Why Danes are The Happiest People on Earth

Louise Mohr, Denmark

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Again this year the Danish people are dominating the World’s Happiness Report and ranks among the top three happiest of 155 countries surveyed. On the other hand, the U.S. is with a four-spot drop, ranked 18th this year.

So why is it that these pastry-loving, LEGO building people are winning the happiness race? And how do they compare to the States?

The Danish welfare state works.

Danes pay some of the highest income tax rates in the world (45% on average), but, in exchange, every Dane gets free health care, free K-college education (the students are paid approx. $900 a month by the government to go to school), highly subsidized child care and generous unemployment benefits.

Some might lift an eyebrow over the high tax-rate, but the Danes don’t look at the tax rate as a burden, but as an investment in our society and quality of life.

If you lose a job in Denmark, it’s not a big deal. Unemployment is built into the system. This is in connection to the “flexibility model”, which, quickly explained, is a system built on freedom for employees. The government programs retrain workers and position them better for the job market. By doing this, we create strong connections and also provide a guaranteed safety net, giving unemployment benefits for up to two years.

The government also has a great retirement system, providing for the elders over 65+ population through a combination of state-founded pension and private employer-funded pension programs. This not only relieves the stress for the elderly, but makes them feel secure about their retirement.

Here’s a video that explains further: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=095ULhvaH5E

The perhaps most important aspect of the Danish culture is “hygge”, which they value as a cultural construct. It refers to high-quality social interactions. It’s used as as a noun, adjective or verb, and events and places can also be “hyggelige” (hygge-like). “Hygge” is most commonly translated as “cozy”, but is more an intentional intimacy, which can happen when you have safe, balanced and harmonious shared experiences.

“Hygge” is the Danish sense of well-being. Although Denmark is a highly individualized country, “hygge” promotes egalitarianism and strengthens the trust between people. It’s fair to say that “hygge” is fully integrated into the Danish culture psyche and culture.

But Denmark is not the only  country that has a concept similar to hygge – the Norwegains have “koselig”, the Swedes “mysig”, the Dutch “gezenlligheid” and the Germans “gemütlichkeit”.

The U.S. also places a high value on individualism, but there’s no real cultural equivalent of “hygge”. Income is generally associated with happiness. Even though the GDP is on the rise and the unemployment has been declining, levels of happiness in the U.S. have been steadily decreasing.

The U.S. income also continues to be an issue. There’s been a marked decrease in interpersonal trust toward institutions like the government as well as the media.

At it’s core, “hygge” is about building trust and intimacy with others. Americans could probably use a little more of that in their lives.

As a Dane in America, i find the the lack of free healthcare the most problematic. The United States reminds to be the only industrialized country in the world that fails to provide universal healthcare for all citizens. The concerns regarding this are significant and continues. Most people here are scared to get sick, and because of the high cost they avoid the doctors. American healthcare is the source of innumerable issues for many, both those withe and without coverage. These issues are not limited to the financial prospect, but has a far-reaching influence on their quality of life, psychological stability, and fundamental happiness for society at large.

After spending 3 months here, i can vouch for the rudimentary differences between America and Denmark. The divergences extend beyond policy, logistics or political agendas. There is a complete different feel to the place, a different tone to the culture on a fundamental level. I truly believe that America could learn something extremely vulnerable form the danish culture, if they had the trust to do so.

Cast Out Caste

Enora Haugmard France

India is a booming country, rich with diversities, but its territories haven’t developed equally everywhere. Indeed, some discrimination still exits  between Indian inhabitants. Hopefully, the situation is evolving positively.

In India, there is a system that makes it possible to classify the population a thousand heredity groups called “caste”. The caste system was developed many years ago and still survives today. We can notice 4 major castes : Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaishya, which are the upper class, and Sudra the lower one. It would be necessary to add the Untouchables (Dalits) which are left outside the other castes. Currently, the discrimination about caste is forbidden, however, it still continues to play a major role in Indian society.

