Substance and style, I can see why Denmark is the happiest country on earth

Over a weekend there I didn’t have a bad meal or go to a restaurant I didn’t love

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The Independent Online

It wasn’t just because I love the TV series Borgen that I was in Copenhagen last week. I’d always wanted to go, honest. But I admit that the way the programme portrayed the city’s sights, open-mindedness and neatly styled interiors did help speed up the process.

And I’m aware that it’s a cliché within the media to love Denmark too. The knitwear and Nordic noir of The Killing has inspired column miles. Earlier this year journalist Patrick Kingsley wrote a book called How to be Danish, which proved quite prescient as last month it was named The Happiest Country on Earth by the UN.

Six separate social and political factors were evaluated when coming up with the list. The United Kingdom ranked 22, which was behind, Venezuela (whose largest city Caracas is the kidnap capital of the world), Mexico (with its bloody drug gang wars) and Israel (which has less than cordial relations with its neighbours).

On my trip I came up with my own, poorly researched and entirely unscientific theories for their happiness. Which I will share with you now. First, it was much colder and wetter than here, although, perhaps tellingly, the Danes didn’t seem to be boring each other by complaining about the weather, as we are wont to here.

Then there are the sleek design shops, so smart you want to go home and throw away all your ugly possessions. Plus everyone speaks a foreign language (English), how can one not like this sort of enlightenment?

And finally the food, having visited a couple of cafés, I think that their pastries alone could knock a country a couple of rungs up the happiness rankings. But then there are the restaurants. I didn’t make it to the much-vaunted Noma or Geranium. But their very success seems to be trickling down the food chain (as it were). Former sous-chefs at the famous spots have opened their own places, which in turn are spawning others. The net result is that over three days I didn’t have a bad meal or go to a restaurant I didn’t love.

Go into a hip restaurant here and you’ll often notice how more attention has been spent getting the right old-fashioned looking lightbulbs and metro tiles than on stopping the starters being insipid. Over there, the places had the substance to back up their style. And that sort of attitude tends to make me pretty happy