Review: The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

on May 2015
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 354
Format: Physical Book
Source: Bought
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4 Stars

Denmark is officially the happiest nation on Earth. When Helen Russell is forced to move to rural Jutland, can she discover the secrets of their happiness? Or will the long, dark winters and pickled herring take their toll?

A Year of Living Danishly looks at where the Danes get it right, where they get it wrong, and how we might just benefit from living a little more Danishly ourselves.

This audio book was fun to listen to. Helen Russell’s husband, who shall be referred to as LegoMan, gets a job opportunity overseas in Denmark. Packing their belongings and moving, Russell, who is a freelance writer begins her experiment of living Danishly. She interviews, experiments and researches what it’s like to be Danish. National pride. Danishes. Hygge. And all else in between.

It was very eye opening and pleasant to follow the Russell’s on their search of living Danishly. I really liked how everything was described and how she organized her research into the chapters on what she learned. I liked how she went out of her comfort zone and explored things she might not usually like to try (singing in a choir) and how she fell in love with the wonderful and not so wonderful things about Denmark. (Hygge and bitter, bitter winters) It’s a great introduction for people who may be curious about Denmark and their culture, and why they are continued to be ranked the happiest country in the world.

I’ve been very interested in this topic for some time now. Living in Los Angeles, corporate job and daily grind, with the traffic, heat and keeping up with the Jones’s, I’m intrigued by the thought of other countries with better work/life balances. Especially after having my daughter, I find myself gravitating towards job opportunities that promise more time, less work. Working smarter, not harder.

So this book really stood out to me one day when I was browsing Audible.

Russell’s narrative is funny and she is a likeable writer, asking good questions and funny observations. Sometimes, I wished she was a little less naive about Danish lifestyle, a little less judgey. But this is very very small criticism. Perhaps I’m just jealous I haven’t had the opportunity yet to move to a foreign country that is so trusting and supportive of its own people.

She investigates all of the topics of importance: high taxes, blind trust, universal healthcare, Danishes and above all, Hygge. Did you know that most in Denmark love their jobs? And that’s because there’s a solid life/work balance. If they don’t’ like it, their government takes care of them, sometimes allowing unemployment to be up to 80% of their salary for two years while they go out and find another job or study? Childcare is subsidized! I could go on and on and on but I won’t. I will say that the part that really resonated for me was the comparison to Denmark and the UK or US. It’s not anti-UK/US. But it does show us how WE could be doing better as a country. How WE can be like Denmark. And how WE could be happier.

Almost makes me want to up and move there. (I would too, but honestly it’s too far away from family for us. But it’s so tempting… (searches job websites))

And while I don’t think we’ll be moving to Denmark anytime soon, sadly, it did get me and my husband talking about how we can live more Danishly in the future. How easy it is to get caught up in our lives and forget what really matters. And how the Danish don’t.

We all could do with a little more living Danishly. And Russell’s book touches upon all of the most important points, and helps us along.