cover image Happy as a Dane: 10 Secrets of the Happiest People in the World

Happy as a Dane: 10 Secrets of the Happiest People in the World

Malene Rydahl, trans. from the French by Kate Bignold and Luisa Nitrato Izzo. Norton, $14.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-0-393-60892-2

In this slim volume, Rydahl, a Danish former corporate executive named the goodwill ambassador of Copenhagen after her book’s initial publication in Europe, provides a primer to the unique attitudes and practices of her homeland. Ten simple keys characterize the social model: trust, education, freedom and independence, equal opportunity, realistic expectations, solidarity and respect for others, work-life balance, relationship to money, modesty, and gender equality. Addressing education, Rydahl asserts that Denmark does not seek to create an elite; free tuition and grants make schooling accessible to all, and high achievement ranks lower than personal happiness. As to money, she writes that Danes are quite relaxed, and that being rich is not a priority. The concept of hygge is related to work-life balance, with the Danes pursuing a friendly and familial intimacy that enhances well-being and adds meaning and purpose to life. She also makes appealing claims about gender equity in Danish life, stressing that there are few hang-ups about sex and almost no gender discrimination. Plentiful facts, data, recent sociological research, and personal stories are packed into this cogent little volume. More journalistic than prescriptive, it will complement the many other “happy Dane” books reaching the market. (Jan.)