September 24, 2013 § 1 Comment
My phone started ringing again this week one of my friend Yasir Jafri called me around over the sea’s to ask me why the happiest people in the world live in Denmark how can be they happy …are n,t they get married ?Or what… ??What do you mean I replied …(might be its one of the reason of their happiness) than we started busted laughed.
Any way according to survey which Released this week, the 2013 World Happiness Report ranks the happiest countries around the globe, with Denmark, Norway and Switzerland leading the pack. Among North American countries, Canada took sixth place, while Mexico (16) slightly outranked the U.S. (17).
Problem is that Denmark does not always end up happiest in every survey. To my knowledge there about 20 different studies looking at world/European happiness and well, Understanding why the Danes are so happy has been my question for the last 3 years and I have my own belief as to why they are. I also think that many aspects of Danish happiness can exported (so you don’t need to move here to experience Danish happiness)
While the generous social welfare system definitely provides a foundation for happiness, I believe – that Danes are satisfied with their lives because the unspoken norms of the Laws of Jante. These norms push Danes into keeping their dreams and expectations very real.
Several point out that while Danes are very satisfied, they also have the lowest expectations for the future in Europe. If you don’t have big dreams of becoming a millionaire, rock star or winning the lottery but instead focus on smaller, achievable goals – you are well on your way to becoming Danish.The Laws of Jante rules with an iron hand of humility and one needs to make sure that others do not feel that you are too successful or boastful.
In Denmark, Folks also focus on Hygge – loosely translated is coziness. This includes the presence of and pleasure from comforting, gentle and soothing things. What is great about hygge is that it is cheap and easy to come by – much like mindfulness – it is 99 aspiration and 1 percent perspiration.
So how do you do it? Invite some friends for a walk in the forest and later at home for coffee – arrange it nicely with some cookies or candy and light a few candles. Sit in comfortable chairs, take off your shoes (mandatory in most Danish homes) and now have a light and pleasant conversation. (no debates, no boasting, no raised voices – just polite and cheerful)
Sounds easy, well it is.
August 29, 2012 § 3 Comments
The first good thing about the Danish language program in denmark that it was free! Big thumbs up to Socialist Denmark,
Learning Danish undoubtedly solved some of my earlier puzzlement over the choice of certain words in English typically used by Danes (for example, the interchangeable use of ‘fun’ and ‘funny’ or the funny expression ‘I don’t hope this happens’, not to mention the frequent use of the word ‘sparring’ in business contexts, or using ‘back-side’ when wanting to say ‘flip-side’; I now finally get the origin of those funny – and fun! – mistakes).and danish countless vowels
Learning Danish has also provided its fair share of frustrations and entertainment, the two often being inextricably linked. For example, the fact that there are four different words in Danish for ‘think’ (I still get my mener, tænker, tror and synes confusing sometimes). Or the annoying abundance of words for ‘probably’ (still waiting for someone to explain to me the difference between sikkert, nok, vist, muligvis and sandsynligvis). Or the very curious fact that the Danes officially don’t have a future (tense, that is). Of course one can use ‘skal’ or ‘vil’ but those are apparently not often used, with the present tense prevailing when referring to the future, as a rule. You can only imagine the juicy discussions and giggles this triggered among us foreign learners, seeing an opportunity to draw parallels between the language and the country. But I digress.
and my all-time favourite – the ability to say ‘yes’ or express affirmation by a short and quick intake of breath (where I come from, a short and loud breath intake suggests alarm, and so the first time I visited Denmark and spoke to people – especially women, who seem to do the breath intake more frequently – I kept looking around worryingly and asking “what happened?!”)
