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What we can learn from Denmarkー one of the happiest countries in the world
This was the title of an online webinar I joined 6 months before moving there. Had I known that I will actually live in that country, I would have listened more seriously.
In this entry, I will share some of my thoughts of living for more than 6 months in Denmark ー one of the happiest countries ー with specific interests in food, culture, education and things to see. I hope this will serve a guide and learning for anyone interested to visit and know more about Denmark.
●Danish Pastry: world-famous Danish pastry is actually called “Wienrbrød” as its origin lies in Wein Austria. As I try to learn local cuisine as much as possible, I took Danish pastry through Terrible (unlike its name, it was quite good)
(Danish pastry cooking class)
(Outcome of the class!)
●Smørrebrød: This open sandwich is another highlighted dish. As it means butter bread, it has Danish quality butter (also the secret of good quality Danish pastry) on the rye bread. The ingredient can be flexible, but typical ones include shrimp, smoke salmon, egg, etc.
(lots of shrimp on rye bread and butter)
(variety of Smørrebrød)
●Shooting star (stjerneskud): Ais sliced French bread filled with fried fish fillets with caviar, shrimps, asparagus, lemon, and a thousand island dressing.
(It matches with beer!)
●Hotdog: this is another traditional food. It includes fried onion, pickles, long sausage and special sauce.
(sausage is way longer than bread!)
●Big portion: As you could see above photos, which might be related to Danish mIndset, each dish has quite big portion. For example, if you order shrimp salad, it will include at least 20 shrimps whereas you get 4-5 shrimps in Japan. This can be a good Segway to the cultural part
●Child-friendly: it might be related to happiness, but people and the public system are child-friendly. Please see some photos below. Big parks and are everywhere.
(Baby stroller parking area in a public library)
(Diaper room is everywhere)
(Second-hand shop of the international NGO Save the Children is everywhere in the city)
●Hyugge: this means “cozy” or “relaxing” and it might be another secret of happiness in Denmark. It has a long and dark winter and your body will miss vitamin D and even get depressed easily. When I arrived in mid-November, it was dark at 4pm until 9am. To survive long and depressing winter, Danish family and friends gather to have relaxing time. Candles are used by many people to facilitate huggye-like moment.
(Candle is the key item of Huggye)
●No bike no life: someone told me that Denmark (one of nordic countries) is not viking country, but it is a biking country. You see more bikes than cars.
(lots of bikers waiting for a signal)
(bikes are allowed in the train)
●No calling at restaurant: at restaurant, Danish people usually don’t raise hand and call out the waiter/waitress to order. Instead, customers wait calmly until someone comes to your table. As someone from Japan where customers call out waiter all the time, it was quite surprising.
●No overtime: It is straightforward. Danish people don’t work overtime as they just go home after working hour to spend time with their family
●Birthday: if you are a birthday person, restaurant people will let you have Danish flag on the table. It is common that birthday person treat everyone.
●Trust: Overall, the society and people are well-connected with strong trust, be it education, work or social welfare. It was quite interesting that when the government lifted COVID-19 prevention measure (e.g. wearing mask), people immediately adjusted themselves to the new life.
●Housing: I lived in 7 countries and it was the most expensive and difficult place for housing, simply because it was very expensive and few options were available. I paid to subscribe to real estate site “Boligportal” and called to a potential landlord immediately a few minutes after the ad was posted, but it was already booked with 50 people reaching out. Also, some apartments have shower head right above toilet, so when you take a shower, it will wet toilet as well.
(Shower head above toilet)
●Work: among other nordic countries, jobs in Denmark tend to be well-paid.
●Service and tax: overall service is very expensive, due mainly to high income tax (as high as 50%)
●Shopping: for the above reason, restaurant and cafe are quite expensive (1 small cup of coffee can cost more than 8 USD) whereas supermarket can be reasonable. Also, I really liked the idea of store called “We Food” that is conscious of food loss and sells cheaper food that is about to expire / expired but still edible. With that in mind, not everything is expensive in Denmark.
●Foreigner: People are generally very nice, but so many Danish and foreigners said that it is hard for foreigner to be a close friend with Danish people. Partly because Danish people tend to find best friends from primary schools and maintain relationship, thus no need to expand friendship (of course with some exception). This can be a good Segway to education part.
●Play-based: Denmark has a birthplace of LEGO, which is a concatenation of the Danish words Leg and Godt, which means Play Well. They value play and family and community have high respect to teachers and school.
(Birthplace of LEGO, Denmark)
●Gap year: after high school graduation, most youth will take a gap year to either travel, work or do whatever s/he likes before going to collegeor landing a full time job.
●Folk high school: Also, there is an interesting school system to learn to live and learn, without exam or grade. Anyone can join regardless of the nationality. Please see here for more detail.
●Bilingual: Living in Denmark for over 6 months, I never met someone who doesn’t speak English, and their level of English is very high. Even if Danish and English are germanic languages, they are still different ones and I was simply impressed by their bilingual skill. I tried to learn some Danish to communicate with people, but for the same reason, I didn’t feel motivated.
Places to go
●Tivoli: Despite being the oldest amusement park, it is still entertaining, including house of Hans Christian Andersen, beautiful garden, good restaurant, exciting attraction, etc.
(House of Hans Christian Andersen)
●Nyhavn: this area of colorful houses might be one of the most famous touristic site. I have seen colorful houses in Boca (Argentine), Valparaiso (Chile), Guatape (Colombia) Venice (Italy), but this scenery with colors, water and many ships are something unique. It also inspired many creative people including Hans Christian Andersen.
(Landmark of Copenhagen, Nyhavn)
Also, unlike other places, this place became familiar to me since it was part of daily biking commute. Please take a look at summary video “Nyhavn (Copenhagen, Denmark) in 5 seconds”
●Little mermaid statue: This is part of touristic spot in Copenhagen, but before visiting, I personally recommend to read the true version of Little mermaid.
I only watched Disney movie and quite liked the music. When I saw this statue, I had never read the original version (written by Hans Christian Andersen), which is much more impactful and sad story than Disney one.
(Somewhat little mermaid seems to have mixed feeling)
●Freetown Christiania: As the name says, it is a freetown in the middle of Copenhagen that operates independently. This happy/hippy town has lots of creative arts, it sells weed (prohibited by Danish law so no photo allowed in the selling are). Some town rules include no violence, no guns, no stealing, and no hard drug.
Since this was also part of my biking commute path, I sometimes visited to get inspired by artistic atmosphere (maybe wise to say not to buy weed).
(Independent flag with three yellow circles)
(artistic and childish mind, no adults!)
(Creative art at the entrance)
Outside Copenhagen: below are some highlighted places I visited by using 3-day pass.
●Frederiksborg Castle, Kronborg Castle, and Louisiana Museum can be visited within 1 day Copenhagen card. I went there in the same order with my family including a 7-month-old baby from Copenhagen (as Louisiana museum opens until late), so it is quite possible for solo and family traveler.
●Malmo: from Copenhagen, you can take train and within 30 minutes, you arrive Malmo, the 3rd largest city in Sweden.
(quick international trip by train)
(Big marble monument and b-boy)
(Malmo’s symbolic twist tower)
That’s it for a summary of my Denmark. Hope it is any of your use!
The learning of this time
Denmarkーone of the happiest countriesーhas its unique culture, education and environment, and people survive and thrive with Hyugge and trust even by enjoying long and depressing winter.
Thank you for reading this article. Have a great learning!