The Happiest Place

in the World, 2




claim check (2) all due respect
spot sensible daily grind
poll get over full-blooded
pollster elaborate questionnaire
founder mine (2) unattended
stoic hang out spectacular
pick (3) Lutheran on a scale of one to ten
content press (3) melting pot
slip grouchy apprentice
herring per capita politically correct
breeze vineyard politically incorrect
dreary gratitude hold his head high
lineage gathering descendant
cozy intimate spontaneous
priority longevity insulation
efface subsidize diversity (2)
grind long lines social fabric
honor strollers honor system
puppy carpenter happens to be






When you imagine the happiest place on earth, you might pick a spot with warm sand and soft breezes. A sun kissed vineyard perhaps or a Mediterranean village.

If asked to name the happiest country on earth, you might choose this one: land of the free, home of the brave.

But when you let go of patriotic pride and travel brochure fantasy, when you use social science to rank 178 nations, a paradise like Fiji comes in more than 50 spots below Iceland.

And for all their style and cuisine, France and Italy rank well below Canada.

And while we may be number one in wealth and power, when it comes to happiness, the good ole USA is number 23.

How do we know?

Well for the past decade, social scientists and pollsters have given elaborate questionnaires to hundreds of thousands of people around the globe.

Dan Butner: “The answer you get is not only how they feel right now but how they feel in their entire life.

Dan Butner is the founder of Blue Zones, a project that studies happiness and longevity around the world.

He says that if you mine all the data bases of universities and research centers, you’ll find that the happiest place on earth is . . . Denmark.

Cold, dreary, unspectacular, Denmark, where stoic locals wear sensible shoes and snack on herring sandwiches.

Sure they produce the occasional supermodel. But their most famous countryman is . . . Victor Borgan.

Can they really be the happiest . . . in the world?

Journalist: “On a scale of one to ten, how happy are you?”

“About eight.”
“Eight, I guess.”
“Right now, I’m probably like nine.”
“Seven, I suppose.”
“Eight, I think.”
Journalist: “An eight?”
“Nine. Nine-and-a-half.”

It went like this most of the morning.

Until finally, a grouchy Dane.

Grouchy Dane: “It’s the biggest lie in the world that the Danes should be so happy, because they’re not.”

Though when pressed, even Mrs. Pottymouth slipped in gratitude: “I’m content. Most Danes, we have no reason to complain.”

Well they do have one complaint. In fact, I’ve heard it from a couple of people: taxes.

Yes, the happiest people in the world pay some of the highest taxes in the world — up to 63% of their income.

In exchange, the government covers all heath care and education.

And spends more on the children and elderly per capita than any other nation in the world.

With just five and a half million, the system is efficient, and people feel “toiket”, the Danish word for tucked in, like a snug child.

Journalist: “You feel taken care of?”

Now the politically incorrect truth is that Denmark has very little diversity: 9 in 10 are full-blooded Danes; 8 in 10 are Lutherans.

Of course happiness can exist in melting pots like America.

But social scientists point out that higher taxes are easier to pay, if you know the money is going to someone who looks and thinks like you.

Those high taxes have another effect. Since a banker ends up taking home about as much as an artist, people don’t choose income based on income or status.

Danish citizen: “We see people quit their job because now I to do something that they really, really like.

Dan Buetner: “They have a thing called “yentalaw” which essentially says that you’re no better than anybody else.

A garbage man can live in a middle-class neighborhood and hold his head high.”

Well let’s find a garbage man. His name is Jan, and he say he took this job because he only has to work five hours in the morning — and then spends the rest of the day with family or coaching his daughter’s handball team (Danes really love handball).

But Jan says he really loves being a garbage man.

And no one judges his choices of career.

Jan, Garbageman: “When we come and they say ‘hello’, that makes all people happy. Smile, it’s a good thing. The old ladies give us a little cup of coffee. That’s happiness.”

Journalist: “You’re not just collecting garbage, you’re spreading happiness in this job.”

Jan: “If I’m happy, the people are happy.”

Joseph is another example of Danish status. He is a carpenter’s apprentice.

