“Just living isn't enough," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower." -Hans Christian Anderson”
I just finished the book, "The little book of Hygge:The Danish way to live Well" by Meik Wiking. I was scrolling through my Hoopla app, and I usually tend to lean towards books of history, health or Christian living, but this sweet, short little read popped up in my feed and I was intrigued. Apparently, Denmark is conisdered the "happiest population in the world." Huh? Well, first off all, I knew that they were the home of the delicious Danish Kringle, so it doesn't come as a complete surprise I suppose. Yet, I mean, how could a country that finds so much delight in sugar, butter and flour all rolled up into one, be so happy? I mean, aren't we taught here in America that health, and wealth, physique and aesthetics equal happiness? We must deny, execute willpower, work hard, get ahead and be a certain size to be happy, right?
Wrong. In fact, according to Dave Roos at the How it Works website, "All five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) ranked in the top 10 based on six key criteria: freedom, generosity, health, social support, income and trustworthy governance. Even though GDP is higher in the United States than all Nordic countries, Americans are still only the 14th happiest people on the
planet." So, why are these danish loving Danes so happy? Here are some of the reasons, I gathered from Wiking's book, and I have to admit, by the end of this audio book, not only do I think I have perfected the correct pronunciation of "hygge" (sounds more like hue-geh), my teenage son and I both decided that a trip to Denmark would be on the top of our bucket list right now.
1) Danes trust each other. In fact, 79% say they trust most people. Moms will leave their sleeping babies in stollers right outside a coffee shop as she meets to have a latte with her friend. Most Danes don't lock their front door or car doors. This level of trust is instilled in Danes from early on, as even in their school system they are instilled with an education of trust towards their neighbor and government.
2) Danes welfare system works. Even though Denmark has some of the highest taxation percentages of their citizens (45% for those earning under $43,000 and 52% for those earning more than $67,000!!), this still creates the happiest most trusting citizens on the planet.
The reason behnd this is because in exchange for an INSANE taxation rate, Denmark citizens are given free healthcare, free tuition from kindergarten all the way through University, high subsidized childcare, and extremely generous employee benefits. (as in a 52 week maternity AND paternity leave., 32 of those weeks being paid) . Danes in return, happily pay this income tax because they do not look at it as high way robbery, but rather investing in the welfare of their country and "purchasing quality life." Not to mention, the child is paid a MONTHLY stipend of around $500 dollars for primary years education and $900 for University years. Yes, i wrote that correctly and you are reading it right, Danish students are paid monthly for existing. Honestly, there are definitely some benefits to this way of living. Even though I believe in a free society where all humans should decide their right as to how and when and where they spend their money, I must admit, I do believe the United States could benefit to look at a few of these options.
3) Family and togetherness is huge for Danes. Most Danish employers offer 5 weeks of paid vacation yearly for their employees. Danish workers put in the second fewest hours of work per week in the entire world. In fact, if you were to average out the amout of hours worked for full time employees in a 52 week period, it would average out to about 27 hours a week. This is perfect for family meal time as well, which is also the norm for Danes. Danes love candles and lighting, so meals are centered around the dinner table and the ambience of candle lit dinners are daily occurence. Ahhhh, I'm defiitely loving Denmark more and more!
4) Danes are humble. There is an unwritten law in Danish culture called Janteloven or "Jante's Law", which basically translates to, "don't act like your're smarter, better or richer than anyone else." Failure in Denmark isn't really considered. Since there isn't much risk losing much financially due to their trusted government and welfare system, Danes are much more willing to try new things. Danes tend to dress more casual as well which makes much less of a competition when it comes to fashion.
5) One of the world's most famous toy creations of equal popularity amongst boys and girls come from Denmark as well.. LEGOS!!!! I don't know about you, but legos have been a huge hit in our household and still continue to be. My son Sam came home the other day with his brother Oliver, carrying a 1500 piece box of legos they had scored for a crazy good deal at the Wally World. Our children will spend hours at a time ( and in peace and quiet shockingly as well) building cities and spacecrafts out of legos. When I heard that legos were created in Denmark, it all began to make perfect sense why Danes are the happiest people on the planet.
6) Denmark is full of warmth, sun, beaches and paradise!!
