Review: The Year of Living Danishly

Scandinavia and happiness are two big interests of mine, so I was intrigued when a friend bought me The Year of Living Danishly.

You’ll probably be well aware that Scandinavian countries – and Denmark in particular – frequently come out on top for all sorts of wellbeing and quality of life measures. Denmark tops so many studies that it is thought to be the world’s happiest country. And that’s in spite of all the grisly murders Sarah Lund is called in to solve.

So what is it that makes the Danes so bloody happy? Helen Russell set herself the challenge of finding out, after her husband’s work took them to rural Denmark for a year.

Helen looked at all areas of Danish life, from work to family, to see whether she could make herself happier by living more Danishly. She speaks to experts on every subject, as well as experiencing the country for herself and quizzing her new Danish friends.

I found the book really interesting and felt it made some convincing arguments for why Denmark is such a happy country. Without too many spoilers, trust is a really important quality to to the Danes. Russell explores the relationship between the trusted Danish system, as well as personal trust, in a really interesting way.

What this book probably won’t help you with is your own happiness – unless of course you’re prepared to move to Denmark. Lots of the components of Danish happiness don’t exist in England (a Danish work-life balance, in particular, would be hard to achieve here).

There is a section at the end suggesting how you can live more Danishly with the elements which are in your control, but this felt like an afterthought to me.

With that said this was a really enjoyable read, and it made me think about my own outlook on life. If you’re a fan of all things Scandi you’ll find it particularly interesting – and I can’t knock a book which suggests we should all eat more pastries.

4 thoughts on “Review: The Year of Living Danishly

  1. Nia says:

    This sounds like my kind of book, I’ll have to pick it up. I’m Scandi-mad. All the Scandinavian countries just seem to have living figured out, with a good work life balace and emphasis on family and friends and getting together to enjoy food and the company of others 🙂


    • Words by Nina says:

      I’m Scandi-mad too! This is mainly based on crime drama. But also when I went to Copenhagen, everything was just so cool. I think it’s hard not to be happy when your local airport has a solid wood floor. That’s living.


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