Journalist: “What is it you enjoy?”
Joseph: “I think it’s about building something. When you work the whole day and you can see what you have done.”

On weekends like likes to fish and hunt; play with his new puppy.

Oh and that castle over there? That belongs to his family.

He also happens to be . . . a prince.

Journalist: “So who is this handsome gentleman?”
Joseph: “That’s my great-great-grandfather.”

Yes, Joseph is a descendant of the Danish King, related to the royal houses of France and Spain.

And again, he’s chosen to be a carpenter’s apprentice. And rarely discusses his lineage with anyone.

Journalist: “You couldn’t ask for a better opening line with the ladies than ‘I’m royalty.’ Don’t you every use that?”
Joseph: “No, never.”
Journalist: “Come on. That’s a waste.”
“If they found out themselves that’s better.”

Joseph invited us for a Danish tradition called “huge”, cozy, intimate, spontaneous gatherings with neighbors and family, emotional insulation against the long winter.

And hanging out with other Danes may be their secret of happiness: 92% belong to dancing clubs or singing clubs . . . even laughing clubs.

Get a few people together who enjoy cold water swimming or model train building, and the government will pay for it.

Yes in Denmark, even friendship is subsidized.

And this is what is called a post-consumerist society. People here have nice things, but shopping, consuming. It’s not a priority.

Journalist: “I can’t get over the fact that this is the smallest 7-11 sign on the planet. Even the advertising is self-effacing.”

And with less emphasis on personal possessions, and a strong social fabric, Danes also display an amazing level of trust, in each other and the government.

Dan Buetner: “You noticed that when you walked in the country there was no long lines.”
Journalist: “They didn’t even check my passport, literally.”
Dan Buetner: “You look like a nice guy, come on through.”

Vegetable stands run on the honor system. Mothers leave babies in strollers, unattended outside cafes. And most bicycles are unlocked.

And now that I think about it, the bicycle remains the best symbol of happiness. They can all afford cars. But they choose bikes. Simple, economical, non-polluting machines that show no status and help keep people fit.

Dane: “You have a good society that takes care of you.

And mainly people are good to each other. It’s a good place to be.”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *



Spain, Italy, Greece. Most people think the happiest places on earth are . . . . . . .

Canada, Australia, United States. People are surprised to learn that Danes are very happy. Yes or no? Why are people surprised? What do Danes eat? How did the researchers determine the happiest (and unhappiest) countries?

Fiji, Tahiti, Hawaii. All Danes are very friendly and cheerful. True or false? Is there anything that Danes complain about?

Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica. Describe the government and social services of Denmark.

Belarus, Russia, Ukraine. Professional and business people look down on blue-collar workers. Garbage men are considered “low-class, second-class” citizens. Is this right or wrong?

China, Japan, Korea. Is the prince arrogant and vain, or humble? He wants to work in banking and finance. Yes or no? Does he tell women “I’m a PRINCE“? Describe him.

Turkey, Egypt, Iran. “Yes in Denmark, even friendship is subsidized.” What does this mean? Do Danes live isolated lives or are they very social?

Nigeria, Kenya, Congo. Danes love SUVs, sports cars and luxury cars. Is this correct or incorrect?

Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland. There is no single “magic potion” to happiness; instead there are many factors for happiness. What do you think? Why is Denmark the “happiest” country in the world?
India, Pakistan, Bangladesh. Before seeing this video, who did you think the happiest people were?

Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam. Are people in your society ecstatic, very happy, generally happy, in-the-middle, so-so, both happy and sad, unhappy, sad, depressed, or does it depend on the individual? Who are the happiest people in your country (a particular province, state or region)?

Austria, Germany, Switzerland. Who is the happiest person that you know (friend, colleague, classmate)? What makes him or her happy? Why is she or he happy? Are there any unhappy people you know?

Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru. Are people where you live materialistic or non-materialistic? Are cars important status symbols in your city or country?

United Kingdom (Britain, England), The Netherlands (Holland), Belgium. What are the secrets or keys to happiness?

Denmark, Sweden, Norway. What will happen in the future?

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