I just finished reading The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell. Helen grew up in England and immigrated with her husband to Denmark for his job with Lego. She doesn’t explain exactly what his job is, but if you don’t know, Denmark is the home of the Lego company. Denmark was apparently also the happiest country in the world at the time of her publishing this book in 2015. I couldn’t find out how many years Denmark was crowned the happiest country in the world, but it was for at least five years from 2013 to 2017. However, now in 2023, the happiest country is Finland; Finland has won this title for six years in a row! In 2023, Denmark is the second happiest country in the world, and the United States is ranked number 15!
Russell is a journalist in England, and when they move to Denmark, she becomes a freelance writer who writes this memoir in addition to her other assignments. She decided to research why Denmark, her new home, was named the happiest country of the world. I found her book to be very well written, well researched, and quite entertaining.
Each chapter explains a different aspect of why Denmark was considered the happiest country in the world. She discusses the health care system, education system, as well as the work life balance of Danes, all while consuming copious amounts of Danishes (pastries — she’s not a cannibal!).
Apparently, Danes on average work less than 40 hours a week! They take their work life balance seriously. Also, they provide ample time off for new mothers and fathers. Russell also attempts to explain what hygge is. It seems like a mystical feeling of warmth that can be brought about through the simple pleasures in life such as candles, coffee, and taking baths.
Denmark provides free Danish language courses to its immigrants, which I thought was impressive! Most Danes speak English though, so the Russell’s were able to get by, but they still took advantage of the free lessons.
One disappointing aspect of Denmark is the cold brutal winters with very little sunlight and abundant snowfall. I would not want to live in a country where the winters last for months!
After reading this book, I want to go visit Denmark and check it out for myself! I really enjoyed learning more about the country as well as her experience as an immigrant. She added an extra chapter in 2020 that reviewed what had happened in her life since publishing the book in 2015. As of 2023, she is still living in Denmark! Between 2015 and 2020, she reviews the dismal politics that happened, as well as Denmark’s response to the global pandemic. Denmark handled the pandemic well, but unfortunately, the political side of the country turned to xenophobia. Thankfully, the country is turning itself around.
I highly recommend you read this book to learn more about contributes to happiness in a society, as well as to learn more about the small European country of Denmark.