A move to a new country always entails moments of bewilderment and puzzlement. My move to Denmark is no exception. “I wonder why candy in Denmark is salty” I remember thinking on one of my first days here. And “why do people get so worked up about a sport virtually unknown to the rest of the world?”. Naturally there were many other questions and head-scratching moments – why is a right-wing government led by a party called ‘left’? and while we’re on the topic of politics, it’s a bit strange that the locals refer to their prime minister by his middle name… (yes, I realize it’s practical considering his predecessors, but it still sounds a bit funny). And what about that funny habit of answering the phone by stating your name – surely people know who they’re calling?! Or the fact that virtually all women’s names seem to end with an ‘e’.one more thing there is no word of Please in danish language …..
So in summary,I realized and as my elder brother suggested me if you want to stay here, learning Danish should be one of your top priorities. So enjoy “rød grød med fløde”.(i took two days to pronounce that line,people claim if you can pronounce that line than you can speak danish language ) …………“rød grød med fløde”.“rød grød med fløde”……….do try not to choke on the hot potato in your mouth.
July 19, 2012 § 4 Comments
Although many people specially foreigners will probably live in Denmark without knowing what Jante Law is, when one starts going a bit deeper into Danish culture, the Law of Jante (Janteloven in Danish) will most likely pop up at some point.
Although the law exists since the beginning of civilization, it was only officially declared in 1933 by writer Aksel Sandemose in the novel “A refugee goes beyond limits”, in which the fictitious Danish town of Jante lives by its own ten commandments. Jante’s law is defined by Sandemose: “This is Jante: each little soul’s struggle for coequality and recognition, never without consciousness that all the others are greater than he.”
It’s one of the many non-written laws in Denmark, which operates in a subconscious level. Those foreigners who want to integrate properly should know it (and probably follow it to a certain degree?)
According to Wikipedia, there are ten different rules in the law as defined by Sandemose, all expressive of variations on a single theme and are usually referred to as a homogeneous unit: Don’t think you’re anyone special or that you’re better than us
The ten rules are:
Don’t think that you are special.
Don’t think that you are of the same standing as us.
Don’t think that you are smarter than us.
Don’t fancy yourself as being better than us.
Don’t think that you know more than us.
Don’t think that you are more important than us.
Don’t think that you are good at anything.
Don’t laugh at us.
Don’t think that any one of us cares about you.
Don’t think that you can teach us anything
This is a Danes dirty little secret. Look at the all the type about happy Denmark – perfect social welfare community, tight knit and socially conscious.
Many Danes that you ask about Jante law are a bit ashamed of it it is considered a snide, jealous and narrow small-town mentality which refuses to acknowledge individual effort and places all emphasis on the collective, while punishing those who stand out as achievers.but they are all variations on a single theme and are usually referred to as a homogeneous unit: Don’t think you’re anyone special or that you’re better than us.
.Ask a Dane and they will tell you Jante Law is terrible, yes it exists but they hate it. They hate to admit it exists. Yet they almost feel powerless to change it.
According to my skat,(tax) it is not something that they’re told but more the general mentality of Danish people, that dislikes anyone that stands out.The Jante laws are here to preserve the idyllic, happy communal living standards in Denmark. And if i wanted to live here,I had to learn the unwritten laws, shut up and pay my taxes.
Well, I am sorry but I don’t like it. Of course I don’t like the opposite mentality either, that is mothers who tell their children they are the best in the world, better than anyone else
Diversity is necessary. Diversity leads to evolution. Diversity brings enrichment. Of course it’s not nice when someone comes to us thinking that he’s better (as a whole) than anyone else (personally I’d like to break one of jante law *Don’t laugh at us.*), at that time but how good is it having people who think they’re worth nothing?
Balanced, friends, balance is always the key.
May 26, 2012 § Leave a comment
“Denmark?” Or more accurately “Danmarkkkk!?” followed by “why on earth would you want to move to Denmark? You don’t even speak Dutch!”is it like German(deutsch)?? Those were the typical responses I got from one of my friends Rehan Khan from London on the telephone when I announced to him that my intention to move to Denmark. “It’s Danish, not Dutch,” so the idea isn’t that crazy, is it?” Typically the next comment from my friend-turned-opponent at this point would be “isn’t it like freezing cold, dark and depressing most of the year there?” The answer to this one was Pakistani friend obvious: “khuda ne marna Haram kiya aur tujh jaise doston ne jena” (God imposed us sucide death Haram and a friend like your are making Haram on me to be alive) so dude ! live and let live whatever I am going any way…than I hang up telephone receiver.
