From north to south, we all approach happiness differently

Does what makes the Danes happy have anything to offer the UAE, the Danish ambassador to the UAE asks.

Can happy Danes help their counterparts in the UAE? Henning Bagger / AFP
Powered by automated translation

What is the secret behind Denmark’s happiness? This is a question that I often hear. But happiness is not a secret it is something to be shared. As when your grandmother reveals her secret recipe that has kept generations delighted and satisfied for years, it is impossible to copy straight away.

With the right amount of time, love and continuous investments you end up with your own version that will keep the coming generations hungering and happy for years to come. Happiness is nothing different.

The UAE and Denmark share many similarities counting in the measurement of happiness. Healthy life expectancy, economic stability with high gross domestic product per capita and trust in the sense of absence of corruption in government and business. Though, it is the secret spices growing in our own backyards that make the taste so much sweeter and the smiles equally wider.

In Denmark, we have something called “hygge”. A state of mind with no head-on translation but to some extent defined as cultivated cosiness. “Hygge” is social connections where Danes enjoy and embrace life’s simple pleasures. Chocolate. Candlelight. Warm blankets. Or the company of good friends. A concept and living rule, which all Danes learn from early childhood to indulge and pass on to their loved ones.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, responded recently to a question about the creation of the new happiness ministry and why a 22-year-old Minister of State for Youth was appointed to led the state office.

In his answer, Sheikh Mohammed spoke highly about a future built on happiness, tolerance and the drive of the youth: “We have learnt that failure to respond effectively to the aspirations of young people, who represent more than half of the population in Arab countries, is like swimming against the tide. Without the energy and optimism of youth, societies cannot develop and grow; indeed, they are doomed.”

For me, the learning part is the key. We have to study ourselves, in terms of both strengths and weaknesses, and with those lessons in mind either improve or build on top of them.

As importantly, we have to learn from each other. Like Danes teach Danes to “hygge”. Share experiences and embrace the differences, which for individual reasons and in various ways add smiles to our faces and joy to our minds.

By doing so, the first major steps towards a happier nation are taken. Denmark took the top spot in the United Nation’s World Happiness Report in 2013 and 2014, and came in third in 2015. But happily we regained the title as the planet’s happiest country, pipping Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Finland to the top spot in the recent annual World Happiness Report 2016.

Adding to the happy Dane is the organisation of the society. The Danish welfare society frames the development of the individual and provides a safety net for all citizens.

A united trust in our communities creates a free scope for everyone’s individual ability supporting the bespoke pursuit of happiness hidden in all of us.

When reaching out with faith in both local and global communities we plant the best soil for one of the key stakes in happiness – a blossoming personal development.

In the same way, we must globally step up to the plate and invite everyone interested to a potluck of happiness sharing homemade recipes that could act as an inspirational methods towards growing and developing happier societies.

Happiness is at work in the UAE. The nation’s focus on happiness has become an essential part of the work of the government focusing on the quality of life and job satisfaction just to name a few.

This focus being particular expressed within the appointment of the new Minister of Happiness, who is only one out of five Happiness Ministry’s worldwide along with Bhutan, Ecuador, Scotland and Venezuela. A focus that makes me glad.

Not only for the contribution to a happier nation and a happier world in general, but also for a healthy competition on nationwide smiles and happy citizens.

Even though weather in Denmark can be dreary and in winter it is dark most of the day, we are still considered to be the world’s happiest nation.

So with warm weather year around in the sunny nation of the UAE, I reckon UAE’s ambitious happiness initiatives have a fruitful foundation.

Merete Juhl is ambassador of Denmark to the UAE