It's one of the happiest countries in the world
Along with its Scandinavian neighbors, Denmark regularly appears at the top of the best places to live in surveys of all of the world's countries. And while things like high employment levels and a robust economy certainly contribute to Denmark's success, it's the overall well-being of its citizens and guests that make it such a great place to live. The Danes are well-educated and economically secure, but, most importantly, they are happy!
In fact, according to the expert from the Happiness Institute, Denmark is the second happiest country in the world - Finland sits on the top spot for now. This year's annual report into national dopamine levels looked at a vast range of factors including social norms, income disparity, community spirit and other forms of prosocial behaviour, health, education, and many more. There was also a more significant emphasis placed on technology, namely the rising problem of internet and social media addiction. The research found that Danes draw a great sense of personal satisfaction from their shared cultural identity, which has a distinct egalitarian focus. Denmark reports one of the smallest wealth gaps in the world and has excellent public services, including free healthcare and university education for citizens.
The Danes even have a word for their mood-boosting lifestyle. They call it the 'hygge' , and although it's hard to define, its best described as a mood, feeling, or maybe even a vibe. 'Hygge' includes anything from a cozy afternoon in bed watching TV to enjoying a meal with friends or family by the fireplace, and has been described as a deep feeling of comfort and contentment, where one modestly indulges in the finer things and yet always remembers to appreciate the simple pleasures such as sitting down with friends for coffee. In other words, hygge is a mindset. Susanne Nilsson, a Danish lecturer at London's Morley College, says, "Hygge could be families and friends getting together for a meal, with the lighting dimmed, or it could be time spent on your own reading a good book." And Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, says, "[W]hat freedom is to Americans...hygge is to Danes."
It has one of the best higher education systems in the world
As well as being home to some of the world's leading universities, Denmark offers students several financial benefits that you won't find in many other countries. Firstly, university tuition is entirely free for Danish citizens. That means zero upfront costs and no large debts to pay off once they enter the workplace or start earning over a set amount per annum. Secondly, student housing is relatively affordable, as are textbooks and other school supplies.
But things are even better for Danish university students. Not only does the government cover school fees, they actually pay young people to study for a degree. Every Danish student enrolled in third-tier education receives a 'salary' of 5,839 Danish Krone ($900) a month under the SU (Statens Uddannelsesstøtte) scheme. There is only one condition attached - students who want to receive the full amount should not be living at home with their parents or primary guardians. That aside, the generous funding is available for six years for any student aged over 18 and is non-repayable -- even if the student drops out. There's also additional funding for the most successful and ambitious students.
And while some people might see the pitfalls of giving young people so much 'free' money, Danish students appreciate what this state-sponsored investment really means, and the responsibility that comes with it. Astrid Winther Fischer, a former student at Denmark's Technical University near Copenhagen, says, "Some Danish think that we spend the money we receive in bars and clubs, but most students understand what is at stake: The scheme's existence is crucial to enable an excellent education for everybody, no matter how much their parents make."
In 2006, Denmark extended its funding program to EU and non-EU students, creating a genuinely egalitarian education system that provides every student with an opportunity to reach their full potential. International students must be enrolled in full-time study, and EU students are required to work 10-12 hours a week to receive the full bursary. Non-EU students are eligible if they have worked in Denmark for a continuous period of two years, are married to a Danish citizen, or have lived in the country for five years or more. Both EU and non-EU students can apply for the SU on MinSu website. The application is quite lengthy, and substantial sections are only available in Danish - so you might need some help from google translate or, better yet, one of your new Danish friends...
Denmark is world-leading in tech and sustainable innovation
A small(ish) northern European country with a population of just under six million might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think about the nations leading the world in big tech innovation. However, with its well-educated workforce, significant public and private investment schemes, and a forward-thinking approach to solving the most significant global issues, the Danes are challenging the tech giants in China and Silicon Valley in terms of shaping the future. Denmark is home to pioneers like Per Brinch Hansen, known for his work revolutionary in computer programming, as well Janus Friis, co-creator of Skype, and Google maps founders Jens and Lars Rasmussen.
One of the most exciting areas in today’s Danish tech sector is robotics. The Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Research Institute, at the University of Southern Denmark, has helped launch hundreds of companies including Universal Robots and OnRobot, two of the major players designing and creating the next generation of smart machines set to revolutionize the manufacturing, healthcare, service, and security industries. This makes Denmark one of the top destinations for engineering, design, and computing students who want to build a career in this rapidly growing field.
Joost Nijhoff, the director at Invest in Odense, one of the biggest financial backers of Danish robotics, says, "There's nowhere else in the world where you would find so many robotics companies and roboticists working together in an area that you can cover by bicycle in 30 minutes." (Speaking of cycling, it's huge in Denmark, with its capital Copenhagen having more bikes than people.) What's more, the majority of these companies understand the worth of their most valuable resource -- people. A study from Insight Report found 78% of Danish robotic companies feel recruiting qualified employees "was their greatest growth barrier". Perhaps you could you be one person to fill the gap...
Denmark is also leading the way in terms of sustainability, with the help of all of this cutting-edge technology and also brilliant design and innovation. Five years ago, the capital Copenhagen was hailed a "green economy leader" in a London School of Economics (LSE) report, but, not content to rest on its laurels, the city is pushing forward with its new climate plan, CPH 2025, a bold vision to become carbon neutral is just six years. The plan stipulates that projects should secure and improve the quality of life in the city and generate opportunities for innovation, jobs, and green growth.
One example of this green innovation is the "E-Ferry Ellen", the globe's biggest all-electric ferry, capable of carrying 30 vehicles and 200 passengers, which recently made its maiden voyage, journeying the 22 nautical miles between the island of Aerø to the port of Fynshav in Southern Denmark.
As you can see, Denmark is an excellent option for international students. You will likely feel right at home among the warm and friendly Danes, who are consistently ranked among the top five for their level of English among countries where English is not the native language, and you might even pick up a bit of that laid-back charm and sophistication. You'll also receive a first-class education from some of the best universities in the world -- and you might even get paid for it!