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Four Happy Places

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1. Denmark

Cloaked in almost total darkness during the winter months, Denmark nonetheless rates second in the World Database for Happiness. Known for its egalitarian principles and strong social safety net, Denmark has a very high tax rate.

Danes aren’t particularly bothered by this, Buettner discovered, because they are satisfied with the way their taxes are spent, and they don’t have the same attachment to “getting ahead” felt so keenly by many Americans. “The Danish path to happiness isn’t about aspiring to scale peaks,” Buettner explains, “but rather about the satisfaction that comes from living on a high plateau.”

Take the example of Jan Hammer, a garbage collector in Denmark’s second-largest city, Århus. Hammer is married and the father of three girls. On his annual salary of $80,000, he drives a Mercedes and takes his family to Greece each year. What’s more, he works only 21 hours a week, and after going to the gym and spa provided by his union, he arrives home by 3 p.m. every day. He helps his daughters with their homework after school and coaches their soccer team three nights a week. His life, by Buettner’s description, is “rewarding and full.”

Hammer takes pride in his profession. “You can’t find a better job than delivering garbage,” he tells Buettner on an early-morning ride through the alleys of Århus. The hours are excellent, he says. The high rate of pay matches that of a Danish lawyer, and there’s no social stigma attached to the vocation.

Thanks to their tax base, Denmark’s vast middle class is able to rely on a range of public services. Public funds guarantee everything from support for the elderly to paychecks for university students, so people’s incomes don’t get gobbled up by medical costs or educational debts.

As a result, people don’t overwork. The average Danish worker puts in 37 hours a week, takes six weeks of vacation, and has plenty of time left over for socializing and hobbies.


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4:42PM PDT on Jun 15, 2014

Interesting, thanks for sharing

11:12PM PST on Feb 1, 2014

oddly not a single disney park was mentioned..... interesting.....

5:33AM PST on Jan 11, 2014

Interesting, food for thought.

1:03PM PDT on Sep 3, 2013

Fresh air, community, enjoying life and feeling safe while doing it. Glad to hear the suggestions that came in this article.

2:11AM PDT on Aug 18, 2013


2:20AM PDT on Aug 12, 2013

Thank you :)

3:50AM PDT on Jul 10, 2013

Thank you. We need more places like these...

6:09PM PDT on Jul 9, 2013

Have never been to any of these places, maybe if I ever get rich enough to travel I will visit them all. I agree with those that said happiness should be found withn. For years I wasted time looking for the so-called rainbow of happiness over the next hill. I've scaled mountains and never been completely content. Until I slowed down and began looking at myself; inside myself.

I found that if we are not content with ourselves, do not like ourselves, then we will not be happy. My children and grandchildren make me happy - but it's fleeting, unless you live with them 24/7. When you go home you are alone with yourself and that's when happiness and contentment come through - or lack thereof.

I am content for the most part, but still have some things to work on before true happiness will shine thru - an ongoing process, which has been both eyeopening and frustrating, especially when I find something within I didn't realize about myself - not always positive. Of course, there's the need to make changes - also not always a positive experience, but worth it.

4:11PM PDT on Jul 8, 2013

wonder why the lesson from Mexico is to go to church & believe in something outside ourselves... The ladies met w/ each other & enjoyed each other's company. It had nothing to do w/ churches - they can be very unpleasant places. Over in Florida a lady who had attended for more than30yrs disagreed w/ the pastor about something and he told her to "shut up" because her role was to be quiet & only have an opinion if she was asked for one". Well, the poor lady was in shock but continued going to church,I guess because she had no other friends. I would never show up again, but that's me.

3:44PM PDT on Jul 8, 2013


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