Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Good Read: The Year of Living Danishly


Over the weekend, my uncle stopped by with a book he wanted J and I to read. He had finished reading it, lent it to a friend who finished it in just a few days and was now bestowing it on us. It was called The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country by Helen Russell and J dove right in and started reading right away. He was instantly hooked, laughing and smiling and telling me little bits every few pages. Sunday, when he and Coco went up skiing for the day, I saw the book on the bookshelf and started reading it myself. I was also hooked. Theo and I spent a good portion of the day sitting together by the fire while he played with Legos and toys, or just sat and snuggled with me while I read. There may or may not have been an episode or two of Chuggington thrown in the mix.

I drank tea and flew through the chapters, unable to resist filling the book with little post-its covered in notes, or exclamation points, or stars, or hearts. There are so many places where she describes something and it's exactly how we felt in Switzerland. For example, just swap out Denmark for Switzerland in the following description of visiting Italy: "There is noise and color and passion in abundance. It is the antithesis of pared-down, ordered Denmark and we revel in its difference." It's as if she pulled that thought right out of my head. Then, she points out the ways that living in a country with a broad and buoyant safety net reduces stress and improves quality of life, and again, it's as if she's articulated the sense of insecurity and lack of safety that I've felt ever since getting back to the US. Russell's writing is warm and conversational, like chatting with an old friend over coffee. She makes me laugh out loud and nod appreciatively.

More than anything, reading the book makes me wish that I had been able to adopt her same approach to writing about our day-today while in Switzerland. It's a real talent to be able to recognize the differences between one's adopted home and home after they've become normal. The way she writes about the everyday adventures she's on in Denmark is inspiring, funny and entertaining. If you're looking for a quick and engaging read that gives an insight into Danish culture, politics and work-life balance, I highly recommend it.

And what are you reading these days? I'm always looking for reading material now that I'm not wasting all my time on Facebook anymore. ;) Thanks for sharing in the comments below! xo

(Photo of Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair via Avant-Scene on Flickr)

9 comments:

  1. Oh this book sounds wonderful. I'm going to find it on Kindle for my tablet. And I absolutely love that chair. I think I need to go back to Copenhagen's Hay shop for a quick peek around. And sadly, I'm not reading anything right at the moment, unless you call fact checking and history checking reading. If so, I'm reading a lot! :)

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    1. Don't delay, Kate! You will absolutely love it. Guaranteed!! xo

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  2. I'm always amused by these books; as someone married to a Danish expat, I get a good, tempered view of these books and points of views. Yes, there is a lot of good about Denmark, but there is a lot of bad there, too. Just food for thought! Every country/culture has good AND bad points, and I think think push about Denmark being such a happy country and the focus on hygge sometimes glosses over some of the reasons that might lend itself to that that might not necessarily be good things.

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    1. Jessica, you'll be happy hear that she doesn't just gloss over everything. Russell goes into the year very reluctantly and skeptically and does get into some nitty gritty over feminism and religion in Denmark. In these moments, she shows Denmark in a less favorable light. And she remains quite balanced and critical throughout. I think you would approve! ;) But yes, thank you for pointing out how these books tend to sugar coat everything. Too true.

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  3. I think what I miss most about CH is the simplicity and security. Everything just...works. That rugged individualism that marks the US isn't really there for better...or worse.

    I really miss how every day was an adventure if you wanted it living as an expat. But it was also the thing that could make an introvert like me pretty uncomfortable at times.

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    1. Yep, I know what you mean about the simplicity and security. Every situation has trade-offs. I'm really trying to embrace imperfection and know and believe that there is no perfect place or situation. Not so easy! ;)

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  4. I just finished "Meadowland" by John Lewis-Stempel and I really loved its meditative quality. It's like a love song to a landscape, an English meadow. I actually just bought his next book to read in labour as his writing is so soothing and beautiful.

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    1. Oh, how lovely. I'll check it out. You're getting close, aren't you?! So excited to see that babe on Instagram. :) xoxo

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  5. I've ever been reading How to get Dressed, which had some really helpful information on clothing fit for me. And I'm also reading Nurtured by Love by Shinichi Suzuki as recommended by my daughter's violin teacher. It's fascinating and quite compatible with Montessori.

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