Denmark – Traveling to the ‘Happiest’ Country in the World – by Michaela Campbell. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
[The ‘Little Mermaid’, Copenhagen (København), Denmark]
When I told people that I would be studying the ‘Science of Happiness’ abroad in Europe I was the recipient of either intrigued expressions, or a fit of laughter. Our trip focused on the area of positive psychology, which is a relatively new field in the area of psychology. Our main purpose for traveling abroad to Europe was to visit a few main areas, with Denmark being the sole focus, since it had recently been rated as the happiest country in the world. The country currently usually moves down a spot or two, and then goes back up to the number one spot every couple of years. So twenty other classmates, two professors, their young sons, and myself boarded a flight one evening in mid-May to discover what may be some potential causes for these findings.
Our first hands-on exposure to the ‘happy’ Danish lifestyle came when we had the opportunity to travel to different area high schools in and around Copenhagen to talk with local students about our differing cultures. The high school that I had the pleasure of visiting included three other classmates and myself having a Q&A with fifty Danish students. The students often asked about our public policy programs, American politics, and Minnesota weather. But as the questions became more in-depth, we asked the Danes why they believed that they were among the happiest people in the world, and the responses were intriguing.
One Danish students’ response was, “We’re happy because the only thing we have to worry about is what the weather will be like tomorrow”. When you live in a country like Denmark that has free healthcare and free post-secondary education, it makes sense that your main concern would be the weather, among other menial things. Another key factor as to why the Danes believe they are among the happiest of nations is that they trust their government and the system that runs it. In the US, stories of corrupt politicians and corporations headline the news every day. This is why my classmates and myself when asked by the Danes if “we trusted our current government”, we were a little ashamed to truthfully say, “No”. A third factor that makes the Danes appear as a ‘happy’ nation is the emphasis on time with friends and family. According to the students we talked with, the average work-week for a Dane is 37 hours per week. As soon as the work-day is done, the Danes leave work at the office, and put more of an emphasis on enjoying life with loved ones. This is very different from the American work style, where we often can be found putting work in front of friends and family.
[In Copenhagen (København), Denmark, on a bike tour through the Royal Palace (Amalienborg)]
Strong social policies, trust for a country’s government, and emphasis enjoying leisure are what create lack of stress within the Danish lifestyle. Lack of stress is what I believe leads the Danish people to lead a ‘happy’ life and be one of the happiest nations in the world every year. Here in the US, we pay outrageous amounts of money for healthcare, especially if not covered by an employer, and the US college tuition rise is a whole other problem in of itself. These issues put enormous amounts of stress on the American people, and this could explain why the US ranked twelve spots below Denmark on the happiness rankings.
Michaela serves as an editor for The NSR. This essay is based on Michaela’s participation in St. Scholastica’s Denmark and Happiness Study Abroad Trip supervised by Professor Karen Petersen.
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Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.
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