.1
Other
10.8

Total response ethnic groups most common by ancestry, data will add to more than 100%

Healthcare

Continuing in the vein of fairness is New Zealand’s public healthcare system, which is one of the top 10 healthcare systems in the world. The country introduced universal and free healthcare with the implementation of the 1938 Social Security Act, so all citizens have equal access to the same standard of treatment.

Environment and Sustainability

New Zealand is one of the world’s least polluted countries, which only adds to its magnificent natural beauty. Its nation’s history is built on an attitude of respect for the environment, stemming from the Māori ethos of “Kaitiakitanga”, which refers to the necessity of taking care of the land.

As such, the country has taken strides in local and global sustainability efforts. New Zealand’s 1991 Resource Management Act (RMA), for example, furthers its green agenda on a government level, while its approach to free trade agreements shows its commitment to the worldwide fight against climate change.

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Find your happy place with William Russell

At William Russell, we have 30 years of helping expatriates find the best places in the world to move abroad and discover happiness overseas by providing world-class international health insurance with mental health cover. Plus, we produce lots of expert material to help you and your family adapt to life abroad.

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