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Indeed, there is large-scale of abuses by the police, for example when some refused to fill a complaint or acting in collusion with the upper class. Upper class oppression lead to terrible actions, such as humiliation in public, paraded naked or raped with impunity. Dalits lives are very hard, in part of immoral actions that they have to face everyday; for example, their jobs which are unclean (cleaning latrines). Moreover, the Untouchables face lower wages and a terrible way of life.

 

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But, the situation has been improving since XX century. An emergence of grassroots human right movements and organizations among Dalits has resulted.

People’s Watch organization by Henri Tiphagne was established on Dec. 10, 1995 in the state of Tamil Nadu. People’s Watch is at the heart of the human rights fight in India. The objective of this organization is to empower the victims of human rights violations, such as domestics violence, torture, child labor, harassment and of course, caste discrimination.

 

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As Henri explain during an interview, People’s Watch is an association of volunteers that want to operate independently and without  outside resources. According to Henri, he would like to act step by step instead of working throughout the country, because he wouldn’t possess the skills and the capacities to be able to make an entire state accountable. Thanks to their work, they provided immediate relief to 20,000 families, mostly Dalits affected by a tsunami.

 

On the 17th of July 2017, a man from India’s lowest caste was elected president. Ram Nath Kovind is the second president who came from Dalits.ram-nath-kovind-ambedkar-jayanti-pti_650x400_81523727422 His election as president represents a support among the Dalits community. Although, the role of the president in India lacks any real executive authority, Ram Nath Kovind has a symbolic role. Traditionally viewed as “impure,” the group continues to grapple with persecution and exclusion.

 

So, even though discrimination against Dalits still prevails, the situation has been improving and we can hope that it will continue in this way. But, unfortunately, the Untouchability is an entrenched and its hard to remove it. India is riddled with discrimination and prejudices, and that provokes huge consequences towards the lower class. Perhaps, we will have wait for its economic development to notice a real social evolution.

 

 

 

https://www.peopleswatch.org/our-work

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ram_Nath_Kovind

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/atrocities-on-dalits-social-problem-not-political-says-ramdas-athawale-1351387-2018-09-28

https://www.countercurrents.org/dalit-tiphagne070104.htm

 

Animals Facing Extinction

by Malena Julia Banjavcic, Switzerland

Help. What does help mean? Who needs help? And what help do they need? What can we do to help? These are questions we should ask ourselves every day. We are not alone in this world, even if it sometimes feels like it. There are people, who need help, but also animals. And we all need to start to ask ourselves how to make a change, because there are animals facing extinction and their time is running out.

So what does it mean when animals are in real danger facing extinction?

Plants and animals which are facing extinction are called Endangered Species. Particularly, it says that these species are very likely to become extinct in nearer time.  Of course, there are reasons in nature why animals become endangered, but for the most part we, humans, are the reason. Evidence of this is provided by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). According to it, we are now losing animal species at more than 1,000 times the normal rate. In 2012, the IUCN featured 3,079 animals and 2,655 plants as endangered worldwide. Whereas back in 1998, the figures were 1,102 animals and 1,197 plants.  People often don’t even know that animals, which are well known, are critically endangered. Examples of species which are facing extinction are the Amur Leopard (pic. 1), the Bornean Orangutan (pic. 2) or the Malayan Tiger (pic. 3).

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If nothing changes, we put ourselves in danger, too. The world is a whole, big ecosystem. Ecosystems depend on healthy plants and animals. Without them an ecosystem is not even possible; they are the foundation. When one of the species becomes endangered, the whole system slowly starts to fall apart. So every loss of a species triggers the next. Just like animals and plants, we, humans, also depend on healthy ecosystems like forests, oceans or grasslands. So we’re risking our health and environment when we don’t do anything about the contamination.

We, humans, cause the extinction of a lot of species only by living, but this can be changed. We have to live together with the animals. I once heard someone saying “it’s not our world, we just borrowed it” and I think that is the truth.

