According to the second World Happiness Report (WHR) survey, Denmark was once again ranked the happiest nation in the world.
It was followed by other northern European countries Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden.
Singapore is in 30th place.
The Republic has about 5.3 million inhabitants, slightly less then Denmark’s 5.6 million. Both countries are relatively rich. Singapore is ranked 4th in the world in GDP per capita with US$61,803 – about 30 per cent more than Denmark, which is ranked in 16th place with US$42,086.
Denmark boasts the lowest Gini coefficient in the world (this is a measure of inequality, ranging from 0 to 1, the higher the number the greater the inequality) of 0.24 followed by Sweden, Norway and Austria which were also ranked among the top 10 happiest countries.
At 0.48, Singapore’s Gini coefficient is double that of Denmark and is among the highest among advanced economies.
What is the secret of the Danes’ sources of happiness?
- Contentment: Danes are very realistic about their definition of the word happiness and their expectations from life. People do not look constantly for what they do not have but feel happy with what they do have. When expectations are low, there is a higher chance of achieving them. Danes’ attitude to money is refreshingly different from most other countries. Money and material goods are not so important to them.
Danes also hardly compare themselves with those richer than they are. They also tend to spend money differently from people in other countries. Instead of buying bigger houses or bigger and more expensive cars and brands, they like to spend money on socialising with others and creating memories.
- Egalitarian society (Janteloven): Danes believe in the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities. They actually have a Danish word for this “Janteloven” which means the “Law of Jante” or the “Who- do-you-think-you-are law”. This law is common to Scandinavian communities, which tend to look negatively at people who show off their success.
The upside of “Janteloven” is that people do not look down on others. If your job is to clean the street or drive a bus, you do your job with pride and are considered equal to a CEO. People will not look down on you. People do not get motivated to buy luxury cars to show off their wealth. This releases much of the pressure to acquire more and more materialistic symbols of success.
- Greetings: It is an irony that in cold Denmark people display warmth, even to strangers, while in tropical and warm Singapore people often avoid connection. The Danes are super-friendly people. Many will greet you even when you establish eye contact with them. In Singapore, people often look the other way or into their mobile device in trying to avoid exchanging smiles and greetings, depriving themselves of the emotional benefits of making social connections.
- Welfare system: Like other Scandinavian states, Denmark has a strong social safety net that keeps the Danes secure and assured that if something bad happens to them, they will be taken care of. When people do not need to worry so much about bad times, the society’s stress levels tend to go down.
With one of the highest tax rates in the world, Denmark offers its citizens free education, university, medical services and elder care. In Denmark, you will not find senior citizens working as street cleaners. Moreover, with an unemployment of less than 3 per cent, the country’s generous unemployment benefits are hardly abused by people who do not want to work.
- Trust: The Danes are probably among the most trusting people in the world. Three out of four Danes believe that they can trust the majority of people. Shopkeepers can put merchandise outside their shop with the tag price and trust that people will pay and not grab the goods and run away. To the astonishment of tourists, Danish parents feel secure in leaving their children outside a cafe in a pram while they go in to enjoy their delicious Danish pastries and cappuccinos.
- “Arbejdsglaede”: Only Scandinavian languages have a specific word for the term “Happiness at work”. In Danish, the word is “arbejdsglaede”.
- Available time and hobbies: Danes do not work and shop around the clock like many people in Singapore do. Despite the cold weather, they will get on their bikes and go outdoors. They also tend to have many hobbies and they pursue them with friends. They devote time to friends and most of them belong to more than one association. They do not send their kids for tuition during the weekend.