Denmark took the top spot on the United Nation’s World Happiness Report, 2013 & 2014 and came in third in the 2015 report, following closely behind Switzerland and Iceland.
Is it really true that Danish people are some of the happiest people in the world? Even though the weather can be dreary and it is dark during most of the day in winter, leaving some Danes as depressed as Hamlet, the Danish people is considered to be the world’s happiest.
The official happiness report
Different aspects are involved when studies are carried out measuring the extent of happiness. The latest of which Denmark was once again ranked no. 1 in the 2013 report, published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and commissioned for the United Nations.
The study takes a variety of factors into account, including people’s health and access to healthcare, family relations and job security as well as social factors like political freedom and government corruption.
Danish work-life balance
In Denmark, a normal work week is 37 hours and Danish employees’ benefit from 5 weeks of holiday a year. This means that leisure time is a huge part of Danish culture, which is optimized in a great number of ways, be it social gatherings, sports, taking a course, or joining the local book or theatre club.
Leaving work on time, bicycling home or jumping on effective public transport, picking up your children from work and having a cosy family dinner is happiness for most families in Denmark.
Leisure time and the Danish art of ‘hygge’
Leisure time is easily spent together with others involving the Danish term ‘hygge’ a word for cosy social gatherings involving intimate get-togethers with family and friends. ‘Hygge’ during winter could involve that cuddly feeling in front of a fireplace after a day at the Christmas market on a cold snowy day.
It could also occur during spring and summer involving social activities outside in a park, at the beach, or in the open streets, chatting, having a beer and feel ‘hygge’ as getting that bit of fresh air and sun.
Hygge is something Danes strive for, at all times, no questions asked, in quaint little pubs and cafés or during softly lit dinners with family and friends for Copenhagen this is the TOP 10 hygge things to do.
Low expectations, well Danes live a bit of a hobbits’ life in that sense. Not too ambitious or pompous, may be holding back from a historical fright: the Janteloven (jante-law), which essentially says ‘you’re no better than anybody else.
This Jante-law is both frowned upon and reluctantly respected, creating a sense of human equality in Danish society. No one judges your choice of career or lack of ambition, if you are happy with what you do, then enjoy.
This lowered expectation, you could say, makes it far easier for Danes to obtain happiness, low expectations equals less disappointment. Simplicity and small is Danish buzzwords and might be underlying the low expectations and fast-train to happiness as well.
Danes really enjoy simple things and simple life, Danish design and home decoration reflecting this bit. In Denmark, everything is small and cosy – even the Little Mermaid, though it is in fact a part of her name!
Denmark is considered to be one of the most egalitarian societies in the world, where both men and women have carriers. Taxes are high in Denmark, which makes up for a governmental healthcare system where everybody has free access to hospitals and surgery.
Schools and universities are free and under- and graduate students get monthly student grants for up to 7 years. Unemployment benefits and schemes to help you find a job are generous. And government spending on children and the elderly is higher than any other country in the world per capita.
It is highly considered that the welfare system in Denmark is responsible for the sense of security that makes people feel at ease and confident. If they get unemployed or ill, the public body will support you and help you back on your feet.
Safe and security
Trust is another key factor in the Danes’ prescription of happiness. Trusting the government, trusting the workplace, the kindergarten and schools who takes care of your children. A great amount of trust leaves you safe, with low crime and government corruption, a respected police force and friendly neighbours.
Mothers leave their babies unattended in strollers outside cafés and people might leave their doors unlocked in the countryside. And perhaps Dane’s beloved bicycle is actually the best symbol of Danish happiness.
Needless to say that the very idea of a bike giving you the freedom to go anywhere, many Danes, those who can afford to buy a car, choose the bike – simple, economical, non-polluting machines that keep you fit.