What We Can Learn From the Danes

arbejde–work (Danish)
glæde–happiness (Danish)
arbejdsglæde–happiness at work (Danish)

Alexander Kjerulf, Chief Happiness Officer, recently wrote a post entitled Of Brits and Danes and Happiness at Work. Alex tells us the Nordic languages, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish and Icelandic, have a word for happiness at work, but English doesn’t. This fact corresponds to what he noticed when he was working in England recently…the British attitude towards work is completely different from the Danish one. Britons don’t expect to be happy at work, Danes do. Britons don’t value happiness at work, Danes do. So it’s no wonder that a recent University of Cambridge study on happiness concluded that the Danes are the happiest people in Europe, while the British rated 9th.

And, Alex points out, not only are the British less happy, they also work longer hours and are less productive than the Danes. How crazy is that? So Alex issues this challenge to “British companies, managers and employees everywhere”:

Put happiness at work first. Realize once and for all that life’s too short to spend so many hours in jobs that are at best tolerable and at worst hell on earth.

Amen to that, I say! It usually takes a lot of effort and patience…it’s sometimes scary…but I can’t conceive of wasting my life feeling trapped in a job I hate. What about you? How do you feel about work? Do you think it’s something that should bring you joy? If so, what are you doing, or have you done, about it? Please share your experience in the comments section.

Thanks to Robin, David, Shilpan, Shamelle, and Darren for comments on last week’s post.

Related posts: Live Your Own Life, It’s a Magical World.

Related articles on Danes and Happiness: You can be as happy as a Dane, Why Danes are smug.

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12 Responses to What We Can Learn From the Danes

  1. bikehikebabe says:

    I’ve never had a paying job. (teaching music, but not outside the home) If I’m not enjoying my housework/ yardwork I quit doing it until it is fun or at least satisfying. To “do it & be done with it” feels so good that a lot gets done.

  2. Jean,

    I used to work as and Engineer for some fortune companies. I never felt happiness and excitement working for these big companies as for them I was another number. Now, being an entrepreneur, I have my set of challenges but I’m happier than ever as I know that I have freedom to do what I love to do.


  3. Jean,

    This is a great post. I’ve stumbled it. I request other readers to add their review.



  4. Jean says:

    I agree. “Working” doesn’t mean we have to get paid for it. I’ve spent a lot of hours this weekend learning some PHP and understanding WordPress a bit better. It was fun, but I would also classify it as work because it took commitment and perseverance. It was also highly satisfying.

    🙂 Thanks for the support. And good for you for making the change! I know what you mean about excitement. When I stop being excited about getting out of bed in the morning, I know it’s time for a new challenge. Life is too short to be bored.

  5. I think it’s not what you do that’s as important as how you do it.
    Every time you interact with a person, whether it be a co-worker,customer etc is a chance for you to either be positive or negative.
    The crappier the job the higher the degree for positive change!

  6. Jean says:

    Well put! Thank you!

  7. Noa Rose says:

    Work consumes a large portion of our lives, and it is up to us to find work that is worthy of the time spent doing it.

  8. Jean says:

    I agree! Thanks for coming by.

  9. tammy says:

    i’ve been retired for the past six years now! heaven.
    after bob died i worked for 25 years. five of those for an hotel in a job i dearly loved, but with absolutely no future. then i worked the last 20 for a state agency. i finally became ‘burntout’ in the last five years. it was a struggle to stay motivated and not become too negative. in doing just that it drained my spirit terribly. i could not afford to quit or change and lose retirement. so must stick it out. it can be done but not the greatest for your soul.
    aren’t the danes a lovely people? i have always liked them!
    i always think first… clean, beautiful, happy people.
    and now… i am a happy little prairie dane.
    tammy j

  10. bikehikebabe says:

    Tammy, Swedes have learned a lot in the last 10 yrs. Think it’s because of world wide mass media & American TV. But years ago Lydia (lives in Sweden) said that Swedes were grouches & when they went to Denmark, they became fun like the Danes. Then went back to being grouchy Swedes. Must be the dark, cold winters. Like midnight by 4 PM.

  11. tammy says:

    oh bhb! hi! i’m so glad to see you here.
    had backtracked cuz i couldn’t remember where i’d left off this afternoon. i’m so enjoying going back thru all the archives and getting to know you all. so you were born in sumatra!
    fascinating! cobras and everything. wow.
    my best friend in highschool was a swede. i just loved her. we kept in touch for many years but now, too much time gone. she was an exchange student.
    minnesota was full of swedes. they seemed very reserved. i didn’t think of them as cold or grumpy… just seemed not to enjoy life very much! interesting about them visiting denmark and changing. 🙂

  12. bikehikebabe says:

    Lydia has been in Sweden for about 25 yrs so I’ve seen Swedes change over the years. If I said a friendly heydo (hello) on the street they’d turn away if they didn’t know me.

    Actually I don’t know if older ones have changed so much. I don’t speak to Swedes I don’t know. I think the younger ones would speak. They speak English. I’ll ask Lydia.

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