Denmark: The Happiest Place on Earth

Indeed, garbage man Jan Dion says he's an eight out of 10 in terms of happiness. He said he doesn't mind collecting garbage for a living, because he works just five hours in the morning and then can spend the rest of the day at home with family or coaching his daughter's handball team. Dion says no one judges his choice of career, and he actually loves what he does because he has many friends along his route. It makes him happy when he sees the children who wave to him and the old ladies who bring him cups of coffee.

Josef Bourbon, a carpenter's apprentice, is also happy with his choice of career and enjoys the work. "I think it's about building something, seeing what you've worked on the whole day -- you can see what you've done," he said. On weekends he likes fish and hunt or play with his new puppy.

Don't Worry, Be 'Hygge'

Bourbon is another example of Denmark's unusual social structure, because he happens to be a prince. Descended from a Danish king and related to the royal houses of both Spain and France, Bourbon has chosen to be a carpenter's apprentice, and he rarely discusses his lineage with anyone. Not even with potential dates when he's out on the town.

In all likelihood, Bourbon will probably just keep up his current cozy social life, hanging around with friends and family who live nearby. Danes even have a name for these kind of gatherings, calling these intimate and spontaneous get-togethers 'hygge' (pronounced "hoogey").

Hanging out with other Danes just may be their happiness secret. Ninety-two percent of Danes belong to some kind of social club, dancing, singing, even practicing laughing with other Danes. Get a few people together who enjoy model train building, for example, and the government will pay for it. In Denmark, even friendship is subsidized.

And Denmark is what is called a "post consumerist" society. People have nice things, but shopping and consuming is not a top priority. Even the advertising is often understated. Along with less emphasis on "stuff," and a strong social fabric, Danes also display an amazing level of trust in each other, and their government. A University of Cambridge happiness study found that both kinds of trust were higher in happier places.

In Denmark, you can see trust in action all around you. Vegetable stands run on the honor system, mothers leave babies unattended in strollers outside caf├ęs, and most bicycles are left unlocked.

And perhaps the bicycle is the best symbol of Danish happiness. Danes can all afford cars, but they choose bikes -- simple, economical, nonpolluting machines that show no status and help keep people fit.

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