My Experience in Denmark

If America Treated People Like Denmark, I’d Go Out of Business (Probably)

I moved to America when I was 23. 

It was 1993 and my dream was to become a photography assistant. I never intended to stay in America for more than a year, but things opened up very quickly. I got a great job, met my partner, had a daughter, bought a house, and life took over. 

Almost 30 years later, I had an opportunity to go back to Denmark and stay for eight months.

I have been back to Denmark multiple times in those 30 years, so it wasn’t the first time I’ve gone back… and I’ve maintained a fairly close connection with my family and friends over there. However, the longest I ever stayed was 16 days. I never got into the routines. 

This time, my plan was to stay long enough to see how it was to live in Denmark again. I have a dream of moving back to Denmark full-time, so I was a curious about whether who I had become was too far removed from what it means to be a Danish citizen today. 

So, it was with some excitement and apprehension that I actually bought the trip. 

I liked my experience, and more than anything else, I’ve come to realize that Denmark is just a really, really, really phenomenal country. 

One of the ways to describe it is: Danish people are happy when their neighbors are doing well. Everything within their system is set up for the betterment of the whole or the betterment of the public population. 

Even something as simple as getting COVID tested. In 24-hours, they would built 2,000-3,000 square foot pop-up tents in four or five strategic locations throughout the city. They were operational within 48 hours. All the testing was free. You didn’t have to make an appointment, you didn’t have to have any insurance, you just walked in and got tested.

The other remarkable thing is the entire city of Copenhagen has turned into this user-friendly city. It’s become a city for the public. The bicycle lanes have been extended, they’re broader and raised up on the road. Plus, drivers treat bicyclists with kid gloves because there are thousands of them, and you’re in trouble if you knock down a bicycle.

Another thing that really struck me when I saw it in action: 

The harbor of Copenhagen (which is very similar to the harbor in New York City where I currently live) has been cleaned up enough that there are now public beaches inside the city that you can use. People are swimming all summer long and they’re testing out growing oysters as well. 

All of this illustrates how the city is turning into a city that can be used by the people, not just big corporations. 

Not only that, the beauty of the city is incredible. The City Hall building was built in 800. That’s 1400 years ago. There’s an immense sense of oldness to the city.

I can totally see a way to live there. 

On a humanitarian level, it’s extraordinary. When you come into Denmark and you become a citizen, you become part of the system. Free health care, free schooling, free eldercare, childcare, six months of maternity leave for the mother and three for the father. 

In that sense, Denmark is really at the forefront. 

You’re not going to be able to burn fossil fuels by 2030 in cars. Most of the food in the stores is organic.

It’s an extraordinary place.

The drawbacks are that the tax rate is high as your base rate is 50%. I know that sounds very high compared to American standards. What we pay in the states is only 30-35%, but then I have to pay for things like college for my daughter, healthcare, driving on the highway, etc. 

I don’t know if the answer is that the percentage is different…

What I do know is that nobody falls through the cracks. 

Yes, the person that makes a lot of money is paying more taxes, but people that have nothing are taken care of.

This is why I say that, in Denmark, people are happiest when their neighbors are doing well. 

By no means am I trying to put down America at all. I’ve been so fortunate to live here and learn so many things. 

But I do hope that America will move in the direction of what’s happening in Scandinavian countries because I know that would make this place even more extraordinary.

Anyway, I know this doesn’t have much to do with psychology or somatic therapy… I just wanted to share some of the reasons I love my birth country. I’m not sure I’ll move back yet because so much of my life is here in America. But there’s a chance I will. 

I do think if America took care of its citizens the same way Denmark does, I would have fewer clients. Or, at the very least, the issues I’d work with would change. 

Many of the clients I work with today are stressed and overworked. They’re taught to work, work, work all day to achieve that “American Dream.” They believe if they don’t work, they’ll end up on the streets with nobody to care fo them. 

I’m sure there are still people with that fear in Denmark, but I’m also sure there are far less people with that fear. They can relax and explore deeper levels of self-expression. They don’t have the constant feeling of “need to succeed” driving them forward. 

You might notice it in yourself. It usually manifests as a tightness in your chest, clenching of your jaw, and hunched shoulders like you’re walking into a powerful wind. 

If you notice these patterns in your body, try to pause, take a breath, and relax. 

And if you need help unwinding these patterns so you can truly relax, get present, and (ironically) achieve even more success in your life, sign up for a free consultation with me.

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