I’m guessing that most of my friends/readers are probably ready for me to return from our fairy tale trip and get back to real life Portland, but I’m reluctant to say “farvel” without a bit more reflection about why I already miss Denmark so much (and it’s not the weather 😉
Here’s my top list:
- Family comes first for Danes – While surely there are some estranged families in Denmark, as a culture, family really matters to Danes. Many families live near each other, but with the country being so small, you can’t ever be that far from “home.”
- Food is central to Danish culture and family life, and almost every family eats dinner together every night, typically lasting at least an hour and then it’s coffee hour. Breakfast and lunch is often leisurely as well, and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that while we were visiting we were eating/conversing around the dining table for at least 3 hours a day. (And yes I gained about five pounds on our trip, but when I lived there I didn’t gain anything because I was biking and staying active, and thankfully I’ve almost lost the extra “kilos” since I’ve been biking again the past few weeks 🙂
- Danes celebrate daily life – Danes seem to savor every season. In summer, Danes head to beach at the glimpse of the sun, stroll through the woods, and eat outdoors as often as weather remotely allows (plus, there’s no such thing as being “too hot” there 😉 In winter, Danes love their candles and creating a hyggeligt (cozy) atmosphere in their home.
- Danes know how to party – Danes hold the most festive and beautiful parties, and find creative ways to show others how much they care. For special anniversaries or birthdays, family and friends will remake the lyrics of traditional songs to match the celebrant’s life story and personality. Plus, if you are lucky, Danes will drink just enough to remove the facade of social shyness that you may find on the surface…once Danes open up to you, you’ve got a friend for life 🙂
- Danes take care of each other – I think the socialist system is really the key factor behind Denmark being at the top of nearly every happiness research (you must read Living in Bliss). After paying a 40% tax, Danes don’t have to worry about health care, education, retirement, or caring for ailing parents (or themselves). As a result, Danes just don’t need to waste their energy worrying about the basics that even middle class Americans can’t take for granted. Students need to demonstrate their smarts in order to get into their chosen field, but no one is saddled with college loans. New families can afford to take time away from work to care for their children, maternity leave starts a month before the baby is due, public employees get full pay for one year (Dads get two weeks initially and then need to share up to 52 weeks of leave with Moms), and I don’t think I need to go on and on again about how financially difficult maternity leave can be for young families in the states…
- Danish politics – Needless to say, the politics of a small socialist country are far different. Just yesterday the first female Danish prime minister was elected, and it was interesting to read/talk about the election while we were there. Financing the welfare system was the primary topic, because they have a deficit of $22 billion (which happens to seem paltry in comparison to nearly $15 trillion of U.S. debt!) Yet, even in a tight economy, people were debating how to improve social services, not cut them. I won’t rewrite my poli-sci paper from college here, but I would like to point out that a multi-party system really allows for diverse political perspectives to be debated at a national level. I love the fact that there is a leftist female politician in her late twenties who is in the national debate, she was very fiery and articulate when call the current (soon past) prime minister on his politics, and reminding everyone that climate change isn’t going to just go away… energy and climate issues have been at the for decades now…
I could go on and on with my love list, but I think you should get the point. While I can’t bring Denmark home with me, my trip has inspired me to have celebrate life more like the Danes.
Really the only thing I missed while we were away was our delicious Bull Run water here in Portland. Danish well water does the trick, but it’s no where near as refreshing and my curly hair is happy to home 🙂
Thanks for following along on journey to Denmark!
Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.