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augustlan's avatar

What is life like in Denmark?

Asked by augustlan (47399points) April 16th, 2010

My aunt was recently telling me all sorts of information she’s heard about Denmark, some of which really sounded intriguing. However, a lot of it sounded like complete bullshit, too. Since she saw it on Oprah, she’s convinced it’s all true. I think she may have misunderstood some of the facts of life as they pertain to Denmark, and would like to get the real scoop. Some of the claims she made:

No matter what job you have, everyone gets paid the exact same amount of money. Whether you’re a gardener or the vice president of a company, in your first year or your tenth. (I find this awfully hard to believe.)

Every house is pretty much exactly the same. (ditto.)

All schools operate all day (8 to 6 or something), all year, so daycare is not needed. In addition, all school children wear uniforms. (intriguing)

Taxes are high, but basically your every need is met, including health care. (ditto)

The people there are very happy. (double ditto)

Can you enlighten me or direct me to a site that can?

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28 Answers

ucme's avatar

I visited Copenhagen for a weekend as a kid.The people are extremely friendly & approachable.The majoriy speak excellent Engish.Can’t really give any informed opinion on what you’re after, only to say their suicide rate is very high when compared to the rest of Europe. Seems to be an anomoly because they do on the surace at least appear happy & contented.

dpworkin's avatar

A mix of nonsense and truth. Taxes are high, but so are services, health care, child care and advanced education are all provided with no secondary charges, men and women both get generous leave when they have a child, (social services are very generous and very complete), there is a 35 hour work week, and extended vacation time (not unusual for a modern, Western European state) and Denmark is consistently rated as a place where people are among the happiest.

Bosses make more money than their workers, but everyone is taxed in order to deal with income disparities. People in the Northern latitudes have a higher suicide rate in general; some thing it is because of Seasonal Affective Disorder which has to do with the interaction of depression and photoperiodicity.

Jbor's avatar

No matter what job you have, everyone gets paid the exact same amount of money. Whether you’re a gardener or the vice president of a company, in your first year or your tenth. (I find this awfully hard to believe.)
– No truth in that whatsoever, there are large discrepancies in income between different jobs. But due to high taxes etc. the wealth is quite evenly distributed. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_income_equality

Every house is pretty much exactly the same. (ditto.)
– Not quite :-) We have all types of houses and apartments just as the rest of the world.

All schools operate all day (8 to 6 or something), all year, so daycare is not needed. In addition, all school children wear uniforms. (intriguing)
– No uniforms, except maybe in a couple of private schools. And I mean a couple. Schools and daycare units (yes, we have lot’s of them) close on holidays, weekends etc. and early enough in the day to cause problems for some parents. So no.

Taxes are high, but basically your every need is met, including health care. (ditto)
– That would be true. But it’s not cheap nor particularly efficient.

The people there are very happy. (double ditto)
– Yes, danes a generally believed to be the happiest people on earth according to several surveys. How accurate they are is another question.

Can you enlighten me or direct me to a site that can?
– Ask away. I live here :-)

PandoraBoxx's avatar

We had exchange students from Denmark for three years, and my daughter spent a summer there, so I can answer most of these:

No matter what job you have, everyone gets paid the exact same amount of money. Whether you’re a gardener or the vice president of a company, in your first year or your tenth. (I find this awfully hard to believe.) FALSE but everyone has employment of some sort, or seems to receive enough money to live on. While I haven’t asked about this directly, it seemed that some occupations that are lower paid received certain government subsidies. (Like in the UK, low paid essential roles get certain subsidies – child care workers, health workers, etc.)

Every house is pretty much exactly the same. (ditto.) FALSE All housing is different, but like in the burbs where all the houses in a subdivision resemble each other, the same holds true for Denmark. There is a wider array of living arrangements, including a lot of cohousing, and multigenerational living arrangements. One girl that stayed with us lived with her family, but so did her uncle’s ex-wife and her cousin, her brother and his wife, and and a great-aunt. The property had small cottages, and everyone took their meals together. Another lived in a cohousing situation where four families had apartments but shared a kitchen and a common living area, and the yard. They shared cooking and child care amongst the families, and house upkeep responsibilities.

All schools operate all day (8 to 6 or something), all year, so daycare is not needed. In addition, all school children wear uniforms. (intriguing) The school that my daughter visited ran 9 – 2, but it was a high school. None of the Danes we met wore a uniform to school. (However, in a significant portion of the world, children do wear uniforms to school, and I personally think it’s a great idea.)

Taxes are high, but basically your every need is met, including health care. (ditto)
TRUE Taxes are high, and Denmark has wonderful health care. You don’t pay for anything, and care is good. You also don’t sue doctors, nor do people seem to go to the doctor for every little ache and pain.

The people there are very happy. (double ditto) TRUE Denmark is generally rated the happiest country. It’s probably because people are employed, educated, have access to health care, and make enough money to live in a manner that puts food on the table and a roof over everyone’s head.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Everything is made from Lego.

