I knew this post would come at some point in my blog’s little life. Now is the time and it will probably make me appear a little strange! Currently there is a series called Scandimania on Channel 4 where Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is exploring why Scandinavians are the happiest people on the planet and part of utopian societies. I make no secret of my slight obsession with the country Denmark. I’ve only been there once for 3 days but it is the only place I have been where I felt more at home than England. I ‘joke’ (no it’s not a joke) to Jared on a near weekly basis that we should just move there…the only problem would be convincing my parents and 10 siblings to move with us. I certainly wouldn’t be the happiest person in the world without my nearest and dearest. I didn’t realise until this series that Danes are officially the happiest in the world but having been there it makes perfect sense. The happiness literally emanates from the people to the point where it is almost tangible.
Is it their sense of community? their helpfulness? their connection to nature? the breathtaking scenery? or their spirit of cooperation and mutual trust? I was hoping that Hugh would find one or two of these fabulous claims to be untrue so I could feel like it was less heaven-like but it seems that they were all proven wonderfully accurate. It seems the people are so happy because they help, trust and support each other rather than compete with each other.
A few random observations that I made on my visit include:
– There were lots and lots of families out and about together
– There were way more men pushing prams.
– I even spotted quite a few men in suits wearing slings. I don’t think that is something I’ve ever seen in England. Do they really take their babies to the office with them? It was lovely to see.
– Obviously there are lots of cyclists (55% of people cycle to work) but even in the heart of Copenhagen there were still plenty of young families cycling together It was beautiful.
– People were very helpful. On two or three occasions we were having trouble reading our map and there was no need to track somebody down for help. We were approached and asked if we needed help, which took us by surprise.
They pay the highest taxes in Europe so you would assume this affected their happiness. When asked about this a couple of Danes state that they are lucky, not spoiled…and of course they should pay high taxes when they have access to free education and a good pension. Such gratitude.
Hugh also talks to a group of teenagers who state that they are so happy because:
– Danes are open and accepting
– They are comfortable with who they are
– There is no sense of competing with each other, they prefer to be equals.
– They aren’t very self conscious
– They are not obsessed with being cool
I’m not sure how many teenagers I know would say that they don’t care about being cool and aren’t very self conscious. It is so interesting. This is exactly how I want my children to feel as teenagers – comfortable in their own skin.
Some Danish sayings to think about:
‘The more we do together – the better it is’.
They strive for HYGGE at every opportunity which loosely translated is: ‘creating a relaxed atmosphere of happiness and laughter’.
‘Don’t stand out of the norm, because the norm is good enough’.
However a Dane does comment that maybe they do need to be more crazy!
Countries of the world are looking at Scandinavia and questioning: what have they got that we haven’t? but no body can put their finger on it. It seems it is about attitude, trust, cooperation and in general being a good citizen.
I’m sure Denmark isn’t as rosy as I am making out – I know they are not mighty keen on immigration and are very protective of their culture..but that has positives as well as negatives.
I love living in England. It has so many things about it that I love but I do often think about how I can be a better member of the community and worry about the amount of moaning British seem to do about everything…the weather, the NHS, the government, benefits, each other, child birth, their in-laws, who has what and who doesn’t. There can be such a feeling of discontent when I converse with British people. I’m sure the Danes could learn a lot from our culture, but it seems that we could also learn a lot from the Danes. It seems that countries really can succeed on ‘old fashioned’ trust, support and friendships.