Overspring.dk har inviteret Mónica Vázquez fra Mexico City til at blogge lidt om hendes oplevelser af den danske kultur. P.t. studerer Mónica journalitisk her i Aarhus, og i hendes første indlæg har hun valgt at fundere over hvorfor det danske folk egentlig er udnævnt til verdens lykkeligste.
Why are people so happy?
The fact that Danes are the happiest people in the world is something not easy to understand. Denmark is a small country in northern Europe surrounded by more than 400 islands, most of them uninhabited. It has a high suicide rate; during winter, days are short, it gets dark early and the rest of the year it rains. As Latin American, the concept of happiness goes far from Denmark living conditions. Happiness refers me to the Caribbean beaches, where sun and heat are something given for granted. We, at any chance, celebrate that life is possible with music, fiesta and dance.
My astonishment is not over however; Danes are the happiest people in the world followed by Finns and Norwegians. OK. Let´s get serious. These countries have a high level of economic development, a high level of democracy, as well as educational and cultural. On the other hand, surveys show that the “welfare state” and the weather do not make people less or more happy, because one get used to that (believe it or not). So where does happiness come from? Where do they find that much joy?
LIVIN´ LA VIDA loca
For sure, parties are not the key of their happiness. Livin´ la vida loca is not a concept related with Danes. If you venture into their nightlife you will quickly know that Danish parties are not going to become famous around the world. They are not addicted to bars or night clubs, instead they spend time indoors. They love to spend time in calm and comfortable at house dinners with close friends. This is a fundamental aspect in Danish culture called Hygge . And two things cannot be missing: beers and candles! If you walk at night you will find at the streets groups of young people carrying boxes of beers, with perhaps 20 or 30 beers each one. Candles are just part of the decoration to create a cozy environment. “Party-time” is not part of the Danish everyday culture, it happens only during the weekends. If they are students, maybe parties will start since Thursday night. But it is something I cannot grant; remember that the order and discipline are main values for Scandinavians. Even leisure time seems to be scheduled: “We will be wasted from 9:00 to 4:00”
PLEASE, DO NOT TOUCH
So, parties are not the strength of Danish life. Therefore, music and dance are eliminated from the happiness sources. In Mexico when the music is on, people dance glued to each other, “pegadito, pegadito”. For us, physical contact is as normal as breath. But, in Denmark that would be impossible. Danes do not and are not used to touch other people. They only hug others when, they have been drinking, or among close friends. Still in those situations, they announce in advanced the physical contact. It seems that it is an outburst, and emotion that spills out from the glass. And they warn you with a cute: “I’ll hug you”.
But it will not be fair to let an impression of coldness about the Danes. Because in their own way they are warm people, also kind, polite and loyal. And they are very respectful with others and even they seem very self-confident, they are shy. They like to feel sure of what they are doing. If they are going to hug you, they expect you to be with open arms. But if you feel it, do not hesitate in hugging a Dane, they will love it and will appreciate you for that.
A CONCEPT TO EXPORT
While Latin American people find happiness in “celebrating the life”, Danish happiness is far away from fiesta. So, where is their secret? It is difficult to give a single answer, not even Danes will agree in a concrete definition. From my outsider view, Janteloven or The Jante Law is a fundamental part of the Scandinavian and in particular Danish happiness. This is a non-written pattern of group behavior that consists of 11 principles emphasizing a collective and homogeneous unit. In which the priorities are focus to preserve harmony, social-stability and uniformity. Even some consider the concept as a lack to personal success, it gives to society a sense of community where people trust in each other and live without worries. Perhaps Danes do not have everyday moments of excessive joy, they go to bed knowing that tomorrow is going to be as good as today. Janteloven is a role-concept that societies should adopt if they want to have a happier life.