Danes // The happiest people?!

Are the Danes truly the happiest people in the world? Being a happy and lucky Dutchie I am curious about the fascinating subject of happiness and country-culture.

After spending ten days in Copenhagen, looking around, talking to people, breathing the atmosphere in the streets, parks, coffee places and shops (later this week I can tell more about the offices and work spaces), I can say I did a little real life research. But first some fact-checking on this subject. Recent studies suggest that the Danish reign in happiness is over, but the Danes themselves still value their happiness score high and this is why:

  • Family values are very important to the Danes. Spending time with family and friends is the way to enjoy the day off and that’s what the Danes do.
  • The Danes are obsessed with cosiness. Even the toughest leather-clad biker will recommend a bar based on its ‘hygge‘ factor. In Danish, however, ‘hygge’ means more than just cocoa and tea lights. It’s about a feeling – a sense of warmth and companionship. The word ‘hygge’ is difficult to translate. Roughly speaking, it is a state of cosiness, warmth and relaxation in the company of someone you care about, often involving eating and drinking.
  • Danish people and politics seem to place enormous importance on the pursuit of personal freedoms. Open discussion on politics and society are a central element of Danish culture. The culture is open-minded and therefore highly valued.
  • Denmark prides itself on having a healthy work-life balance. The Danish welfare model, with its flexible working conditions and social support networks, including maternity leave and childcare facilities, puts Denmark at the top of the international equality league table. Also it contributes to a generally high standard of living.
  • Most of the time both parents have a full-time job. While getting it all organized might be challenging in Denmark too, this work-model is supported well by the welfare system and the company working conditions.
  • Danes often have the choice to start the working day when they want, which makes it possible to leave early, pick up the kids from school and spend family time, not only in the evening.
  • Most companies give the freedom to work from home and schedule flexible working hours.

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My personal findings //

The biking aspect must do well to Danish health, body and mind! Not only do the Danes bike in their spare time, most Danes commute to work, using their pedal-power. It can be a traffic jam on the biking lanes in the morning, although the infrastructure is good. Thirty minutes of sports a day…

So far I have seen a lot of good quality food and consciousness on healthy eating habits. Breakfast- and lunch places offer biological and healthy choices, restaurants seem very aware of seasonal products, also responding to the trends. I haven’t seen a lot of take-away (of course there is a Mac). Neighbourhood takeout food is most of the time Italian.

Groups of people are hanging out in the parks and green spaces, families are picnicking (even in the cemeteries) or using open BBQ facilities. So spending time together really seems important, maybe extra stimulated by the holidays this time of the year.

There are a lot of young mums. Women seem to have their children on a young age, which is smart and of course supported by the maternity leave and childcare facilities. Playgrounds for children are located everywhere, often in the courtyard between apartment buildings. Mothers park their strollers, buggies and prams simply outside a coffee place, including their babies (!), which might also tell something about Copenhagen being a safe place. People seem to trust each other.

Costs of living are quite high. If you combine spending time in coffee and food shops with doing your own groceries and use your bike to get around, you can live on a normal budget. Tourists can also enjoy a lot of free facilities and most museums have a free admission one day a week.

Of course I have seen people shouting, drinking on the streets and eating out of garbage bins (not as much as in other cities), but maybe that’s part of urban life. The system can support and facilitate, but in the end, we all make our own choices in the field of happiness.

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Sources // Denmark.dk, The Guardian
Pictures // Rosan & some found on Pinterest // Top image Families on Bikes