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The Year of Living Danishly: My Twelve Months Unearthing the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  18,483 ratings  ·  2,098 reviews
Denmark is officially the happiest nation on Earth. When Helen Russell is forced to move to rural Jutland, can she discover the secrets of their happiness? Or will the long, dark winters and pickled herring take their toll?

A Year of Living Danishly looks at where the Danes get it right, where they get it wrong, and how we might just benefit from living a little more Danish
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 19th 2015 by Icon Books (first published January 1st 2015)
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 ·  18,483 ratings  ·  2,098 reviews

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Start your review of The Year of Living Danishly: My Twelve Months Unearthing the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country
This rant review is too long… and this is why, although I like non-fiction, I don't read it more often – too much to say in response; hard work for me to write and for others to read, if they bother. Not a habit I want to get further into. The end of the review is in comment 1.

Of course she's happy: she gets to be Birgitte Nyborg for a year, her partner's played by Mads Mikkelsen (also he never complains like that beardy bloke did), and she receives as many free Gudrun & Gudrun jumpers as she wa
Ehhhh. In some ways, this book delivered exactly what it set out to do, so I don't feel like I should rag on it too much. But, by the same token, my ~real and honest~ review of this would be 72pt pink sparkletext that reads A N N O Y I N G ! ! !

Because, my god, this book is annoying. Smug Helen Russell leaves behind her smug London life as a smug magazine writer to smugly travel to Denmark and live there (sooooo smugly) for a year. Have I used the word 'smug' enough yet? (SMUG!)

I suppose it's no
Dec 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Despite its brutal winters and incredibly high taxes, Denmark seems like a great place to live after reading The Year of Living Danishly: My Twelve Months Unearthing the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country.

Helen Russell agrees to relocate from London to Denmark for a year when her husband is offered his dream job at LEGO. With Denmark named the happiest country in the world, Helen begins her quest to find out what makes Danes so happy. Each month, she shares a primary takeaway contributing t
Apparently, genetics do count for a great deal. I may be only half Danish in ancestry, but I have somehow come to enjoy many of the same things that the Danes do. I’m glad to know that there are other people out there who light the long winter nights with plenty of candles. As an enthusiastic consumer of coffee and wine, I am living up to my genetic heritage. And I must confess that I cook and eat a great deal of pork and potatoes, so I have that in common with the people of “Sticksville-On-Sea, ...more
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
I can’t seem to stop talking about The Year of Living Danishly. This memoir about living in Denmark for a year suited me perfectly. The author moved to Denmark from England with her husband. Each chapter takes place during a different month in the year and focuses on a different theme. She mixes her own experiences with interviews and research. She talks about work, money, the weather, taxes, education, raising children, entertaining, etc... She has a great self-deprecating sense of humour. Unde ...more
Candles, hygge and seeds of happiness - if that's your mojo, this is your book.

This book reflects the Utopian lifestyle of a social democracy in a journalese style, avoiding the obvious challenges of modern economic trends. It's a personal memoir, after all, and an obvious editorial.

I enjoyed the author's experience of a new cultural orientation in adjusting to a totally new concept for a British monoglotic citizen. (Although Britain is as much a social democracy and free market economy as Denma
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm green with envy after reading this book. Denmark sounds like a nordic Celestial Kingdom. Everyone thinks I'm nuts but I love the short, cold, winter days. This whole Hygge thing is right up my street. Everything sounds amazing over there in Denmark, YES, that includes their whole 'tax you like crazy but give you amazing quality childcare, education, etc., etc., etc.' system. This book is well-written, entertaining, and smart. Helen Russell perfectly balances her personal memoir with a very i ...more
Nov 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Another truly FABULOUS book. Slightly more whimsical and funny than a normal read for me and it genuinely made me really laugh out loud which *never* happens to me! I'm so glad I read this, and I will have more thoughts on this when I'm more awake! For now, solid 5* again... so good!!


Full review:

So this book is a non-fiction recounting of the year when Helen Russell and her husband (Lego Man) went on a life-changing adventure into the unknown wilds of Denmark. Russell has a way of writing
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
[3.5] I've always been curious about Denmark and Russell's account of moving from London to a small Danish town was a fun and satisfying read. She writes in a breezy, light-hearted way yet also digs into the problems that Denmark faces. So although it still sounds like paradise, I know now about the dark side of living in Denmark. The U.S. could learn so much from its policies.

