The Year of Living Danishly

The Year of Living Danishly

Uncovering the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country

Book - 2016
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When she was suddenly given the opportunity of a new life in rural Jutland, journalist and archetypal Londoner Helen Russell discovered a startling statistic: the happiest place on earth isn't Disneyland, but Denmark, a land often thought of by foreigners as consisting entirely of long dark winters, cured herring, Lego and pastries. What is the secret to their success? Are happy Danes born, or made? Helen decides there is only one way to find out: she will give herself a year, trying to uncover the formula for Danish happiness. From childcare, education, food and interior design to SAD, taxes, sexism and an unfortunate predilection for burning witches, The Year of Living Danishly is a funny, poignant record of a journey that shows us where the Danes get it right, where they get it wrong, and how we might just benefit from living a little more Danishly ourselves.
Publisher: London : Icon Books Ltd, 2016
Copyright Date: ©2015
ISBN: 9781785780233
1785780239
Branch Call Number: 948.95061 R913y 2016
Characteristics: xxx, 354 pages ; 20 cm

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Mayflower94 Jul 08, 2017

Fun read. Very likely you'll experience some culture shock, even you are from the neighboring country, like the author, who is from UK.

scissorsnglue Jun 01, 2017

A light read, fun, entertaining. Just what I needed at the time, and also makes me want to go to Denmark. Don't expect a sociological study or beautiful writing, this book is more at the level of a entertaining magazine article.

j
janetarlene
Apr 09, 2017

Decent book, but I was disappointed. I was so excited to read it as my paternal grandparents were Danish (but left Denmark and teens in the 1920's) and I will be visiting Denmark this summer. There was so much reference to ridiculous sex (co workers together at the company Christmas party? She made it sound like everyone who works for Lego had extramarital sex!). Although I liked several chapters, I found some references to be just a bit vulgar. Not like the Danes I know and love!

r
ryner
Apr 04, 2017

When Helen Russell's husband is offered his dream job working at the LEGO company in Denmark, the English couple uproots themselves from their urban London lifestyle and embarks on a hilarious year of culture shock as they immerse themselves in "the happiest country on earth." Helen, a freelance journalist, devotes each chapter to a month and a cultural topic, educating and entertaining the reader as she attempts to get to the bottom of just what makes Danes so happy.

Although I had some initial trouble getting used to Russell's tone, I was soon engrossed in this cultural study. Having lived in another Scandinavian country for a year in my youth, many of the topics were familiar, causing me to reminisce fondly about my own experiences. I can't help but contrast Danish society and culture with the consumerism-driven culture of my home, yearning for something a bit more simple and meaningful.

l
LauraSB
Mar 24, 2017

This was a nice read, but I was disappointed that the author / publisher did not include any pronunciations for the Danish words. And there were quite a lot of them! Since the author is British, there were a lot of phrases and references that we Americans might not be familiar with. This would have been a much more immersive book had it included graphics: maps, illustrations, photographs, and graphs of her many-quoted statistics.

SCL_Tricia Feb 03, 2017

An amusing long magazine article read. I did enjoy it and I did learn something about the Danish way of life. Some of the repeated jokes became very old by the end. If I had a glass of wine every time the author referred to an incident as _____gate I would be as happy as a Dane!

DCLAmyP Feb 01, 2017

Great book about a country I didn't know much about. Was well written and kept my interest with the narrative feel.

d
dprodrig
Aug 29, 2016

This was a light read, with some studies to back up Helen's theory that Danes deserve to be classified as the happiest people in the world. She touches very briefly on the fault's within Danish society (lack of inclusiveness - needing to join societies, rules bound, homogeneity, disregard for personal health), but it should never be used as a basis for anything academic. There's also a lack of questioning about what is happiness, and what the happiness index is truly trying to measure, including whether the differences in the top five country are really significant enough to provide Denmark with such a great amount of airtime. Like for example, differences between Sweden and Denmark are quite slight, yet the Swedes have a longer life span, so more time for them to enjoy their happiness overall makes them a better country to study and read about in my opinion. But Swedes aren't prone to bragging about their country as much as are Danes on the international stage. Then there's countries like Canada which have a much more multicultural society, which are also rated pretty high on the happiness scale that manage to accomplish a lot more for their country with fewer tax dollars, achieving comparable levels of health and longevity for their people. There is a broad streak of romanticism in Brits, as most of these sorts of book are written by British expats that have married Danes or moved to Denmark and most of them tend to be journalists. I just don't see what is so miraculous, nor is it revealed in this novel, about why Denmark is so beyond wonderful that we should even consider emulating them in any way shape or form. Nevertheless, a light hearted read... maybe I'll even visit Denmark (and the other Nordic greats) soon.

o
ownedbydoxies
Jul 22, 2016

I found this one disappointing, but perhaps I'd expected a voice somewhat along the lines of Bryson, so I was hoping for more humor and illumination. There are statistics that are interesting. It's kind of like a long magazine article.

j
jerksister1
Feb 03, 2016

I loved this book! The writer had just the right combination of personal comments and expert/statistical information to explain why Denmark is known to be the Happiest Place to Live. Very interesting!

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SPL_Robyn Sep 01, 2015

When Helen Russell’s husband got offered his dream job to work for Lego (yes, they of the brightly-coloured-building-bricks), it meant relocating to Lego’s home base in Denmark. Helen, a high-powered London editor of an unnamed glossy women’s magazine, was not at all sure she wanted to trade her glam life and busy social calendar for a year abroad in a country famous for pastries and Hans Christian Anderson. But as it turns out, they are also famous for being happy. This was enough to intrigue Helen – she would use this opportunity to find out what made these Vikings happy and why. Thus began her own year of living Danishly.

Do not be fooled by this book’s light-hearted title, tone and the giggles evoked therein; evidence of Helen’s thorough research is dotted throughout, but never in a preachy, pedantic way. Her writing is self-deprecating, yes, but also thoughtful and very candid.

She comes to admire the enviable work-life balance that Danes value so much; their models of healthcare, social welfare and environmentalism are some of the best in the world too. They are incredibly patriotic, sexually liberal, and have one entire season dedicated to the coziness of hearth and home (hygge). Daycares are funded and described as “the most fun it is possible to have without artificial stimulants involved… like Lord of the Flies but with a happy ending.”

Denmark may sound like utopia, but Helen discovers some darker sides. For instance, Danish parents are ‘curling parents’ – parents who sweep away any obstacles in the paths of their kids, without letting the kids tackle the challenges themselves. Danes drink and smoke A LOT and have A LOT of esoteric rules. And although there is a high standard of gender equality (women have major roles in government and dads get a good chunk of paternity leave), sexist attitudes and violence against women persists.

But then again, Danish people trust each A LOT too, and that appears to be the key to their happiness – their trust in each other, their culture and even in their government means that things do improve over time to the benefit of all. Which makes them even happier. And to boot, they have the best ways of celebrating Christmas.

It almost makes one want to emigrate.

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