A little late on the blog posts…but here it goes. Time here in Denmark has gone so quickly! I would say it’s been a whirlwind adventure, but Denmark is too relaxed for that. It’s been more of a cozy–or hygge–time. For those of you who don’t know anything about Denmark, hygge is probably the most important thing to learn. Like most Danish words, it sounds nothing like it is spelled and is pronounced “who-gae”, or “hue-gah”. There’s no real translation for it in English, but basically its spending a really intimate, cozy time with friends or family that involves a lot of candles. Or really just enjoying the pleasure of doing things not matter how simple they are. Which is probably one of the reasons Denmark is considered the happiest country on Earth.
Soooo…is Denmark the happiest country in the world? That’s what we’re all wondering here, isn’t it? Well yes, and no…I think. It’s hard to say really because my experience has been surprising and rewarding in so many ways that I, of course, have been very happy here. But to say that everyone in Denmark is “happier” would be an oversimplification of how it got that reputation in the first place.
It seems that every Dane is eager to talk about how I perceive them. Every conversation—and I mean EVERY conversation—I have had with a Danish person( which is a lot) we always get around to why Denmark is so different. Honestly, the reasons are quite obvious.
- There is a standard level of equality for everyone. Everyone. No ifs, ands, or buts.
- Education is free for everyone. Everyone. No ifs, ands, or buts.
- Health care is free for everyone. Everyone. No ifs, ands, or buts.
- It is, for the most part, completely safe (parents just leave their babies in strollers outside coffee shops…)
- There is a strong amount of pride in being Danish
Of course, the country has its issues, but as a whole, it is an extremely livable place. And paying almost half your income in taxes? No biggie. Because taxes go back to the people and the welfare state will take care of you.
So it really depends on how happiness is measured. I would say that Denmark is one of the most content and peaceful places in the world. Prescription drug usage is a semi-big problem here and a lot of people I know are not what most people deem as “happy”. There’s a lot of cultural and societal reasons to this that we could talk hours about–the psychology of Scandinavian culture as a whole is extremely interesting and worth experiencing. But at the end of the day, Denmark is a comfortable, hygge place to live.
Aarhus, the city I live in and the second largest in Denmark, is always alive with art openings and music festivals. Never a shortage of cool things to do here! One of my favorite experiences has been volunteering at a non-profit bar downtown called Fairbar. Lots of local beers to taste and Danish people to meet. The Danes are a unique kind who have a reputation for seeming stand-offish, but are very kind and super awesome once they get comfortable with you! (or drunk…)
There’s so so much more to talk about but then I would be writing forever. It will be sad to leave this cozy little place. Next two posts will be about a sustainable living community I have been visiting and something called Folkekøkken (folke-kooken…?).
Hope all you GLI-ers are having a happy summer!