Denmark: Perception vs. Realness
A little while ago I was speaking to another friend from Karachi who wanted to visit me in my new host country following my move to Denmark last year. I said the usual refrain: “come in summertime, with Copenhagen at its most hospitable”, but was surprised to hear his response of “I think I prefer to come in the middle of winter – I’m thinking Northern Lights and all that”.
His comment got me thinking about how far reality is from most people’s perceptions of Denmark around the world. I should be more accurate and say that in fact most people around the world don’t have a perception of Denmark at all – to my friend’s credit at least he knew Denmark was a country, somewhere in the Nordics. After living 9 months here I still get the occasional friend abroad asking me how my Swedish is progressing, and whether I’m getting along with the Norwegians. Yes, it might be a surprise to many Danes, but most people around the world tend to refer to Scandinavian countries interchangeably, and Denmark often seems to be more easily forgettable in relation to its higher-profile neighbors’. And there are still those who think that people in Denmark speak Dutch (as I wrote earlier about my friends from London reactions. when i told him we had decided to move to Denmark), or that Denmark is the capital of Sweden or Holland.
Those however who do know that Denmark is a country (and even those who know that the residents of Denmark are Danes, and that they speak Danish) still seem to have fantastical ideas about it: from those thinking it’s an arctic Nordic country home to igloo dwellers and ice hotels, to others imagining a place where everything and everyone is stunningly beautiful, stylized and super-modern. Then there are those who think it’s a haven of nudity and promiscuity, or efficiency and austerity. Or all of the above. Perhaps the funniest contradicting perception of Denmark is that of a place where everyone is happy, yet many are depressed and commit suicide.
Of course some of these perceptions have a kernel of truth to them, but basically they’re all pretty far from reality in my opinion. So why is it that Denmark has such a low profile in the world compared to other Northern European countries like the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden? And why are perceptions of it seem to be so removed from reality?
To answer to the first question, it might be the fact that Denmark is smaller in population compared to countries like Sweden and the Netherlands, that it doesn’t have oil like Norway, that it never managed to attract as many tourists from countries outside the region as its neighbours did, and that it never had global consumer mega-brands associated with the country like the Swedish brands IKEA, Volvo and even ABBA (there are of course Lego and Carlsberg, but no-one seems to associate them with Denmark). Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that for many years there wasn’t an internationally known mainstream Danish figure in contemporary culture or sport (something that’s changing now with phenomena like Noma and Wozniacki).
As for the second question – perceptions of nations are often extreme and one-dimensional, but they might be even more removed from reality (and influenced by anecdotes) when the country in question is little known and seldom visited.
While undoubtedly a low profile can hurt a country’s economy by limiting export, investments and tourism – there’s something to be said for a country that is relatively obscure abroad. I find it quite entertaining when people I speak to don’t exactly know what Denmark is and where it’s located – almost like a quaint little place I can keep all to myself.
Then again I have to admit I too experienced a gap between my own perceptions and reality of Denmark when I moved here and realized that Copenhagen is much less international and cosmopolitan than I had previously imagined, despite having visited the country more than a dozen times in the past. Perhaps the flip side of being unknown to the world is that the world is a bit unknown to you. It might be a good idea to work on raising that profile after all…
yes,one more thing being a foreigner gives one a great insight into things taken for granted by the locals. And every so often it means being shocked and puzzled in the most unexpected situations, while the locals look at you in wonder and dismiss you as weird. As you probably guessed by now, I quite enjoy those moments.
And what more experiencing i am getting in DAnmark will share you time to time on my up coming posts ……..