I would have rated this book a half-star higher but Russell refers to her husband only as Lego Man which I found dismis
Helene Jeppesen
Apr 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is one of those books that I personally really liked, but I'm pretty sure you're only going to like it if you have an interesting in learning more about the Danish people (or your own people, if you're a Dane). This book speaks about traditions and way of living in Denmark, and it investigates why it is that Danes are the happiest people on Earth.
Being a Dane myself, I agreed with a lot of the things that Helen Russell finds out during her year here, and especially the beginning with it's g
Jo Coleman
Oct 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
Well! My mum foisted this book upon me because, like the author, I spent some time living in Denmark and evangelising enthusiastically about it. It turns out I have many thoughts about it!

The book has an infuriatingly twee premise; she spends a year trying to figure out why Denmark is supposedly the happiest country in the world and can barely get through the most commonplace interaction without phoning up a Danish expert for advice, and to ask them how happy they are on a scale of one to ten. E
If you are interested in Danish culture, this is an enlightening, informative and entertaining book that is worth a look (or ear as in my case). The narrator for the audio book does an outstanding job.

For me, this book doesn't really read like other non-fiction books. The author does cite a number of statistics but doesn't bury the reader with study after study of research references. She approaches the subject matter, why Danes are the happiest people in the world, with first hand experience as
May 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
A perfect example of how a clever title can snag a reader. Once I'd mentally complimented the author on the title I was taken with the idea. Denmark is regularly at the top of lists of the "world's happiest country" so when author Russell's husband is offered a job in Denmark (at Lego no less) they pack up and move from the UK to Denmark. It's a trial idea to be revisited after a year. The author is a journalist so she takes on the assignment of finding out why Danes are so happy, indeed cross-e ...more
Oct 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
As a Dane, I must say that I enjoyed looking at my country and my traditions through the eyes of an outsider. The writing is hilarious, and I laughed out loud more times than I care to admit. There were a lot of descriptions which were spot on and a few things that I, as a Dane, thought were a bit off or misunderstood. Overall, this book is food for thought, and I highly recommend it. Not only if you want to learn more about living in Denmark, but also if you want to think about your own way of ...more
María Alcaide
I have enjoyed this book a lot. It was as if I was in Denmark again. It has made me realized how many things I miss from there... how I miss Denmark and how I wished I had used my time better when I was there. It is absolutely true that Denmark is the happiest country in the world and it is also ture that you can reach happiness (or something very close to it) there. Of course it is not all perfect, but it gets close sometimes. It really does! Funny and witty, I think you will all enjoy this boo ...more
Mar 09, 2015 added it
Shelves: 2015, non-fiction
After relocating because of her husband's job, Helen Russell describes her year of living in Denmark in this wonderful book. It was laugh-out-loud funny at points (thank god I didn't read it in public) and an overall joy to read.

Part memoir, part self-help, part travel book, but wholly entertaining. I had my concerns that it would fall into the stereotypical view that everything in Denmark is perfect and wonderful and that the people living there have no problems at all. Thankfully, Russell enti
May 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2016
I read this on a whim, and I'm really glad I did. I thought it was a fascinating look into Danish culture, and particularly the aspects that lead to Denmark being the 'happiest' country in the world. The takeaways for me from that were; the importance of connection; of having hobbies and interests; of working with the weather rather than against it (snuggling down in winter rather than trying to continue a 'summer' lifestyle - count me in!!), the importance of trust, community responsibility, an ...more
I had been meaning to read this book for a couple of years, and then a friend (Hej, Bruce!) recommended it to me, and THEN I was having a really bad day/week, and my husband bought me a copy to cheer me up. (Reader, I married him.)

Super fun, and actually quite different from what I thought it would be. I thought it would be a rather dry explication of why the Danes are consistently ranked so happy, but instead found it to be a bit of a romp, at time cynical, at times very loving, through life in
❂ Murder by Death
About 8 years ago, I almost moved to Denmark though a company transfer, but ended up in Australia instead. I always wondered what it would have been like to live there. This book was a funny, informative, research-rich look at what sets Danes apart from a cultural perspective, as well as what ties them to the rest of the world.

