The Year of Living Danishly

A story of Scandivanian living: book review

by Bernadette Fallon

I love this title. It’s the story of a couple’s move from glamorous cosmopolitan London living, and all that has to offer two busy 30-somethings unencumbered with kids, to the wilds of rural Jutland where winter temperatures drop well below zero and the landscape empties as everyone stays indoors.

But do you want to run around like a headless chicken in an over-crowded city ‘living the dream’, while Denmark claims to be the ‘happiest country on earth’ (topping the UK Office of National Statistics’ list of the world’s happiest nations for the last 40 years in a row)? Is having a ‘full social calendar’ something to strive for and is really so great not having kids in your 30s when all you’ve ever dreamed of is a wardrobe full of Baby Gap romper suits?

The resulting book is Helen Russell’s answer to these questions and more:

How do Danes stay upbeat when it’s minus-ten every day?

Doesn’t the 50 per cent tax rate really stick in everyone’s craw?

Does the much-celebrated Danish aesthetic influence the nation’s mood?

Or are they just high on dopamine from all the pastries?

And so, when her husband accepts a job working for Lego, she decides to embrace the art of living Danishly; 'to discover the key to getting happy in every area of modern life’, to ‘learn something new every month and make changes to my own life accordingly’, to embark on a ‘personal and professional quest to discover what made Danes feel so great’ and to write ‘a blueprint for a life of contentment’.

I’d like to declare an interest here, Helen Russell worked alongside me as the first deputy editor of All About You, way back when we launched the site in 2006. She went on work to on several other websites, including a stint as editor of, before moving to Denmark. I’m delighted and proud to see her first book in print. But I would have enjoyed the book just as much regardless – it’s funny and insightful, frequently moving, sometimes contentious, always informative.

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell is published by Icon and on sale now

Find more book reviews in our All About You Book club
Things to see and do in Copenhagen
Shopping in Helsinki, Finland

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Escaping to the country, abroad or just down the road for a long weekend – exploring the world around you. Follow our team of staff writers and add your comments to kick off the debate.
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About The Authors

Carla  Griscti

Carla Griscti

Editorial assistant on allaboutyou; Music lover, travel bee and food fanatic.

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Emma Marsden

Emma Marsden

Food consultant of All About You, loves creating something out of nothing and decluttering.

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Bernadette  Fallon

Bernadette Fallon

Editor of All About You; an online journalist with a fetish for glossy magazines.

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Adrienne  Wyper

Adrienne Wyper

Deputy editor of All About You. I love cycling, cooking and creating

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Carol  Muskoron

Carol Muskoron

Associate editor of All About You, loves life (mostly) and one-pan recipes (always).

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