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Norwegians count their blessings in world's happiest nation

Reuters logo Reuters 5 days ago By Lefteris Karagiannopoulos and Stine Jacobsen

Nerbo and Davidsen pose for a picture in Oslo © REUTERS/Lefteris Karagiannopoulos Nerbo and Davidsen pose for a picture in Oslo Norwegian law student Karen Nerbo summed up the feelings of many on Monday as her country was named the world's happiest country.

"We have a lot of things to be happy about, our society is very open, we have everything that we need, there is not much to complain about," said Nerbo, 22, walking down Oslo's prime shopping avenue.

Norway pipped last year's league leader Denmark to take the crown in the United Nations' World Happiness Report 2017.

Piano teacher Elizabeth Eines hailed Norway's cradle-to-grave welfare system as the reason.

"We don't have to worry about stuff, if something bad will happen, we feel secure that we will be taken care of," said Eines, 32.

View of the Opera House in Oslo © REUTERS/Lefteris Karagiannopoulos View of the Opera House in Oslo

The country of 5.2 million inhabitants largely avoided the 2008 financial crisis that hit the rest of the world thanks to high oil prices that boosted its leading industry, oil production.

Street musician plays at a construction site in Oslo

Street musician plays at a construction site in Oslo
© REUTERS/Lefteris Karagiannopoulos

And despite a halving of crude prices since mid-2014, Oslo has carefully managed its oil wealth, pooling its revenues into a sovereign wealth fund that is the world's largest.

The government takes a small percentage of the fund's value for its state budget every year, which has helped shelter it from the deep budget cuts other countries have had to make.

Busk poses for a picture in Copenhagen © REUTERS/Stine Jacobsen Busk poses for a picture in Copenhagen

World's happiness ranking: http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/LIFE-HAPPINESS/0100407E0GV/LIFE-HAPPINESS-REPORT-01.jpg

Of course, not everyone is happy. A demonstration for workers' rights took place on Monday. And as Rudy Stanford-Smyth, a 37-year-old South African mechanical engineer, says, Norway can also be hard to move to.

"It can also be rough as a foreigner, as an immigrant maybe, but once you have a job and once you're in the system I think it's a good place," said the father-of-two.

People walk on the street in Oslo © REUTERS/Lefteris Karagiannopoulos People walk on the street in Oslo Bakke poses for a picture in Oslo © REUTERS/Lefteris Karagiannopoulos Bakke poses for a picture in Oslo

"I have children so it's a good place for my children to be ... The salaries are pretty good here no matter what job you do," he said.

For every winner, there is a runner up and over in Denmark, they were sanguine about the slip in the rankings.

"Denmark overtaken: Oil lifts Norway to the top of happiness ranking," Danish public broadcaster DR said.

Square at the front of the Parliament in Oslo

Square at the front of the Parliament in Oslo
© REUTERS/Lefteris Karagiannopoulos

Maria Madsen Busk, a Danish student, said: "I think Norway is happier than Denmark because they have more money ... I don't think it's sad because we all know how happy we are," she said.

And there is always room for a bit of banter in the two happiest nations and Scandinavian near neighbors.

Stig Bakke, a 52-year-old civil servant married to a Danish woman, was looking forward to teasing his relatives.

"That's of course something I will use when I go down to visit them this Easter, saying them that they're number two," he said.

(Additional reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis in Oslo; Editing by Alison Williams)

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