Jbor's avatar

We had exchange students from Denmark for three years, and my daughter spent a summer there, so I can answer most of these:

No matter what job you have, everyone gets paid the exact same amount of money. Whether you’re a gardener or the vice president of a company, in your first year or your tenth. (I find this awfully hard to believe.) FALSE but everyone has employment of some sort, or seems to receive enough money to live on. While I haven’t asked about this directly, it seemed that some occupations that are lower paid received certain government subsidies. (Like in the UK, low paid essential roles get certain subsidies – child care workers, health workers, etc.)
Not related to occupation. But if you have a particularly low income you can get subsidies. The employment rate is high, but there are a lot of people on some form of full time subsidy. For many people the economic gain from actually working is close to 0, which a lot of us consider to be a problem.

Every house is pretty much exactly the same. (ditto.) FALSE All housing is different, but like in the burbs where all the houses in a subdivision resemble each other, the same holds true for Denmark. There is a wider array of living arrangements, including a lot of cohousing, and multigenerational living arrangements. One girl that stayed with us lived with her family, but so did her uncle’s ex-wife and her cousin, her brother and his wife, and and a great-aunt. The property had small cottages, and everyone took their meals together. Another lived in a cohousing situation where four families had apartments but shared a kitchen and a common living area, and the yard. They shared cooking and child care amongst the families, and house upkeep responsibilities.
These examples would be exceptions from the norm, and Denmark is no different in this regard to anywhere else in the developed world. Very few people live with relatives or friends

All schools operate all day (8 to 6 or something), all year, so daycare is not needed. In addition, all school children wear uniforms. (intriguing) The school that my daughter visited ran 9 – 2, but it was a high school. None of the Danes we met wore a uniform to school. (However, in a significant portion of the world, children do wear uniforms to school, and I personally think it’s a great idea.)
I’ve never seen a school uniform here, but as stated there might be a couple of private schools that utilize them.

Taxes are high, but basically your every need is met, including health care. (ditto)
TRUE Taxes are high, and Denmark has wonderful health care. You don’t pay for anything, and care is good. You also don’t sue doctors, nor do people seem to go to the doctor for every little ache and pain.
The healthcare system works pretty well, and is actually a lot cheaper than ie. the US equivalent. There is talk about some kind of smaller fees for doctor visits to decrease demand. Wrongful or neglient treatmet is basically impossible to pursue in court, though you can get compensations (small compared to the US, we’re not talking millions).

The people there are very happy. (double ditto) TRUE Denmark is generally rated the happiest country. It’s probably because people are employed, educated, have access to health care, and make enough money to live in a manner that puts food on the table and a roof over everyone’s head.

Pretty_Lilly's avatar

I think you’re talking about “Cuba” and it’s called “Communism””

Jbor's avatar

Ah, I just found out we have official tourist sites:
Link: www.visitdenmark.com
Link: http://www.denmark.dk/en

Jbor's avatar

@Pretty_Lilly

If you’re comparing Denmark to Cuba you would be very wrong. While one might argue that there are a few socialist tendencies in the way some things are organized, Denmark is very much a capitalistic society and one of the wealthiest nations on earth. And Denmark repeatedly comes out on top with regards to low corruption and trust in the government as well as other people.

Pretty_Lilly's avatar

@Jbor I am not comparing Denmark to Cuba ,,,What she describes it the S** life of Cubans !
By the way, Denmark it is not one of the wealthiest nations NOT even in the top 10!
It does have a very high GDP,though !! Not the same thing !!

Jbor's avatar

To the many American users here I might also add that we’re one of your staunchest allies. We have supported both the Afghan and Iraq wars from the start and have contributed a lot more soldiers (AFAIK) than any other allies (in relation to population, we only have 5,5 mil. residents). Support for these operations are also a lot stronger than in other allied contries.

Jbor's avatar

@Pretty_Lilly

No, we’re not in top 10 with regards to GDP (PPP).
But if you remove the rich oil states (Norway, arab contries), Luxembourg (tax haven), and Iceland, whose economy has collapsed, we’d be very close :-)
I suspect Ireland has dropped quite a bit as well.

The following is the IMF list of countries by GDP (PPP) per capita, which means it takes cost of living into consideration. If one were to look at GDP per capita Denmark places well above the US for instance.

1 Qatar 87,717
2 Luxembourg 78,723
3 Norway 53,269
4 Brunei 50,103
5 Singapore 49,433
6 United States 46,443
7 Switzerland 42,948
— Hong Kong 42,574
8 Ireland 39,441
9 Netherlands 39,278
10 Austria 38,896
11 Kuwait 38,876
12 Canada 38,290
13 UAE 38,284
14 Australia 37,302
15 Iceland 37,243
16 Denmark 36,725

Link (adjusted for purchasing power): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28PPP%29_per_capita

Link (not adjusted for purchasing power): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28nominal%29_per_capita

Jbor's avatar

Ups, double post.

