For the last couple of months I’ve studied Malcolm X – In The Context Of Black Nationalism at San Francisco State University. Oba T’Shaka has passionately lectured me and my fellow students on African American history.
We had a midterm yesterday and I talked to one of the African American girls from my class. I asked her: if African Americans are supposed to be proud of being black, why are European Americans not allowed to being proud of being white?
She responded in a respectful and thoughtful manner: “You’re not really allowed to in the U.S.” And then she added:
But YOU can be proud of being Danish.
I answered “yes” pretty quickly and thought about some of the things I prefer about Denmark, when I compare it to the U.S. or some of the around 35 other countries I’ve visited so far in my life.
And the award as the happiest country in the world goes to… Denmark
A day later I’m looking at an article from The Huffington Post. It was published yesterday and my home country is yet another time crowned as the happiest country in the world. Back in 2009 North America’s only female black billionaire Oprah Winfrey visited Denmark for the first time and saw The Happiest People On Earth.
Here are some of the reasons that Denmark is back to back winners on the happy scale:
- Families receive 52 weeks of parental leave. Mothers are able to take 18 weeks and fathers receive their own dedicated 2 weeks at up to 100 percent salary. The rest of the paid time off is up to the family to use as they see fit.
- Children have access to free or low-cost child care.
- Denmark is in the top 10 of gender equality. 79 percents of mothers return to their previous level of employment, compared to 59 percent of American women.
- Citizens expect and receive health care as a basic right. Danes are in contact with their primary physician seven times a year. Americans don’t have this continuity.
- Half of the citizens in the capital Copenhagen rides to job or school = living 1 to 2 years longer.
- More than 40 percent do volunteer work.
- 87,7 percent voted in the national elections in 2011 – A woman – Helle Thorning-Schmidt was elected prime minister.
All of the above mentioned are things that I’m proud to pay nearly 50 percent in taxes to keep. On top of that student’s older than 18 are paid to attend school.
But… maybe we’re not that happy
Even though I consider myself a happy person and think it’s rather cool that The New York Times have written articles on the Danish bicyclists Superhighway, I just don’t agree with the word happy.
I don’t consider Danes to be the happiest people in the world. So even though the list above consists a lot of things that Welfare Denmark is proud of it cover some parts of the truth.
Several bloggers, including Somethingmanky and Peter H. Fogtdal have noted that some Danes are xenophobic which comments on their blogs will support.
Even though I favor the Danish welfare system over the American and more capitalistic system where everybody is supposedly born equal, I think Americans do have some basic qualities that Danes could learn from.
- Americans contact you on the street and help you with directions if you’re lost.
- Service is better when you’re shopping or going to a restaurant in the U.S., and people in the service industry smile a lot more (maybe because of the tips they require, but still).
- Americans talk to everybody and are interested in answering tourists question and curious about tourists origin.
These are some of my own observations and they aren’t true on every single person in either country. How people in public the U.S. is different from what a tourist or exchange student would experience in Denmark, where people are too reserved and are hiding behind their phones walking around in their own world. Me included.
Oprah must have been paralyzed
So even though America’s beloved Oprah Winfrey highly recommended Denmark as the happiest place in the world, she must somehow have been paralyzed by the sight of The Little Mermaid (yes, she is that small…), and probably didn’t get to talk to a whole lot of people.
If Danes are indeed the happiest people in the world why aren’t they more open minded and at least trying to show extra energy by showing a better attitude towards tourists, visitors and fellow Danes?
To me it seems like smiles are further apart from each other in Denmark than in parts of America or some of the parts of Asia and South America, that I’ve visited.