Full review:
Feb 15, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Denmark is in the American news in 2016 as a potential model for reform or else an example of why reform is impossible. From this book, it does seem believable that the Danes are the world's happiest people, and that it is a result of their social system, which is very deliberately maintained by a complex web of traditions. Since the Danish system exists, it is possible. But it's not clear where one would start if one wanted to replicate it. I learned a lot of pertinent, interesting information ...more
Jan 02, 2015 rated it liked it
If you like the idea of an ignorant woman, so wrapped up in the idea that she has the sexual knowledge of a Jane Austen character, and whom CONTINUOUSLY likes to spout statistics (that hold far more weight with her than is warranted) then this book could be for you.

It's eye-opening, humorous and interesting at times, but Helen Russell's infuriatingly stubborn and stressful character quickly wears thin. She gives women a bad name as her husband seems to settle in easily, while she frantically ru
Feb 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm moving to Denmark.

I'm tempted to leave my review at that, but the author deserves a few words too. I really enjoyed this book. I loved how interesting quirks about Danish culture weren't just observed, they were investigated, but in an informal, humorous, conversational way. I loved the tone, loved the structure, and I'm sad the book is over. I want her to move on and try living Chinesely and Americanly, and Spanishly.
Feb 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
THE YEAR OF LIVING DANISHLY is an enjoyable, if at times doggedly lighthearted look at "Deep Denmark" -- not the wonderful, wonderful metropolitan Copenhagen that tourists the world over know and love, but a small rural village subject to very short winter days and the rain, snow and wind that accompany them. In the Forties and Fifties, some very effective satire was written by Americans from small towns who moved to big cities, or big city-dwellers who assayed suburbia: MY SISTER EILEEN and PLE ...more
Apr 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: april-2017
I have been coveting Helen Russell's The Year of Living Danishly since its publication. I am a fan of all things Scandinavian, and loved Copenhagen when I visited a few years ago. Whilst the rest of Denmark is on my to-visit list, I have so many trips planned at present that I probably won't get to go back for a few years at least. I therefore thought that it would be a good idea to scour bookshops for a copy of The Year of Living Danishly to (hopefully) sate my interest in booking another trip ...more
Jan 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel-general
Mixed feelings about this book about the author swapping her busy London life to move to rural Jutland for a year due to her husband's job at Legoland.
The book had a different chapter for each month of the year, and this worked well especially the descriptions of the weather (pretty grim in winter when everyone hibernates) and also the various traditions to be celebrated as the seasons pass.
I enjoyed finding out about everyday rural life in Jutland (something I knew absolutely nothing about) - w
Read: May 2017

Helen Russell's account of her year of living abroad in Denmark was a wonderfully entertaining, funny read. I have always had a longing to live in one of the Scandinavian countries and now for me Denmark has overtaken Iceland as the place I really want to live and work in one day. Russell talks frankly about the ups and downs of being an immigrant in Denmark, the language and culture shock, incredibly high taxes, high divorce rates and the fact the Denmark has the highest number of
Lindsay Nixon
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
UPDATE: the narrator in the audible is👌 I enjoy listening for the laughs and entertainment

I have no idea who I would recommend this book to... someone going to Denmark... or an American or British expat moving to a more rural part of Europe that neEd’s to feel some solidarity (perhaps)?

This book is a little odd. On the one hand it is a HILARIOUS memoir. I don’t say that lightly. Even actual comedians cannot get me to LOL like this author could. At one point I was giggling so hard in bed it w
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: scandinavia, denmark
Very nice booklet, especially if you plan to travel to Denmark for a short while and do not want to dive to deep into Danish history etcetera. Russell puts all the "idiosyncrasies" and peculiarities of the Danes in a row, in a smooth narrative that is midway between a chronicle of a year of forced living in the Danish countryside, sometimes with hilarious situations, and supplemented with opinions of experts. Because, of course, everything revolves around the question: "why is Denmark the happie ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Dec 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Year of Living Danishly is a memoir of Helen Russell's move to Denmark for a year. Russell used the year to take a close look at why Danish people report themselves to be the happiest people in the world. I am happy to have learned more about happiness from this book.
Christine Zibas
Definitely one of my favorite books of the year!
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Ravelry Knitters: December group read - The Year of Living Danishly 11 74 Feb 21, 2016 02:42PM  

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Helen Russell is a British journalist and bestselling author.

Formerly the editor of, she now lives in Denmark and works as a Scandinavia correspondent for the Guardian, as well as writing a column on Denmark for the Telegraph and features for The Times, The Observer, Stylist, Metro, Grazia, The Wall Street Journal and The Independent.

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