Reading List // The Year of Living Danishly – Helen Russell

Having bought this book ahead of a planned trip to Copenhagen, I was excited to see just what was so different about Danish life that makes the Danes the happiest nation in the world.

Different from they ‘Little Book Of Hyyge’ that I also bought, this is written by an English woman, Helen Russell, who moves to Denmark due to her husband getting a job at Lego. So it was coming much more from my point view, and level of scepticism, as to how people can be so damn happy.

Firstly Helen Russell’s writing style is great, right up my street and very easy to read. I also liked how each chapter is a month of the year, and at the end of the chapter there is a bullet pointed, “what I learnt this month”, style list.

I found myself laughing out loud at some of the conversations between Helen and her new Danish friends when enquiring about certain traditions and customs that Helen now found herself part of.

Suffering from the lack of sunlight in the winter months, less than 90 minutes per day, and compensating by mood boosting with tea and carbs, Helen’s friend helpfully confirms the “vinterdepression” is a real thing. Helpfully followed by…

“Loads of people kill themselves this time of year too. Try not to kill yourself!”

What I took from reading the book is that money isn’t everything to the Danes. They believe time with your family and experiences are more important, and bring more happiness, than what you can buy. This has helped them achieve a much better work life balance than other nationalities.

“simple life maths: Fewer new shiny things = fewer hours overtime = happier life”

In fact rather than being celebrated, anyone looking to work late is seen as lacking in time management skills rather than being a hard worker. The person is more important than the work.

“I am not important. If I take a break, no one dies. And this is A Good Thing.”

The Danes are also big on community, and taking part in clubs and local events. This helps bring that sense of togetherness and social interaction – the key ingredient to a happy life.

Combining this with the “hyyge” effect of candles, warm drinks and pastries, whilst looking out at the cold surroundings and you can’t help but be relaxed.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as well as being interested in learning about a different culture, the way Helen told it from an English person’s point of view made it so much more relatable and enjoyable. Great read! 🙂


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