The Year of Living Danishly — Helen Russell

Probably my favourite genre (as a whole) of magazine is the glossy women’s magazine. Since journalism school, I have enjoyed their wonderful pages without a drop of irony or scoffing.

However, it annoyed my greatly when HELEN RUSSELL wrote an entire book in the tired style of a cynical Brit who at one time, you would have to assume, greatly admired the writing style of Bridget Jones.

Despite a rather annoying writing style, the content of The Year of Living Danishly is very enjoyable and, to be honest, at times rather funny. Don’t be put off reading this book.

RUSSELL explores Denmark as a foreigner who has moved for her husband’s work (I found myself annoyed every time she referred to him as The Lego Man).

Adding to my existing dislike of London was this paragraph:

In London, if we were both home by 7pm in time for The Archers, it was a cause for celebration. More often than not, we only saw each other at weekends or encountered the other as a warm body in bed in the small hours, having worked late or been out with friends. But here, 4pm is the new 7pm. 4pm is rush hour, in Denmark. I haven’t usually begun the meat of my afternoon’s work by 4pm, having at least another few hours left in me. And yet he was back at home, wanting to put on loud music, chat and clatter things.

Enjoyed this factoid:

Lego produces 400 million tyres a year for its vehicles, making it officially the biggest tyre manufacturer in the world.

This sounds wonderful:

After a five-week ‘quarantine period’ following a resignation, you’re entitled to all the same benefits as someone who’s been made redundant – 80–90 per cent of your salary for up to two years. The Danish labour market has a ‘flexicurity’ model – a flexible yet secure labour market that means it’s easier to make someone redundant, but that workers are protected and looked after until they find something else they like, and it’s all financed by tax revenue. According to statistics, 25 per cent of the Danish workforce gets a new job every year and 40 per cent of unemployed workers find new jobs within the first three months. Denmark also spends more on lifelong training than any other country in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s group of 34 developed countries (the OECD), with the government, unions, and companies paying employees to attend training and pick up new skills. This helps workers stay up to speed in a changing job market. And since moving jobs has no effect on pension entitlements or earned holiday time, there are no barriers to changing employer in Denmark. You can hop around and still accrue the same benefits and number of days off. The system seems to be working, with the current unemployment rate at just 5 per cent. With around two-thirds of Danes belonging to a trade union, there’s also muscle on hand to fight for the preservation of workers’ rights and privileges should anything go wrong – so it’s very much power to the people

The section following this bombshell is absolutely hilarious:

Animal autopsies are so popular in Denmark that museums often have to hold two a day in the school holidays to meet demand.

I have seen this ad campaign and can confirm it is bizarre and intriguing:

A Danish travel company is running a campaign to get more couples jetting off on minibreaks together and encouraging them to ‘Do it for Denmark!’ The advertisement claims that Danes have 46 per cent more sex when they’re away from home, resulting in 10 per cent of the population being conceived while on a break (though not, clearly, if they go away for too long. One week = sexy times. Two weeks = imminent divorce). To get more Danes getting it on, the company is offering an ‘ovulation discount’ to women who enter the date of their last period when booking so that they can calculate the most fertile time for a minibreak. Anyone who sends in a picture of a positive pregnancy test after their trip is put in a prize draw for a three-year supply of nappies. No, this is not made up. This is the way Danes roll. Oh, and in case this all sounds a bit hetero-biased, gay couples are also encouraged to get involved because, ‘the fun is in the participation’.

I knew I was not alone in not knowing when to leave the dinner table:

Trine laughs and admits that there is a certain pride associated with inviting someone into your home to share food in Denmark. ‘Danes love to spend a whole day planning a meal, cooking and entertaining, then once all the hard work is done we like to sit and talk for hours. We don’t quite have the thing you have in the UK of knowing when it’s time to call it a night.’