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We arrived in Denmark yesterday afternoon and took it easy our first evening, after a grueling 9 1/2 hour flight. I look forward to one day being able to fly first class on the regular; flying economy on long flights is the pits. Sleeping is more like a series of stiff, fitful and not quite satisfying naps.
For dinner, we dined on hand-crafted burgers at Halifax, a gastropub in Indre By. I once belonged to a burger club, so I’ve tried my fair share of burgers – Halifax makes a respectable burger. We noticed the Danes around us lingered for awhile after their last bites, enrapt in conversation. The staff appeared nonplussed by this. Tipping isn’t a custom at restaurants.
This afternoon, my friend and I took a free 3-hour walking tour of central Copenhagen. Our tour guide was Magnus, a true Dane with blonde hair, blue-eyes and a strong jawline (along with a slightly sarcastic sense of humor). He shared his knowledge of his home country and I learned the following:
1. For years Denmark has held the title “Happiest Country.” Magnus seemed pretty happy, I must say. Certainly proud of his country.
2. Interestingly, Denmark has one of the highest divorce rates in all of Europe.
Denmark is known for its Pølsevogn or sausage stands where they sell hot dogs and sausages with toppings like mustard, ketchup, diced onions, pickles and a remoulade.
3. It also has one of the highest individual tax rates in the world at an average of 55%.
4. Taxes pay for things like college education, which is free for all citizens up through the PhD level. In fact, you get PAID to attend college. The money can be used for rent (you get more if you don’t live with mom and dad), books, food or even beer if you like.
5. The Danish greatly value the concept of “hygge” (hew-ge), which loosely translates to a feeling of being relaxed, satisfied and unhurried.
6. There is no minimum wage. The average hourly rate is US $50.
7. The standard workweek is 37 hours.
8. Danes get minimum five weeks of paid vacation!
9. Copenhagen is one of the world’s most livable cities with biking a popular mode of transportation.
10. Life in prison in Denmark means 25 years. Prisoners get rooms with beds and are allowed TVs. Once released, the government helps reintegrate former inmates into society.
11. Denmark is also one of the safest countries in the world.
12. It’s legal to drink on the street in Copenhagen.
13. The Danish like being on time, but not early.
14. The Prime Minister, Vice Prime Minister and Queen of Denmark are all female.
15. Denmark has a whole lotta pigs so pork is a very popular dish.
I don’t know if it’s the air, the sense of chill or just being on vacation, but my friend and I both agreed that we are really happy today. We like Denmark so far!