Actually, Denmark has short and highly unreliable summers. "Well, then how in the world can Denmark be the happiest country in the world?! Cold and snow stink!" The truth of the matter goes to show that it doesn't matter where you are in life and what your circumstanes are. The missing piece to this life question is shown to us by the Danes that happiness is what you make of wherever you are and what you choose to focus on. "Danes feel empowered to change things in their lives," says Professor Bjørnskov. "What is special about Danish society is that it allows people to choose the kind of life they want to live. They rarely get caught in a trap. This means they're more satisfied with their lives." Less comparison. Less competition. Less wants, more gratitude. Gratitude blows sun, sand and ocean way off the charts. The phrase "Bloom where you're planted," is never far from my mind, and I find myself saying this more and more as my children grow and mature and experience life's curve balls.
7) Food is a really big deal in Denmark.....I mean, a REALLY big deal! Danes LOVE their sweets!! As the swooner Frank Sinatra said, Denmark sounds like "My kind of town!" (Or Country, whatever, same thing. ;) ). Cake, is where Danes really go weak in the knees. Bacon and pork? Keep it coming! Coffee and hot chocolate? Yes please! Salads and celery sticks? Ummm....not so much. Now, this all goes to say, even though Danes truly enjoy and find all of these delectibles "hygge", they are not advocates of unhealthy, gluttonous and gorgeful living. The actuality is that Danes believe that enjoying the simple and delicious things of life are all part of balanced living, which in turn, produce happy, hyggeligt, living.
8) Family, the home, and togetherness are at the heart and soul of the Danes. Since the average work week in Denmark is 27 hours a week, these definitely allows for more than ample time for family dinners around the dining room table. Not only meals, sitting, (this may be a concept to be processed by some of you reading this), but Danes are OBSESSED with lighting! Lights, lampshades, fixtures and candles fill the Danish home. 85% of Danes associate candles with hygge living. Yet, Danish people are not into the scented Yankee type candles. They prefer plain, sustainable, holistic and clean burning unscented candles. They enjoy living life, but they do enjoy making healthy choices in many areas as well, and candles are one of those things. The home is what Danes pretty much call the "hygge headquarters." It makes sense then that Denmark has the largest amount of living space per capita in Europe. I suppose when you actually spend time INSIDE your home as a family, cozy and at peace, it would only make sense that you would have a large space to enjoy and host gatherings and family events.
After finishing The Little book of Hygge, and discussing these facts and statistis with my almost 18 year old son, he looked at me and said, Well? Let's go!" I'll admit, at the end of this read, I felt like maybe this author was trying to give us some false sense of Utopia. I also couldn't help but notice the strong points of a soclialist style government. " What you have, I should have." "Free education for all!" Free healthcare!" Those three points alone make me cringe, mostly because of what has been currently trying to be pushed in our own States of America. And yes, I said "States" without "United" before it, because for me and more than 50% of our country, the year 2021 ended the era that began in 1776. We are no longer united. We haven't been for many, many years. However 2021, the rope that so many Americans were hanging on to finally snapped. Denmark is 228 times smaller than the United States. It is 16 times smaller than Texas. Denmark has never really been at war or "odds" with anyone the way our country has been been. The question I start to ask myself than is this: Would our country start to do better and unify in better ways if we separated? If we started to govern state by state verses as a whole country? Smaller sections? I sure don't know the answer. All I know is Danes have things like trust of their neighbor, humbleness, equality, financial security and a unified sense of patriotism. The States do not. We need to figure something out like yesterday. We are in crisis.
Through all of this, happiness can only go so deep without the true joy of Christ as your Savior from sin and hell. I know with 100% certainty, that any Dane who is an unbeliever, yet shares how happy their life as a Dane has made them, still feels an ache in their soul they don't know how or where to fill. In the end, no matter how happy the world polls say Denmark is, I am still winning in the happiness department. I know Jesus. I know He knows me. He loves me. He saved me. THAT, my friend, is truly, hygge.
In case you were just that much more curious about the happy country of Denmark, here are a few more fun facts you can ponder before packing your bags and leaving on that jet plane. :)
*20.97% less likely to be unemployed *26.72% more free time *90.4% less likely to be in prison *28.41% less money *51.27% less oil *50.55% less electricity *44.89% less of a class divide *81.58% less likely to be murdered *29.13% less money on health care *33.55% less likely to die in infancy
What about you? Have you been to Denmark? Do you have any Danish roots? Would you love to visit/live in Denmark??!