“US psychologist Abraham Maslow said there was a five-tier hierarchy of human needs, each of which needed to be met before you could move on to worrying about other things, culminating in the hallowed goal of ‘self-actualisation’. These needs started with the ‘physiological’ (the basics: food, water, sleep etc.), followed by ‘safety’ (security of body, health and employment). Both of these needed to be in place before you could move on to the third, ‘belonging’ (friendship and sexual intimacy), then the fourth, ‘esteem’ (confidence and respect) and finally to self-actualisation (morality, creativity and problem-solving).
Danes have their physiological needs and their safety taken care of by the state, allowing them to move onwards and upwards more easily. They’re in school with the same people for ten years, allowing deep friendships to develop, and they’re well-informed and encouraged to get on with things in terms of sex. With a focus on creativity in schools and nurturing future job talent, many Danes are getting a leg-up right to the summit of the triangle. By contrast, some developed countries haven’t even got past the second rung of ‘safety’ - with no healthcare or job security (hello, USA).
Thinking about it this way, it’s no wonder Danes are so happy. They have an obscenely good quality of life. Yes, it’s expensive here. But it’s Denmark - it’s worth it. I don’t mind paying more for a coffee here because I know that it means the person serving me doesn’t a) hate me or b) have a crappy life. Everyone is paid a decent wage, everyone is looked after, and everyone pays their taxes, just as I pay mine. And if we all have marginally less money to buy more stuff that we don’t really need anyway as a result, well I’m starting to think it’s a deal worth making.”
–The Year of Living Danishly, Helen Russell