JLeslie's avatar

@augustlan Even on Oprah they showed different types of housing on the show. It was a great episode by the way. They did not mention it on the show, but if I had to guess I bet the government encourages time off and shorter work days to encourage the birth rate, since many European countries are having trouble in that area Being very socialized, means you have to make sure the next generation is being born, because some of the financial burden is on them. The people on the show talked about “family time” a lot, which I think is wonderful, but it almost seemed ingrained to the point that it is talked about and promoted. Again this is just a guess, I don’t have any data. Maybe @Jbor can comment on it.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

It’s just like Lake Woebegone, only more so.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@dpworkin In other words, 6 months of darkness totally sucks. :-)

CMaz's avatar

Where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.

lilikoi's avatar

I can’t provide any specific examples as I have not yet visited, but I know someone who did and loved it.

augustlan's avatar

Thank you so much for all this information! One thing I forgot to mention, she also said that they get very long lunch breaks, and most go home for lunch with their families. True?

I totally believe the theory that higher suicide rates are tied to SAD. I get a mild version of this myself in the winter months, and I live in the US.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

There’s a lot of countries that get long lunch breaks. What you said about the school day, I had a friend whose husband was relocated to France for two years, and where she lived, the school day for elementary and middle school aged children was 8:30 – 4:30, with 2 hours for lunch. Kids went home for lunch, and sports practices were held at mid-day. Their whole family hated when it was time to come back to the States, because those hours were so convenient.

jeanmay's avatar

I agree with @PandoraBoxx, long lunches are common in Europe, although not universal. When I lived in France it took a while to get used to the fact that you just can’t spend your long lunch time running errands or shopping, as everything is closed. You pretty much have nothing to do but go home to your family, have lunch then take a nap. Bliss.

Jbor's avatar

@Jleslie There are indeed going to be a lot of problems with an aging population. There is a lot of talk about what to do about it, and little doubt as to what has to be done, but no political willingness to actually cut public spending.

One answer has been increasing immigration, but that has proved to not to work out particularly well since you can get by without actually working. Crime rates, while still very low in comparison to most other countries, have soared. The resulting problems and increasing unwillingness to accept any more the largely muslim immigrants is a tendency that is quite apparent all over Europe.

The government however is not actually trying to increase birthrates, to my knowledge at least. While there has been talk about it over the years I cannot recall reading about any active policies.

Perhaps quite to the contrary there is a lot of talk about how to get more women to accept leading positions, and recent studies blame paternity leave and having to pick up children from daycare early in the day. Both parents are incidentally allowed to share paternity leave equally (I’m not sure of the details), but the mother usually takes the largest part of it. That said I believe very few or no countries have a larger female workforce. The frequency between the sexes is almost equal.

Jbor's avatar

@augustlan Not true, actually. A lunchbreak is usually half an hour, and few people will actually leave the workplace. If you’re working for the government you typically get paid during the lunchbreak as well. Longer lunchbreaks are however common elsewhere in Europe.

I should mention that we get quite a lot of vacation, 6 weeks to be exact.

JLeslie's avatar

@Jbor Interesting. I had not thought the immigration of many Muslims was to create a larger base of people to support social programs. I thought immigration must have been encouraged to satisfy a need for labor, bad assumption I guess. Maybe you all should have spoken to countries more experienced with immigration, like America and maybe Canada before you tried that. I am not trying to paint all immigrants with a broad negative brush. My husband is an immigrant, and many of my friends, and they are prosperous and assimilated well. For that matter my own paternal grandparents and maternal great grandparents were immigrants. But, it seems to me that many countries in Europe are naive on this front. My perception is immigrants are not really encouraged to assimilate? Or, maybe the population in the European countries don’t really want them too. I was in Tokyo a few years ago an there are many Brazilian immigrants working farms and there was complaints about Japan not providing schools and education for the children of the immigrants. Japan argued these people were supposed to be temporary workers. I think naive again, because we see in the US all of the time, people come temporarily and never go back. Canada is actually much stricter than America on immigration; they require the person to have a certain amount of money and more specific skill set I think, where America is more open.

jeanmay's avatar

@augustlan Have you read Outliers? I was just reading it today, and there is a section about the education system, and how it favours older children. Basically it said teachers unconsciously mistake “maturity for ability”, and thus children who are oldest in the academic year are chosen for gifted programmes and advanced level classes. These children then learn more than their younger peers, and are put at a permanent advantage. The author states that this is true of students everywhere, except in Denmark, where it is apparently national policy not to use ability grouping in schools before the age of ten. Interesting! Great book so far.

augustlan's avatar

@jeanmay I haven’t read it, but have been wanting to. Thanks for the info!

JLeslie's avatar

@jeanmay That is very interesting. I was always the youngest in my class. My father recently read a book about Japanese education, and it basically said that children are ALL expected to be at the same level when they are young and all learn the same information.

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