The Year of Living Danishly

The Year of Living Danishly

Uncovering the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country

Book - 2015
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'A hugely enjoyable romp through the pleasures and pitfalls of setting up home in a foreign land' PD Smith, Guardian

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 (not to mention 'hygge') 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, 2015.
ISBN: 9781848318120
Branch Call Number: 948.9506 RUSSELL
Characteristics: xxx, 354 pages ; 22 cm


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mazinwhistler May 23, 2019

I loved this book! It made me (in a dream world) want to pack up my living and move to Denmark to live Danish. I knew very little about the Utopian society that the Danes live in and this book was a great way to learn about it. It's funny, witty and well written - I am looking forward to checking out other books by Helen Russell.

AveryG_KCMO May 07, 2019

This is an entertaining book for scandophiles. It gets bogged down by statistics-heavy interviews and often sounds like a tabloid, but is a fun read nontheless and may satisfy some curiousity about immigrating to Denmark.

Mar 18, 2019

Wonderfully witty. I enjoyed the read and learning about Denmark. Seriously, entertaining and very well written.

Aug 20, 2018

Denmark is purported to be the happiest country on earth. When a business opportunity presents the chance for a young British couple to see for themselves just how true this may be, they take the plunge, spending a year experiencing life as how the Danes do it. Culture shock is inevitable when one moves to another country, and their day-to-day experiences are shared with humor, honesty, and insight as they learn how to do things the Danish way, for better and sometimes for worse. A fun read.

Jun 17, 2018

I thoroughly enjoyed Read this book. Makes me want to be a little more Danish within my current life. 😊

Jan 22, 2018

Interesting - if you are interested in Denmark. And the author does have a great sense of humour, but that’s it. I made it to chapter 7 but was bored and tired of reading the phrase “according to a study by the...”. I decided to skip to the end - top ten tips for living danishly - and was disappointed.

Jan 11, 2018

A little slow at times, but certainly worth the read. Denmark is interesting but a bit weird too.

Oct 25, 2017

Enlightening, engaging and frequently hilarious.

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.

cuppa_tea 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.

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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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