Life in Denmark
We had an incredible trip to Copenhagen! Catching up with old friends, exploring places we hadn't been before and relaxing in the many beautiful parks around the city. We spoke with many women during our visit. Mostly casual conversations about working, parenting and if Danes really think Denmark is the happiest place on earth. Here are our biggest takeaways.
Danes full time work week is 37 hours. Now thats only 3 hours difference from here in the states but consider that 3 hours over the course of a month or an entire year. Danes are getting 12 hours a month and 156 hours a year more with their friends and family. No wonder why there is so much "hygge" happening. There's simply more time to cook meals, light some candles and have cozy little dinner parties.
In addition to a shorter work week Danes also get 6 weeks vacation time as full time employees. This vacation time is for all employees wether you work at the Dansk bank or Burger King. The country as a whole has this wonderful vacation time to travel and see the world and unlike here in America they actually use their vacation time.
Now I won't even get into how mothers get 9 months maternity leave to connect with their babies or how education is free (or payed for within their tax system). I won't get into how everyone has healthcare and no one has to be scared about going bankrupt if they get cancer or have a baby. I do however see how easy it would be to be happy in a place where the vast majority of society is healthy, educated and enjoys a month and a half of vacation every year.
Another thing I noticed while visiting, particularly because I am a mom of two young kids; is that parents tend to give their kids a lot of freedom and space for playtime. I noticed kids walking the streets with each other and no parents, kids biking to and from by themselves as well as parents at parks sitting and chatting and letting their kids roam around the vast parks without any hovering or "helicopter parenting" as we call it. Babies sleeping in strollers outside of shops and cafe's is very common place as fresh air is said to help them sleep better. This style of parenting really was a breath of fresh air and something that I am trying to do more myself now that we are back home.
I am by no means suggesting that Denmark is a perfect country. They have their fair share of issues from a political perspective. While we were visiting they band the wearing of the Burka and over the past several years they have made some major changes in their immigration laws which make it quite difficult if not impossible for poor, uneducated people to immigrate to the country even if they are married to a Dane.
Denmark has been hailed as being the happiest place on earth. Even Oprah highlighted the country when she visited a few years back. So I thought I would get a few Danes perspective on how they felt about this title. One resounding response was that Denmark is wonderful when the weather is good but when the weather isn't good (which is most of the year) Denmark is a much different place to be. People aren't filling up the parks with their picnics and blankets and crowding the eateries to soak up the sun. Also in the winter time the hours of daylight are very little which causes a great number of people to feel depressed due to the lack of vitamin D. But the appreciation of the time to travel, the cultural value of having time to spend with friends and family and the opportunity to educate oneself in order to be competitive in the job market are all things that for many Danes make the lack of year round sunshine bearable.
This is simply my perspective and experience of Denmark. A very beautiful country and incredibly friendly and welcoming people. Have you visited and if so what did you think about the people and culture? Are you Danish? If so how do you feel about living there in the current political climate?