Denmark has been voted one of the happiest countries in the world for the last 40 years. This happiness is commonly attributed to the Danes’ philosophy of hygge. Pronounced “hoo-ga,” it translates to English as coziness, or “creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people.”
To describe hygge, Danes use words like warmth and candlelight. Mainly because hygge is most important during the winter when it’s dark and cold and nights are 17 hours long. All the good feelings start at home and then they translate to all ways of life.
Three out of four Danes believe that they can trust most people. That’s a world record. In global terms, only one out of four people believes they can trust most other people. The Danes trust each other. And not just their families and friends, but also the man on the street—people they don’t know. And that contributes to making life easier and happy.
The Danish welfare state reduces uncertainty and concerns among the population. This has particular significance for those who are less well off, a segment of society which is happier in Denmark than in other wealthy countries. Denmark is a safe country, not just because it is relatively safe to walk the streets at night, but also because the welfare state has reduced a significant amount of the uncertainty associated with illness, old age and unemployment.
Denmark’s high level of prosperity is part of the explanation for the high level of happiness. Prosperous countries and people are generally happier than those that are less prosperous. But, who we compare ourselves to and what we use our wealth for are also key elements of our happiness.
To be able to decide over one’s life is essential for happiness. The Danes’ freedom is enshrined in a number of rights and they experience a sense of being in control of their own lives.