Home » Planting Seeds of Happiness The Danish Way: Malene Rydahl (Transcript)

Planting Seeds of Happiness The Danish Way: Malene Rydahl (Transcript)

Malene Rydahl at TEDxINSEADSingapore

Following is the full transcript of author Malene Rydahl’s talk titled “Planting Seeds of Happiness The Danish Way” at TEDxINSEADSingapore conference.

Malene Rydahl – TEDx Talk TRANSCRIPT

Now, most of us dream of the perfect paradise.

I’m going to start by taking you to my paradise. This is what the weather looks like when you wake up in the morning. This is how you get to work.

And once you’re done working, this is how much you pay in income tax.

Well, then again, you’re thinking, “Paradise? It can’t all be about work!”

So let me take you to a day at the beach — in paradise. Something is missing? Friends? Right?

This is probably what your neighbors are going to look like. Because in this place, there are more pigs than people.

Now, if you’re thinking, “My God, if this is paradise, I don’t want to go,” let me tell you something about this place that might make you change your mind. The paradise is called Denmark.

It is the country I was born in and where I lived for the first 18 years of my life. It also happens that the Danish people are amongst the happiest people in the world. Yes.

Despite the bad weather, the high taxes and the many pigs, the Danish people express being very content in life. They have what we call a good base of well-being.

The economists started measuring happiness more than 40 years ago, and ever since, Denmark has come on the top of the list of the happiest places to live in the world.

When United Nations came out with the first World Happiness Report in 2012, Denmark was again number one.


Well, there are many reasons, but I’m going to talk to you primarily about three things. I am going to try and give you actionable things that you can do and ways to plant seeds that can actually grow into the happiness as the Danes know it today.

I insist on planting seeds because as we all know, change takes time. And it is actually planting seed that will start that process.

Now, sometimes when I talk about the Danish happiness, I get the reaction from people saying, “That’s great, but I’m not Danish, and I do not live in Denmark.”

Even Hilary Clinton said it recently in a debate: “I love Denmark, but we are not Denmark.”

So, let me tell you something. I am Danish, but I have actually been living in Paris for the past 20 years.

But more importantly, I’ve received letters from people who read my book, from all over the world – Japan, Korea, Taiwan, France – telling me that they also live by these values and they live good lives.

These are not Danish values. They are human values. They are owned by each one of us.

So I am going to talk to you today about trust. I’m going to talk to you about the freedom to be you and about finding purpose.


Now, trust in Denmark is a full-grown oak tree at around 80%. Eighty percent of Danish citizens trust each other. In most countries in the world, it’s not even a sprout, at around 5% in the worst cases, and on average in Europe at 25%.

In Denmark, it gets summed up in one image: babies sleeping outside a restaurant.

Now, you would say, “Well, nobody is watching the babies!” Well, I would say, “Everyone is.”

In Denmark trust is so high that you can actually leave your baby sleeping outside while you’re having lunch. A Danish lady tried to do this in New York. She got arrested.

Now trust really comes down to something quite elementary. If we want to live in a world of more trust in a community, have a group of friends we trust, it is going to have to start with you.

The first seed that you can plant is to be a trustworthy person. And as much as you can to show trust in others. This actually starts at a very elementary place. It starts by simply doing what you say and saying what you do.


Well, I mean that when I say I’m going to do something, I do it. And if I don’t, I say it. The root of trust is as simple as this.

Now, I have traveled to some of the counties in the world with the lowest trust. And I always say, if you want to live in a community or a world of more trust: be a trustworthy person; show trust in others.

And this applies in tons of ways in our everyday lives — from telling your friend that you’re going to help him with something and actually showing up. Or agreeing with a colleague that you are going to do something and actually doing what you agreed on. And if you change your mind, say it.

I can take this to an even bigger scale and talk to you about the Noble Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, who created Grameens Bank in Bangladesh, a country with 5% trust. He gave loans to thousands of people, without guarantee. 95% of them were paid back. If he can do it under these circumstances, it should be an inspiration to all of us.

Trust is actually a choice made by each one of us every day. Saying that this and that person is not doing it is in my world not a reason not to apply it to yourself. We can actually choose to be part of the team fostering a world of more trust.


Now the second seed is the freedom to be you. This is actually also about trust. It’s about trusting yourself to be you.

In Denmark, the main purpose of education is to develop the personality of the child. We teach our children that no matter what they are good at, it’s important to society. You are not rated a better human being because you are good at math or foreign languages.

You can actually be top of the class in creativity or cooking. No matter what your talent is, it’s important; we value it.

Now this gives the young Danish people an extraordinary base of actually choosing a life that corresponds to who they are. Because they are taught at an early age that no matter what that role is, it’s important to society.

Now, let me tell you a little story. A few months ago, I had dinner with some friends in Denmark, and a lady looked particularly happy that night. And she explained to me that she was so happy because her son finally figured out what he wanted to do in life.

And I said, “Well, so … really?”

“He’s jumping out of bed, going to school every morning. It’s wonderful.”

I said, “What’s your son studying?”

She said, “He’s studying Techniques and Logistics.”

I said, “Well, that’s great. What will he do after?”

And she looked at me, and she said — and she smiled — she said, “He’ll be a garbage man.”

Now, admit that some of you might be thinking, “What parent would really be happy that her son wants to be a garbage man?” But guess what? This is actually where a part of the key to this whole big question lies: When you’re free to choose what you want to do in life without other people judging you.

Pages: First |1 | ... | | Last | View Full Transcript