The Year of Living Danishly/ posted in: Reading The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell
on February 1st 2015
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Set in Denmark
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.
What is it about people doing things for a year and writing a book about it that draws me in every time?
Helen Russell is a Londoner with a job at a magazine who is also going through IVF treatment when her husband is offered a job with Lego. That means moving to Denmark – in January. This isn’t Copenhagen either. This is rural Jutland. They decide to go for one year with Helen giving up her job and starting to freelance.
When they get there the place seems deserted. They find out that it is because of hygge. Hygge is the Danish word for getting cozy in the winter with candles and dinner and friends and basically hibernating until spring.
When I was reading this part of the book, I looked over to my left and saw this.
She also found that working all hours of the day and night doesn’t show that you are invaluable to Danish employers. To them, not getting your work done during the allotted time in the day means that you aren’t good at being efficient. Everyone stops work in the early afternoon to spend more time with family. I had some questions about this section though. She only talks about office workers. What about service industries? Does this hold true there too? What about medical workers? This read a bit like the articles I see all the time that tout everyone working from home or being a geographical nomad. I’m always thinking, “I see patients for a living. How exactly is that supposed to work then?”
Not everything is great in Denmark though. While women are legally treated equally, there is still a way to go on getting equality in people’s attitudes towards them. There is also a lot of violence in the culture. Fights are common. There are also a lot of unwritten rules that the community enforces which can be hard for someone coming in from the outside.
The school system is good though. High taxes mean that there is a huge support structure. For example, college is paid for and you get up to 2 years unemployment if you decide to change jobs. There is maternity and paternity leave.
I have been thinking about going to Denmark in 2017 for a conference.
Hello, tax deductable airfare and hotels!
This book made me even more interested in going.
I got this book from Bex for the Nonfiction November swap.