What We can Learn from Denmark,
the World‚Äôs Happiest Country
Scandinavian countries frequently rank as the happiest in the world, and according to a report from the United Nations earlier this year, Denmark placed highest on this list. The United States wasn’t among the top ten. There appears to be a strong correlation between a nation’s wealth and the level of contentedness people possess, and this makes sense based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (the basic essentials to survival such as food, water and shelter have to be met before one’s vitality begins to factor into the picture). However, the study shows that economic prosperity is not the absolute answer to creating satisfaction in life. The Danes have a different approach to the pursuit of happiness, as is described in the five following examples.
The closest pronunciation of the word hygge is who-gah, and its meaning doesn‚Äôt have a direct translation in the English language. Combine elements like warmth, coziness, and good company, and then we begin to get glimpse into the essence of hygge. The next time you feel like life is missing that spark, get together with a group of your closest friends and family, make sure good food and drinks are present, turn the lights off, and gather around a glowing campfire (lighting candles is another great way to set the ambiance).
Not so much a law as a moral code of ethics, the Danes focus on a set of standards that keep a runaway ego grounded. They believe in humbleness and equality. No one person is better than anyone else. Nothing feels worse than being looked down upon and being ridiculed. Think about it, what does feeding this fire accomplish? Do you really think that you can justify seeing yourself as better than someone else by insulting them? The next time you find yourself judging someone for their actions and beliefs, try putting yourself in their shoes. A little bit of compassion goes a long way.
I’m not suggesting that you mimic another culture’s take on humor, as what is funny to one society (even person to person) may not make sense in another culture or may even be viewed as offensive. The Danes enjoy joking with each other and sharing a good laugh. The simple act of letting go and recognizing the humor in life is an excellent relief for stress. When it seems like the weight of the world is resting on your shoulders, invite a friend over to watch a comedy flick or reminisce about some silly, good times you’ve had together.
Attitude Towards Money
The spending habits of the Danish citizens appear to be quite different than those in the U.S. Quality of a purchase is much more significant than buying the latest, flashiest trend on the market. They remove the brag factor from their transactions. If you are on the fence as to whether or not you want to buy the new version of your three month old smart phone or whether you should hit the beach with your loved ones for a weekend getaway, just keep in mind that the electronic gadget will be out of style in a few months when the new and improved model makes its debut.
Denmark actually has a law that requires employers to pay their employees five weeks paid holiday per year, which certainly sounds ideal to me. If we look at the principles underlying this right, you may see that we all could benefit from attempting to balance our professional lives with our personal. So perhaps you don’t have today off, but it’s beautiful outside. During lunch, make it a point to get away from your work space and take a walk (even a ten minute stroll can make a difference in your day).
There is so much to be learned from observing customs and traditions that differ from our own. Open your mind and your heart to new experiences, and perhaps you will discover the key to your own happiness. Book your flights to Europe and let the adventure begin.