Before I came to Denmark I had heard that the Danes were the happiest people in the world. I had also heard that there was a large middle class here. I have found both of these to be mostly true. The Danes are very content with how they live and what they do. They are not laughing all the time, which is what this stereotype can make you to believe, but they do have a sense of humor. Danes are not “happy,” but they are content and satisfied with their lives.
The Danish middle class is much bigger than in many other countries. There are not many very poor or super rich people in Denmark. The majority of the wealth is distributed among the middle class. I also heard that Denmark’s average salary was over $100,000. This surprised me, but it is not what it may seem.
In Denmark there is an income tax ranging from about 50% to 60%, which means that Danes only get to keep about half of that. This does not sound bad at all, due to the benefits of free education and healthcare. This is only part of the picture. Everything is much more expensive in Denmark, and there are taxes on things like cars that are three times the price of the product. If you bought a car in the USA for $20,000, that car in Denmark would cost $80,000 after taxes. I have found that people get more things for free in Denmark than in the USA, but at a large cost.
When I came to Denmark I expected different things from what I was used to in the United States. I expected everything to be a little bit smaller and cleaner. I came expecting to have to change my habits to fit in. When I arrived I found that things were not all that different. All the cars were smaller, there were windmills everywhere, and the people were a little bit less outgoing. Besides those things, I have found that most of my expectations turned out to be true. I tried not to come to Denmark with expectations, but I had heard so much about Denmark, I couldn’t help myself.
I am having a great exchange, and I plan to write to the paper monthly.
Max Ofer is a Cooperstown Rotary exchange student in Denmark.