I found a super-cheap flight from Marrakesh to Copenhagen, but my friend Sue said, “No dice.” Instead, she mailed me “The Year of Living Danishly” by Helen Russell and I loved it. Helen ends her book with the Danish “rules.”
- Trust. Because the population is so stable, kids grow up with each other and everyone knows everyone else. The culture is built on trust and 79% of Danes trust most people. This is very calming and de-stressing.
- Get hygge. This can be translated as “cozy” or “fun,” but it reflects the deep Danish commitment to beautiful, simple, clean, bright, quality surroundings. Yes, they absolutely believe in Danish design.
- Use your body. They are very active, including dance.
- Address the aesthetics. Make your environment as beautiful as you can, outdoors as well as indoors.
- Streamline your options. Cutting down on choice can take some of the hassle out of modern life. Danes cultivate stress-free simplicity and freedom within boundaries.
- Be proud of your community. Find something that you, or folks from your home town, are really good and and join in customs and festivals. Wave the flag.
- Value family. The Danes have many customs and rituals that promote this.
- Equal respect for equal work
Underlying these customs are the Ten Laws of Jante which can be summed up as You are not to think you’re anyone special or that you’re better than we are.
In this YouTube video, Helen Russell explains the Danish custom of “not depriving yourself” at 31 minutes in. She quotes a Dane as saying, “Hygge helps us to be nice to each other.” Here is a screenshot of Helen’s best definition. She point out that Danes use more candles than any other European country, and she suspects it is because people look nice in candelight.
Law of Jante
The 1930s Danish-Norwegien author Aksel Sandemose outlines the ten rules for living Danishly in his novel A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks. Here’s how Wikipedia translates the Ten Laws of Jante.
You’re not to think you are anything special.
You’re not to think you are as good as we are.
You’re not to think you are smarter than we are.
You’re not to imagine yourself better than we are.
You’re not to think you know more than we do.
You’re not to think you are more important than we are.
You’re not to think you are good at anything.
You’re not to laugh at us.
You’re not to think anyone cares about you.
You’re not to think you can teach us anything.
The Janters who transgress this unwritten ‘law’ are regarded with suspicion and some hostility, as it goes against the town’s communal desire to preserve harmony, social stability and uniformity.
Helen says that if anyone plays the martyr-card, staying late at the office or working too much, they’re likely to get a leaflet about efficiency or time-management dropped on their desk than any sympathy. She loved the value they placed on spending time with their families and friends and her book was a joy to read.