I love it when I discover that, yet again, I live in the happiest country in the world. This latest conclusion comes from detailed research carried out by Columbia University’s Earth Institute. On the one hand, I feel proud that we, as a family, have made the decision to move here to Denmark. As followers of my blog will know, we’re doing all we can to embrace the Danish way of life, in the hope of discovering what the secret is to this nation’s apparent ‘happiness’.
And, even though a lot of the year is spent in darkness, there are many things to be happy about. For example, there’s the work-life balance; the cheap childcare; good public transport and excellent cycle paths; free universities (you still get grants to study); and a very generous welfare state. Danes may pay for it in high taxes, but on the whole the system is well-liked.
But on the other hand, this happiness lark amuses me. I mean it’s not like everyone around me is in some smiling utopia. People, just like in any other country, can look thoroughly miserable. Take us ex-pats. We like to moan about the inadequate supermarket shopping; the poor customer service; our irritation that most shops and businesses shut at five on the dot (or at three on Saturdays); how expensive everything is; and that some Danes can seem standoffish, even unfriendly.
Dig below the surface, though, and you begin to understand why Denmark always does well in these happiness reports. Danes just seem more content with life. They may have a high divorce rate, but they really value time with their families. They appear to keep their emotions in check (too much so, some might argue). And above all, they don’t appear to get stressed with the trials of daily life.
Take rush hour traffic – in a car or on a bike. I haven’t yet seen one incident of road rage. Danes don’t seem to react in the same way some other nationalities do. They mostly stick to the rules, but don’t lose their self-control if somebody else doesn’t. I saw two cyclists collide the other day, but rather then berate each other, they just shook hands, laughed, and rode on.
So while I’m here in Denmark, I intend to do all I can to discover the secret to this happiness. I’ll let you know when I do!