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The Happiest Country in the World

Emily Featherstone

Time has just flown by. I’ve been in Copenhagen for six weeks now, but it seems like yesterday that I was waiting to board my flight at O’Hare. Between classes, my home stay, and traveling, it seems as if I’m being pulled in 10 different directions. I’m used to this – being constantly busy and feeling frazzled – but it seems more pronounced in comparison to the way Danes handle their responsibilities and lives in general.  I have a 45-minute commute to the center of the city by train, and quite often it’s the only part of the day in which I have time to think and reflect (and I also enjoy looking out the windows).

One of the reasons I wanted to study abroad in Denmark was because it is consistently ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world.  Everyone wants to be happy, and I was curious to know why Denmark is happier than anywhere else. It’s a tiny country and for a good chunk of the year, it’s very cold and very dark. And from what I’ve observed so far, it isn’t that Danes are happier; rather, they have a completely different outlook on life.

I think they have lower expectations, and this is not a bad thing. Maybe a better way to say it is, they take things for what they are and accept whatever is currently happening. I’m sure there are exceptions, (and I don’t want to make sweeping generalizations), but I think there is something to be said for how this may make Denmark rank high on the happiness scale. If Danes are waiting at a crosswalk, they will wait until the little green man appears – whether or not there are actually any cars on the street. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been out at night, no cars or bikes in sight, and it’ll just be me and some Danes standing there waiting for the lights to change.

I first read this quote by Leo Babauta before I came here, but I believe much of what he says captures the Danish mindset quite well. He states, “We’re so caught up in trying to do everything, experience all the essential things, not miss out on anything important…We can’t read all the good books, watch all the good films, go to all the best cities in the world, try all the best restaurants, meet all the great people…Life is better when we don’t try to do everything. Learn to enjoy the slice of life you experience, and life turns out to be wonderful.”

I don’t mean to get deep and philosophical, but I think this is a great attitude to have! The Danish way of life emphasizes minimalism and contentment, and I think if you are content with what you do get to experience, it makes everything seem a little better. As a result, I’ve been much more conscious of how I spend my time. I try not to always be waiting for the next thing to happen, but rather, be content with the present moment.

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Countdown to Copenhagen

Emily Featherstone

I honestly can’t believe that I will be in Copenhagen, Denmark in just a few days! I remember being accepted to the program in September – and at that time, January seemed infinitely far away.  Now here I am, receiving emails about syllabi for my classes and checking the weather forecast for my orientation at the beginning of next week.


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