When she was suddenly given the opportunity of a new life in rural Jutland, journalist and archetypal Londoner Helen Russell discovered a startling statistic: the happiest place on earth isn't Disneyland but Denmark, a land often thought of by foreigners as consisting entirely of long, dark winters, cured herring, Lego and pastries. What is the secret to their success? Are happy Danes born or made?
Helen decides there is only one way to find out: she will give herself a year, trying to uncover the formula for Danish happiness. From child care, education, food and interior design to SAD, taxes, sexism and an unfortunate predilection for burning witches, The Year of Living Danishly is a funny, poignant record of a journey that shows us where the Danes get it right, where they get it wrong, and how we might just benefit from living a little more Danishly ourselves.
Helen Russell is a journalist and former editor of MarieClaire.co.uk. She now lives in rural Jutland and works as a Scandinavia correspondent for the Guardian as well as writing a column on Denmark for the Telegraph.
©2015 Helen Russell (P)2015 Audible, Ltd
"A lovely mix of English sensibility and Danish pragmatism. Helen seems to have understood more about the Danish character than I have! My only worry is that it will make everyone want to have a go and my holiday home area will get overcrowded." (Sandi Toksvig)
"Russell is possessed of a razor-sharp wit and a winning self-deprecation - two of the things that make this book such a delight." (The Independent)
This book ranks right in the middle. Time well spent and very interesting, but not touching or miraculous or life changing.
I do wish that the author had read this book herself for the audiobook as there was a lot of subtle humor and personal musings that were totally lost in Lucy Price-Lewis's delivery. There were quite a few very funny moments - big and small - that managed to fall noticeably short. Knowing nothing about her beyond reading this book, I imagine that the author is very sharp-witted, fun and bold. This was a story about her personal life and it was unfortunate that it somehow felt flat and impersonal.
Not well matched, too proper, lacking a flair for subtle humor.
I truly enjoyed taking a step into Danish culture and felt like the author hit every mark - from pastries to neighbors to politics to parenting. Her professional writing experience offered an unexpected quality of perspective and observation. I came to appreciate that her story wasn't just a meandering "year in the life", but followed a rather diligent and purposeful (but still lighthearted) path.
The concept of "hygge" (even if it was pronounced incorrectly) is a major theme that stands out as one of the only things I have any hope of embracing or emulating in my own life. I hope to do so though as it seems to be a wonderful thing! Unfortunately, most of the social norms and programs described could never exist outside of such a small and unique country. There is just no comparing Denmark to my fast-paced country suburb of New York City and I tried hard not to let the stark differences in maternity leave, work days, education and bakery offerings depress me.
A worthwhile read nonetheless!
As an expat in Denmark myself, it was both interesting and entertaining to hear from another expat's perspective. I really like hearing the facts and figures to boost her anecdotal observations. I liked how open and honest she is about her life and her experience. I laughed. I cried. It was a good listen.
I'd recommend it, and have, to anyone who wants to know more about Denmark, or just the expate experience in general.
Lucy Price-Lewis had a very pleasant voice, but her Danish pronunciation was almost unintelligible.
So few books I purchase on Audible have been a disappointment (swiftly returned the handful of naff ones), so rather unfair to compare to many delights clustered in my Cloud. This is an excellent listen balancing "experience" (Helen and LegoMan, their initial shivering, damp arrival in mysteriously darkened Sticksville-on-Sea) and "research" and statistical analysis. The interviews with a plethora of fascinating folk were amazing!
Glad I did not read the book as the super-abundance of names, titles, institutes and websites might -- just might -- have thrown a wobbly into the delight of the couple's month by month delightful discoveries.
I am contemplating selling every stick of furniture, my IRA and my car and kayak to Denmark to plead with Lego HQ to hire me as a washroom attendant ... and a well paid, tax and 25% VAT added paying, beer and snegl scarfing, bike-riding washroom attendant at that.
The one word which is virtually unheard in USA and the one word the Danes prize above all else: Tradition. Tradition is, literally, everything.
We Americans are such a very young country; I only came up with a dismal few -- Super Bowl Sunday, Black Friday and the ritual horrified murmurs to diet after a waist-expanding a Thanksgiving dinner.
