Those Happy Danes

Are the Danish really the happiest people in the world? What makes them so? Morley Danish tutor Bibi Christensen gives her thoughts on the state of Danish happiness.

The wealth of gruesome crime thrillers and intense family dramas coming out of Denmark might suggest otherwise. But Danes are – apparently – the happiest people on the planet.
The so-called World Happiness Report, commissioned by the United Nations, regularly puts Denmark in the top spot, and there is even a study suggesting that the closer a person’s genetic link to Denmark is, the happier that person is.

Much has been made of the Scandinavian welfare model. But we have homeless people, hospital waiting lists, and fierce political debates about taxes, public spending and immigration. We worry about radicalised muslim youths too. We have long dark winters. 

So how do you measure all this supposed happiness? Digging a little deeper, it has been suggested that Danes consider themselves happy because they simply expect less. Some Danes would say that there is probably just something in the local beer (Carlsberg and Tuborg being the best known outside of Denmark). Or maybe it is the herring, rich in omega 3 and vitamin D, and sometimes “swimming” in a glass of snaps? Or perhaps it is all that fresh air we get from riding around on our bikes on those long summer days?

If you ask other Scandinavians, they might say that they consider Danes the Latinos of the North, such is our delight in having a good time. The Swedes are a bit neurotic, the Norwegians patriotically keep to themselves up there in the fells, and the quiet, solitary Finns are a breed apart, if you want to believe the regional stereotypes. Danes just want to “hygge” – be cosy and nice.

You can search for clues in the language as well – once you get beyond those seemingly unpronounceable vowels and consonants. Most Danes, on greeting family or friends, will ask: “Går det godt?” – literally “it goes well”? – optimistically expecting an affirmative reply. And if it is negative, cheerfully offer a “Det skal nok gå” – it will all be fine.
The message would be: Don’t worry. Have some cake. Watch another Scandi drama.
And above all: Keep calm and learn to be Danish.

Are the Danish really the happiest people in the world? What makes them so? Morley Danish tutor Bibi Christensen gives her thoughts on the state of Danish happiness.


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