#Meaningful reading :: The Year of Living Danishly ::

Thursday, 18 February 2016

'Buddha teaches us that desires are inexhaustible. The satisfaction of one just creates new desires, like a cell multiplying ... Living danishily has given me a glimpse of a more meaningful way of being. An understanding how life should be, or at least, how it could be'. 

Happy Thursday everyone! I hope you are having a great week! Going back to work does have its perks - I am reading again. Quite a bit actually. And it is wonderful. I had already made a point of going to bed early and read a few pages every night, but obviously an hour and a half commute every time I work in London means that a lot of reading gets done. 

I am not saying I always read interesting books, although I try to select them carefully. In fact I just finished Grief is the thing of feather - thinking it might help understand what Baby MiH is going through (and maybe us), it definitely did not. I saw some comments about how funny the book was, I never laughed once, in fact I would like to know where I should have laughed. I did not cry either - it left me emotionally cold, and we are talking about grief here. I was more upset when reading the latest Bridget Jones Diary, Helen Fielding dealt with bereavement better I thought...

Anyway I am getting sidetracked because one book I was very excited about reading was The Year of Living Danishly and whether I could find ways to make my life more meaningful. Helen Russell did - as you can see with the quote above - and managed to get pregnant, have a baby and sign up for another year in Denmark in the process. But is there anything for us mere mortal who are not Danish born? This book is not just about Danish culture, it also deals with the general experience of relocating to a foreign country, and the author's personal life and development. I found it really easy to read, and, in some places, it was absolutely hilarious. You should have seen Mr MiH's looks (he is reading the Big Short - not so many funny moments in that). 

I took notes, which is a sure sign that there was indeed something for me. Many of my notes are about Danish design and hygge - ie taken from the first chapter of the book. This is not surprising, I love Danish design and the feel it creates. And apparently rightly so as Helen explains 'when you surround yourselves with quality design it influences our mood. If one surroundings are nice, we feel cosy and safe. It makes us happier'... So let's start shopping! Of course, this is not so far from what Marie Kondo was saying of course.  

She talks a lot of about the work/life balance in Denmark, something that we have tried to incorporate in our lives here when I decided to go back after Baby MiH was born (my work life balance before that was shockingly bad). Mr MiH is doing the drop off and pick up from nursery. We split everything equally, housework, finance etc - except cooking. Also when I travel for work (which I have to do more than Mr MiH), there is no issue - he can do everything that I do around the house. 

The book paints a very good picture of Denmark - although referring to some not so good parts - ie the long winters. I was living in Scotland at some point in my life, and I had to move back to France during the winter. I could not deal with the short days. Maybe I should have bought more candles? I am not sure it would have been enough at the time. However the way Danes deal with it (according to the book) made me reflect on how we could deal with our winters here and try to enjoy being indoors and with family a bit more. 

Finally, the Danes and I do share more than an interest in design, we love Midsomer Murders - apparently the best rated TV import. I would feel right at home!

Totally worth a read - there is quite a bit to be learnt from the Danes, but also from the actual research in what make people happy (in Denmark or elsewhere) - of course I could question whether the book is not making too many generic statements out of examples, and not reviewing the all 'literature' but I am not going all academic on you, because at the end of the day I did not really question it. 

Reading about women equality was really interesting, and gave me a bit more confidence to look for more recognition at my workplace (whether I will get anywhere is another story). It is as serious as it is funny - a great balance. 


  1. I would be interested to read this book as I have always loved the Scandinavian approach to life, children and their education but I doubt I would be able to implement such an approach living where I do! I must get that decluttering book though - I need to have it in my life :-)

  2. this book sounds really interesting! I love the scandanvian lifestyle, or at least how it sounds from the outside. After all, no culture is perfect. I'll have to give this a read!

  3. Thanks for the review! I'll have to pick up a copy of this! It's my dream to live in Scandinavia at some point- I don't know how we'd ever manage to do it, but I can always hope, right? During our visit to Stockholm a few years ago, we were really struck by how much healthier the work/life balance seemed there (especially coming from workaholic New York!). It just seems like a healthier place, and one that values family and friends more than work, work, work.

  4. Sounds like a very interesting read! Personally, I had moved from a workaholic society to a Nordic one and I have to say, it makes a very big difference. Of course, we have to give up some minor conveniences like having shops open everyday and struggling to find a shop to buy something we forgot on holidays (I vividly remember driving around with my husband on Christmas night trying to buy lactose-free milk for newborn babies, when L was barely a month old!) and the different approach to customer service here. But with everything considered, I'm indeed much happier here due to my personal priorities.