Lucy is not afraid to scream. I loved her narration! Spot on and well done!
Okay, if you must: "From Clueless and Clenched to Hyggled and Healthy?
(I beg of Hollywood, please do not under any circumstances place this book within reach of Judd Apatow.)
I am mad as heck and sleep deprived, too! Not only was I up three nights in a row until 2am because I could not stop listening ("...one more month, just onnnne more month..."), but Ms Russell had the temerity to end the book and thus Ms Price-Lewis stopped narrating! Okay, checking kayaks to Jutland (I live in Missouri, but that is such a minor detail...)
Mother, knitter, reader, lifelong learner, technical writer, former library assistant & hematologist.
My desire to read The Year of Living Danishly was kindled by two things – picking up my sister- and brother-in-law from the airport upon their return from a visit to Denmark, and an article written by Russell about how living as a Danish woman made her happier. The fact that Denmark may be the world's happiest country was secondary to me; I was most interested in reading about the Danish approach to life, health, taxes, child-rearing, traditions, and food. Russell provided some of that information through the recounting of her first year of moving to Denmark from the UK.
I did enjoy her stories about how she and her husband gradually learned and adjusted to the Danish way of life, but found some of the writing a bit too cute (verging on annoying) for my taste. Russell seems to refer to every Danish citizen as a Viking, calls her husband as Lego Man throughout the book, and names their relocation agent “Judgey Face”. The author was oddly unprepared to speak Danish, and portrays herself as almost too dumb to learn the language when she and her husband start attending classes. In addition to her anecdotal experiences, she interviews many “lifestyle experts”, gathers and reports lots of statistics, and asks almost everyone she interviews to rate their own happiness on a scale from 1 to 10. I don't recall any rating less than eight, but I would also have been interested in hearing thoughts from the other recent immigrants (from the Ukraine, Poland and the Philippines) she met at language classes.
The Danes benefit from incredible social programs, starting with extended paid parental leave, subsidized state-run day care, government-funded education, health care, and care for the elderly. This sounds like utopia when compared with the same situations in the United States, but keep in mind that these services are financed by the government in Denmark through incomes taxes of up to 51.5% and a VAT of 25%. Many of these ideas seem rooted in the Danish presumption of equality, so while I think that we could put these ideas into practice in the US, given the current politics I can't imagine that we would do it any time soon. What we can do is choose to incorporate some of these ideas into our own lives.
The Year of Living Danishly was a somewhat enjoyable and educational read (3.5 stars rounded to 4). Since Denmark's way of life is so different from that in the United States, I would be very interested in reading a book about the inverse – a Danish citizen coming to live in the United States. My sister- and brother-in-law went to Denmark to visit the exchange student that lived with them for a year, so perhaps I need to ask Sidsel about her year of living “Americanly”.
I am what you might call a literary philanderer...
I'm impressed with this book for many reasons. The author was relateable and her situation was epathtically lamentable. In the end, this is upper-class writing.
As non-fiction goes, an author's voice is often dull and mechanical, unless you are Helen Russell. She was witty, glib, and completely normal from start to finish. As I do, she assigned nicknames to most of those she interacted with. Examples include "Judgy Face" or "Lego Man."
Her research was neither tediously academic nor jeuvenile. The majority of her research is based on interviews, jotted notes, and humerous internal monologue.
From start to finish the reader loves the story woven around her main goal to identify what makes Danes so happy. The project is broken up into 12 months, with each month ending in a summary of her findings. The best of her observations, interviews, and internet research are highlighted throughout. The reader stands to learn more about rural Danish life and tradition than you thought possible. Certainly more than you previously thought interesting.
In summary, well done Helen. Please write more so I can read all of your work.
A nice fun slice into life in Denmark, not sugar coated but realistic warts and all. I would like a sequel as I believe the author still lives there!
Well written, and well delivered.
Helen's story was slow to start for me. About the time I began to really understand what Living Danishly is really all about, it seemed to end. I wanted more. But it was a great story and provided wonderful insight into an alternative to American consumerism and upmanship lifestyles. It was a delightful read and I have reread the final three chapters a few times.
I really have no interest in Denmark and I've never heard of the author but something told me to give it a go and I was glad I did. Always looked forward to getting time to listen to it again.
