Simple Living Works! eNews #33 – Why Are Danes So Happy?

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Rita and I are proud to be Danish-Americans. Both of us come from Danish stock, so we paid tribute to The Motherland by visiting Copenhagen with daughter Elysha for a week this spring.

[Photo: We three share an ice cream with Ron Rentner, a school mate of mine at Concordia, Oakland, Calif. in the ’60’s. Ron — in the black shirt — serves as pastor of the International Church of Copenhagen.]

The Danes are considered to be the happiest people on Earth. Outwardly they don’t appear especially happy. That’s because their happiness is not a shallow veneer. Their’s is an inner contentedness.

And why? Largely because Denmark is a Socialist Democracy. They have little of the gross economic inequality that America has. They willingly pay high taxes and it really works. Copenhagen is on track to be the first carbon neutral capital by 2020!

Prices seem higher there than in the U.S. They pay a 25% VAT (value added tax) on everything. Ouch! you may think. The VAT is already in the price, not added to it, as our sales tax is. We in the U.S. also pay additional fees that they don’t pay. An obvious example is tipping. Here we pay 15-20% for service. Tipping is not expected in Denmark because SERVERS ARE PAID A LIVING WAGE.

I recommend my interview with John De Graaf, co-author and producer of the Affluenza videos and books. He is co-founder of the Happiness Initiative. Though he focuses on Bhutan, his insights are relevant to Denmark as well. (Read my blog posts on The Geography of Bliss and Global Happiness Initiative.)

Why be concerned about happiness? One big reason would be that we Americans need to redefine happiness, away from consumerism toward contentedness. Why? Human civilization will go through immense trauma (some say extinction) by 2100. Let’s prepare ourselves, our children and grandchildren for the change now. Yes, we can mitigate some of the worst effects through simple, green living but we cannot reverse the inevitable through geo-engineering or magical, wishful thinking. (See my blog post Vision of the Future.)
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Posted on: June 14, 2014