10 Reasons The Danes Do It Better

10 Reasons The Danes Do It Better

When journalist Helen Russell upped sticks and moved from London to rural Denmark, she wasn’t sure what she was letting herself in for. But in the land of Borgen, pastries and Malene Birger, she discovered that Danes are winning at life. Here’s how.

They’re hot
Copenhagen is practically overrun by razor-sharp-cheekboned Helena Christensen-alikes and Scandinavian women have the best skin in the world. Life’s not fair.

They cycle everywhere
Denmark is covered with 7,500 miles of bike paths and Danes get a daily workout by cycling to work (see ‘hot’). There are also safe lanes, where you can ride home after a glass of wine, and taxis have bike racks for when you’ve had two glasses…or four. It’s very civilised.

They have a great fashion uniform
Think top-heavy silhouettes that make legs look brilliantly slim plus multiple scarves - all in 50 shades of grey, Danes do paired-back monochrome like no other nation. Malene Birger has a lot to answer for.

Their homes look like something out of a living supplement
Scandi-chic started in Denmark with a slew of great furniture and lighting designers (hello, Arne Jacobsen, Finn Juhl and Poul Henningsen) and even the most humble homes are beautifully lit with designer touches and hundreds of candles.

They’re really good at telly
Sofie Gråbøl and That Jumper marked the start of sofa-sore inducingly good TV drama coming out of Denmark in recent years with Borgen, The Bridge and The Legacy. Not bad for a country of just 5.5m people – about the same size as South London.

They have more free time
Denmark has one of the shortest working weeks in Europe at an average of just 34 hours. This leaves 134 hours to fill every week. Just imagine the mind-improving activities/books/baking/boxsets you could get through?

They’ve got Noma
The Michelin-starred Copenhagen restaurant has been voted the best in the world, again, and New Nordic Cuisine has been proven to cut cholesterol and work wonders for the complexion. Turns out a Danish open sandwich - or smørrebrød-  of fish on rye may just be the healthiest lunch around.

And pastries
Glistening sugared plaits, iced domes and cream-filled puffs that send taste buds into overdrive and dopamine surging through your veins are standard weekend breakfast fare in Denmark. If you haven’t tried an actual Danish pastry in Denmark, you haven’t lived. They. Are. Outstanding. Why wouldn’t Danes be happy with life?

They’re equal
Danish men and women get paid the same and gender equality is entrenched in Scandi-living. Plus with a female PM in the form of selfie-taking, step-tripping, seriously stylish Helle Thorning-Schmidt (nicknamed ‘Gucci Helle’ for her love of designer clothes), girls growing up in Denmark have a great role model for success. Oh, and new parents get 52 weeks leave to share between them so men do their fair share of childrearing, too.

They’re officially the happiest nation in the world
Danes have the highest levels of contentment on the planet (so says the UN World Happiness Report) and have been voted the happiest country in polls since the 1970s. Persuaded to plan a trip? Don’t expect every Dane you meet to be Rainbow Brite, jazz-hands style happy, but our Scandi cousins have an inner glow of contentment. Which is lucky, as it can get pretty cold in winter… (think ‘Narnia’).

Helen Russell’s new book, The Year of Living Danishly, Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country is out now, published by Icon. Find her tweeting on @MsHelenRussell

Back to Top