I did a double take the first time I saw this writer's name. Helen Russell was the name of my theater professor in college and I didn't think my Helen Russell was still around, much less that she'd just spent a year in Denmark testing the happiness waters. I was right: this is not my Helen Russell in any way, shape, or form. This Helen Russell is a British freelance writer who was living in London, and was married to a man who was offered a job at Lego. (It sounds like the beginning of a storybook: Once upon a time, there was a man who went to work at Lego....)
Lego beckoned (don't Legos always beckon?) and so Helen and Lego Man, as she calls him, moved. Helen, being a journalist and needing to fill the roughly 675 hours a month that it's dark in Denmark in the winter, decided to write about the adventure. She and Lego Man gave themselves a year to decide if they really wanted to make the Land of the Best Pastries on Earth their permanent home or not. She also set out on her own kind of happiness project to discover why Danes are considered the happiest people in the world. (Something to do with the pastries, was my guess.)
The Year of Living Danishly was delightful, informative, and witty and it had me debating the merits of moving to a Nordic Wonderland. I told Atticus this morning that the whole time I was reading, I found myself nodding, thinking, "Yes, I could do that. I could live there. I wonder if..." and then I'd have to shake it off, return to reality, and remind myself that moving to Denmark is not an option in our lives. This is not a real thing for me. Not now. Not ever. It's just not. But the pastries...And the pace....
(No. We are not moving to Denmark. We're not even contemplating it. Stop acting like it's a conversation you're going to have with Atticus, Karen.)
I think if there was a place on earth where I could have the lifestyle of Denmark (minus some of its quirks, because, let's face it, it's majorly quirky*), along with their entire nation's stock of candles for proper hygge-ness, and we could throw in their education and healthcare systems, and experience an average daily temperature that approximates San Diego, and I could be promised a few million more hours of sunshine, I might have a real pro and con list to compose.
But until I find that place, I'll have to content myself with living Midwesternly. It's not quite the same, sigh. Though happily I can say that we at Casa Edmisten are all about the hygge. And books. Witty books like The Year of Living Danishly.
*Adding a brief caveat: be aware, if you are sensitive to such things, that Russell does explain the generally casual approach many Danes have to certain intimate things, just fyi.