"Completely fascinating and bonkers"
To start with the overly 'arch' reading got on my nerves - read too fast and with too much comic emphasis - it was all a bit 'Bridget Jones' and over-egged. However, I got used to it as the narrative was so compelling. Just incredibly fascinating story of burned-out London couple's relocation to Denmark. Despite the fact she is a journalist, it comes across as pseudo researched, and a bit cliched, everything taken at face value, defined and tied up neatly - assumptions and massive conclusions seem to have been built on minimal experience/research about 'how things are' - but non-the-less incredibly interesting as a memoir of a first year in the land of 'Cosy'.
"An unexpected pleasure"
The book is filled with statistics and information that really affirms some basic human instincts. It's interesting but balances the facts and figures with the very amusing narrative of the couples trials and tribulations as they settle into their new life in Denmark.
I found the chapter discovering new clubs and organisations really laugh out loud funny.
The book is thought provoking. I recommended it to a an audible member friend, I knew she'd love it, but waiting for her to finish has been really hard, not being able to quote bits of the book so as not to spoil it for her, but there are so many issues that crop up in day to day conversation where you can refer to it and open up debate. It's written with lots of humour too. Although the author is a decade younger than me, there were lots of references to her childhood that I related to, and she made them quite hilarious.
I am ordinarily a fiction only kinda gal. I'm not sure what drew me to this book but I'm so glad I read it. It may well lead me to try a few more in this genre.
"Let's all be Danish!"
Loved this book, funny and a really good insight into Denmark. I found it really interesting as I'm in the welfare to work industry. I think ill book a weekend to Copenhagen now.....
"Fantastic, uplifting and funny book. A ++"
A great listen for a long car journey. It made me reflect a lot on my own life and where I could make changes. By taking each month at a time it was easy to dip in and out of, and it was nice to experience another country through all 12 seasons.
The personal style of the audiobook made me really connect with the author. I identified with her reasons for making a life change and embracing new opportunities. The ending was so warm and happy that it really made me cry!
The final chapter and epilogue is really heartwarming and a fantastic ending.
Highly recommended if you are interested in Denmark, happiness, or making a few changes in your own life.
"A likeable and possibly true Nordic myth"
I think the origin of this book is a series of Sunday newspaper magazine articles and it certainly comes across that way. This is a cosy and fairly lightweight insight into Danish society and an attempt to explain why everybody there is just so darned happy. Some of the reasons are fairly obvious. Denmark is a wealthy nation where the citizens enjoy job security, a great health service and abundant cheap childcare. If you like fatty pastries and joining clubs you will be in heaven. Some of the theories I found a bit less convincing. For example vegetarians are 'scientifically' proven to be miserable so as a nation of prolific eat eaters Danes are bound to be jumping for joy. I think it largely boils down to positive self-promotion but the idea of a nation of happy and trusting people is certainly an attractive one in these grim times. The author does overdo the Bridget Jones traits but she does raise some doubts and questions, so this doesn’t come over too much like an advert for the Danish tourist board. The reader was fine, and if she mispronounced some Danish words, I couldn't care less.
"Made me want to move to Denmark"
Loved this book and listened to it all in a couple of long early morning car journeys without getting even slightly bored (normally I need to listen to music and stop over at services to keep myself awake). Great narration, and friendly, personal story telling - it felt like a good friend was telling me of her experiences. Fascinating subject matter and very thought provoking about how the Danes are so happy, with lots of sensible achievable advice about how you can emulate that.
"Feel good and Informative!"
It is a light read, funny, but well written and intelligent. It is also surprisingly interesting and informative on Danish life, politics and culture. It was also made enjoyable by the excellent narration.
I am shocked by how much I loved this book. It's the sort of cultural exploration I love. The author presented the facts about Denmark - how amazingly happy it is as a coubtry, made some hypothesis about why this was and then went to test those ideas, usually ending in a very entertaining and insightful anecdote. Really, really good.
The narrator did just want narrators should in this sort of book, just made me feel I was listening directly to the author tell her stories.
"Funny and Inspirational"
This is a great story; very entertaining with accurate reflections on everyday modern life. I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in travel or self help.
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