Why is Denmark considered to be the world’s happiest nation? After all, it has the most indebted people, high taxes, and wet weather. In this article, I’ll share my personal view on the matter.
Before I get into what makes Denmark happy, there are two reasons why I’ve been reluctant to write about this topic. First, I don’t think that happiness should be quantified or pigeonholed. As I’ve touched on in one of my posts, it’s a dynamic, elusive state of mind, and it means something different to everyone. In general, people seem to be pretty bad at understanding the recipe for happiness, let alone baking the key ingredients. Second, I wanted to base my opinion on personal experience.
This social issue is an important part of the Danish culture. According to the OECD, Denmark has the highest work-life balance on the planet. The Danes tend to work for fewer hours than the average global figure. This means that they are able to devote more of their time to leisure activities. It’s common for the Danes to flee their offices at 4pm. Presumably, more freedom could boost productivity.
However, I think that the trade-off of the cultural focus on a strong work-life balance is some inconvenience. Public offices and call centres tend to close early.
One of my favourite things about Copenhagen is the amount of open space and green parks within the city. It’s easy to clear your head when you can go somewhere to escape. In a previous blog post, I mentioned the abundance of urban sanctuaries, where you can go to relax.
Here’s one of the many green parks in the city:
A friend of mine from Japan told me that back home, people see Denmark as having a slower pace of life. This was one of the things that made Denmark appeal to him.
Sustainability is important to the Danes. This is reflected by their cycling culture. Click here to check out my Copenhagen Cycling Guide.
I love being able to cycle around the city. In most other parts of the world, you would be taking your life into your own hands to cycle in the city. However, the separate cycling lanes in Denmark mean that it’s a safe, healthy and efficient form of transportation.
The Danes are pretty healthy. Almost everyone cycles, and there are always numerous runners in the parks. I remember seeing a couple dressed in their jogging attire pushing their baby in a pram as they ran along. The Danes make time for the things that they like.
With all this healthiness, it came as a bit of a surprise to me to find that quite a few Danes smoke.
Denmark does have many of the key ingredients of happiness, but I would recommend taking the notion of ‘the world’s happiest nation’ with a pinch of salt. It is a great place and its culture supports a good quality of life and the happiness that comes with it. However, I don’t think that happiness is a perpetual state. Rather, it’s an ebb and flow.
These were just some of the things that I’ve found make Denmark happy. In future articles, I’ll write more about this topic. I have some travelling lined up, which I will report on in my next article.
Istanbul, here I come!