Has comfort replaced passion in Denmark?

If I was to ask a Dane if they’d prefer a life of comfort and security over a life of passion and risk what once do you think they’d choose?

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New Zealand isn’t a wealthy country in the same sense Denmark is. We have the highest growing rate of inequality between rich and poor of the OECD countries, our healthcare isn’t fully free and we have to pay for university education.

But in my opinion, we’re far richer than Denmark in many other areas. Perhaps the primary one being passion.

So if we lack in something then we simply use this passion to propel ourselves to get it. Want that car badly enough and you’ll save for 5 years, want that girl badly enough and you’ll ask her out 15 times until she says yes.

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Ever since those four ships arrived in 1850 with NZ’s first real batch of citizens, ingenuity, hard work, striving and determination have all been qualities that have been well rewarded.

In my opinion, it’s this passion makes for an exciting and interesting life – one full of colour and emotion not dull and calculated.

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A new feeling

Towards the second half of last year in Denmark the I felt something that I never had before – incredible comfort.

It wasn’t particularly good or bad or exciting or tough, it was just comfortable. Work was nice, friends were nice, free time was nice and when I talked to others they said the same thing.

My comfortableness was reflected in the society and people around me.

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There wasn’t necessarily anything wrong with this state of mind, but it was very new to me. I guess I’ve always been very passionate about something or striving towards something or being very moved by something. But here I was just comfortable.

Many people may like or even strive to attain this feeling but I didn’t like it. I thought that the colour had been taken out of life – the colour that comes from being so passionate about something that you’re filled with fire about it.

And I wondered if this was the state of mind that people in Denmark are living in?

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How did it get like this?

I began to conclude that when you create a welfare society like Denmark, where no one wants for anything it comes at a price. And that price is passion.

When you give everyone a good salary, good and free education, free healthcare, six weeks vacation, good housing and hygge then why would anyone want to strive for anything else?

Perhaps it’s because people just have it too good that passion takes a back seat. There’s an attitude of “I don’t need passion to motivate me or change things or drive me because I’m reasonably fulfilled with what I have.”

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It’s been shown that having a high-income society like Denmark with great benefits is not motivating for entrepreneurs. In saying that though, Denmark has been hugely successful with many medical and technological feats. I don’t feel it’s the norm though and it’s just a select few who will seek to do this.

Plus, being passionate about something, especially a career or a sport also requires a lot of hard work. Danes are well looked after so why would they sacrifice their free time and generous vacation allowances to this?

Or maybe passion got left behind because the high level of social conformity here means that if someone was to step out and do something radically different then people will wonder why. Not only will they wonder, they’ll actively vocalize their thoughts and ask “why are you doing that?”

Don’t even get me started on the level or how mortified people are when I say we put chicken, cranberry and brie on pizza back home. Instead of saying how weird it is they could just say “Well that’s new and different and perhaps I should try it”.

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It’s this level of social cohesion though that keeps a small country like Denmark as good as it is though. There’s an implicit “Don’t rock the boat or else we’ll all get wet mentality” that pervades society.

When I talk about passion though, it’s not about trying just to be different for the sake of standing out (something that’s also not considered something to strive for here) it’s about finding something you deeply love and not be ashamed to incorporate that into your fundamental being.

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If Danes were to all latch onto something and fuel that “passion” then I can only image what great things would happen. They have all the financial resources they need, great support networks and a good stoic Viking mentality – who by the way were some of the most passionate invaders the world has ever seen!

I’ll leave you with this quote below:

“When one person follows a dream, tries something new, or takes a daring leap, everyone nearby feels their passionate energy; and before too long they are making their own daring leaps while simultaneously inspiring others.”

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4 thoughts on “Has comfort replaced passion in Denmark?

  1. As Always, your thoughts are thought provoking.

    So here are my 2 cents:
    The discomfort with comfort that you seem to feel might not just be yours alone. Maybe, and just maybe, it’s somthing in water. It might the shift from gen x to gen z.

    I just listened to this podcast this morning:
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2014/02/21/280734348/episode-519-wall-streets-image-problem

    The podcast describes a shift in the American economy from Wall Street (where the question is: How mu$h do you make?) to Silicon Vally (Where the question is: What are you building?). In very broad categories Gen X is described as deconstructers(and therefore happy with a good pay nomattter the job), and Gen Z can be described as builders (not too occupied with the pay, and more with the results). So if our desire is shifting towards seing things happen and being part of that – then when comfort gets in the way of that – that might be the reason we don’t like what we see.

    It might be a lack of passion in Denmark you are observing. But it might be a shift of generations as well. Where the last generation didn’t make much of a difference, but our desire for something better and more passionate are on the rise.

    • Hey Lars, nice thoughts. Interesting too – yes you’re right, I think there is a shifting of the fundamental desires between generations… I’d like to know what your parents would say on the issue to see if they think our generation is more passionate?

  2. Hi Emily, just found your blog; great writing and very interesting for me as I am a Danish Expat who’s lived in England for the past 30 years and am considering moving back to Denmark. So much of what you say resonate completely with my reservations.

    • Hi Dee, Great to hear your thoughts! Wow, I didn’t know it would be such a major factor in your decisions – but I guess that goes to show how much of an impact it really has on us. It’s an unusual country to live in when you’re not used to this ‘comfortable’ way I must say.

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