Why are people so happy in Denmark?

August 25, 2008

A second large international survey has found that Danes are the world’s happiest people.

”]Photo by World of Oddy (CC-BY-NC-SA)The Der Spiegel article linked to above offers a few explanations, including a quasi-structuralist class analysis:

The strong social safety nets that cradle Danish citizens from birth until death are welcoming to foreigners, too. Kate Vial, a 55-year-old American expat who has lived and worked in Denmark for more than 30 years, passed up opportunities over the years to return to the U.S., choosing instead to raise her three children in Denmark. Vial knows she will never be rich, but says that she valued family, the ability to travel, and simple economic security above all else. “I just chose a simpler lifestyle, one where I could ride my bike all over and where I don’t have to make a great living to survive,” she says.

And a more culturalist version:

Some people attribute the prevailing attitude among Danes to something less tangible, called hygge (pronounced “hooga”). Danes say the word is difficult to translate — and to comprehend — but that it describes a cozy, convivial sentiment that involves strong family bonds. “The gist of it is that you don’t have to do anything except let go,” says Vial. “It’s a combination of relaxing, eating, drinking, partying, spending time with family.”

Gotta get me some of that hygge.

In the meantime, I’m sure a bumper crop of follow up studies will try to explain the results. Personally, I wonder what sorts of behavioral and political results stem from being happy. Are Danes more cooperative? Do they smile more? If you walk into a bar full of Danes and tell a bad joke, are they more likely to laugh?

Please share your own theories, questions, and dim-witted asides (along with any spare hygge you may have lying around the house) in the comments…

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One Response to “Why are people so happy in Denmark?”

  1. babsindk Says:

    It’s not the ‘happiest’ place, but it is a place where people are very proud of what the feel they have.

    Danes do not smile more, but they are certainly more smug.

    They laugh and black and white minstrel acts and drink heavily.

    Foreigners in Denmark have a hard time because the Danish are quite threatened by new blood.

    The reports about the Danish being the happiest are over rated, they seem like quite a miserable bunch, generally, albeit a well nourished miserable bunch.


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