Sunday, 14 May 2017

There is no key to happiness. There is this book though... Happy as a Dane

I have a terrible habit of judging a book by its cover. Literally. Not metaphorically. When I shop for books, forks or toothbrushes, they have to come in beautiful packaging. This time, I went against my nature (or nurture) and went for a book with the ugliest cover every (sorry publishing house WAB). I so did not enjoy this cover, that I even had to post a picture of this book in black and white. That is due to my lack of tolerance for red (apart from lipsticks). But the cover of this book is hardly the subject of this post. As a matter of fact (after this long and probably unnecessary introduction) it is the contents. The reason why I picked it up from a bookshelf in Poland, whilst visiting mum an dad, was the title - Happy as a Dane

I have visited Copenhagen just over a year ago. Despite minus million Celsius (who goes away in February to a colder country?!), despite the lack of sunshine, despite not knowing what we were doing and where we were going we happened to subconsciously live an extremely Danish week (miss the alcohol poisoning as it turns out). When I got on the underground (being used to the London tube), I was amazed that nobody was rushing! I live an hour away for London and go there rather often. Even if I am there with no specific plan, not having to be anywhere at any particular time, I find myself rushing through the crowd in pursuit to catch the next train. God forbid I miss it as the next one is in.... ONE MINUTE! Such a difference, right?

The short experience of Copenhagen I had was: beautiful spaces, natural materials, people having time, people not being scared to express their opinions, people enjoying little pleasures. Little did I know at the time that the latter was called hyggeling. There was something in that country that attracted me with its serenity and openness. These are exactly the qualities that are being carefully described by Malene Ryndahl. Malene has a distance towards Danes having the label o being happy as she moved out of Denmark at the age of 18. As an immigrant myself, I realise that once we move abroad we happen to realise what we have left behind. Being emerged it it, we do not realise that what we have is not necessarily a norm. Malene investigates the theory of Danes being endlessly happy at the same time. By no means does she serve it on a silver plater. Malene challenges herself and expresses her opinions fearlessly, just like a Dane. 

Malene grew up in a respectful home that was still far from perfect. There was no happy ending but what her parents taught her, were the core values that both her and her brother live by. It turned out that her brother suffered with allergies and asthma and started treating the symptoms by changing his diet. As a result, he opened 42 RAW - a restaurant I have been craving to eat at for months before I went to Copenhagen and it certainly was the first place to visit on my food map. I was sure that it was just ran by an eager veggie with hate for 'normal food'. To my surprise, it was a result of a business that went down and the need to express oneself, have a place in the community.

This is by all means not a self-help book. This in not a recipe for happiness. Malene takes us on a journey with 10 values she believes enable Danish communities to be happy. However, one does not have to be Danish to live by them. Regardless of nationality, you can be happy. The truth is that happiness lies in ourselves. Not in our partners, belongings, bank accounts. My parents also taught me something 'Danish'. Focus on what you have, not on what you do not have.

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