I  think something important to do is to educate. We need to teach people and especially children about what is happening right now. If people do not know about the problem, they can’t do anything, but it’s also the job of our governments. How do people still sell furs and skins of all these endangered animals without being punished for it? Another thing which helps, is ,of course, the support for several organisations which work on this problem. Support can mean financial for those, who either don’t have the time or the will to go to the affected places where help is needed, but volunteer work is also support. Not only do you help, but you also experience beautiful countries and learn something about our world, the different cultures and also about yourself. “Work” doesn’t always mean it’s not fun.

It’s not that difficult to change something, so why isn’t there a change going on? – Ask yourself.

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The Earthquake in Indonesia

Cedric Dauteuil.France.

Indonesia’s death toll from the earthquake and tsunami which struck  last Friday has risen to 1,234, according to officials.

The figures come after the bodies of 34 students were found in a destroyed church which was hit by a landslide during a bible camp in the mountainous Sigi Biromaru region.

The Indonesian government has begun mass burials for victims – most found in the city of Palu.

On Monday, about 3,000 residents flocked to Palu’s airport, trying to board military aircraft or one of the few commercial flights using the facility only partially operating due to damage.

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“Nearly 50,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Palu alone,” Nugroho said,” and hospitals were overwhelmed.”

Many people are believed trapped under shattered houses in the area, where the earthquake caused the ground to heave up and down violently. One official described the twisted buildings and rubble as looking like the town had been “blended”

 

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The Indonesian Air Force confirmed a Hercules aircraft carrying an unspecified number of survivors were able to leave Palu for South Sulawesi’s capital of Makassar.

More than 100 police officers from the capital, Jakarta, were sent to Palu and additional Hercules aircraft carrying soldiers and supplies, including food and water, from East Java were en route, local television reported.

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My opinion about that :

I think all of these people need our help. We need to send a food and money for helping all of these people because they have lost everything.

We can create an association for them or just check this association :

https://www.directrelief.org/

 

 

Things To Do in Switzerland

Alyssa Knutti, Switzerland

Switzerland is officially the second happiest country on the planet, according to the 2016 World Happiness Report. And while you read this article you’ll soon realize why Switzerland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. There are so many things you can do in this small country from exploring the Swiss Alps to passing the spectacular Rhine Falls or sailing around Lake Geneva.

  1. Go skydiving

An amazing place where you can skydive is Interlaken. Interlaken is close to the capital city and is surrounded by peaks of the alps. It’s one of the most spectacular spots on earth to go skydiving.

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2. Take the Glacier Express

You should definitely ride with the famous Glacier Express through the mountains. Riding the train is pretty spectacular because it has huge panoramic, glass windows. If you want to take the whole ride you have to get in from Zermatt and then you go out at Davos or St. Moritz.

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3. Visit the James Bond Restaurant

The famous James Bond restaurant in Switzerland is located at the top of the Schilthorn, a 2970 meter high mountain in the middle of the country. The restaurant is called Piz Gloria. It is where the 1969 James Bond movie was set. It’s also a revolving restaurant. That means you can eat and the view changes all the time.

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4. Get soaked by the waterfalls

If you want to see one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Switzerland you have to go to Lauterbrunnen and take the one hour hike to Trummelbach. You’ll actually pass about two or three other waterfalls along the way. Trummelbach is the most famous waterfall. It has been formed by the melting snow breaking through cracks in the rocks.

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Soccer Culture

By Simon Kjellgren, Sweden

For Americans, soccer is just something you drive your daughter to. A world cup they always think they’ll win despite just being no.28 on the FIFA world ranking. For the rest of the world, it’s more than a sport, it’s a lifestyle. We live and breath soccer, some fans even kill and die for their club. The club is our god, the fans of that club is our family and the stadium is our home, our church. Soccer is a religion, a religion with thousands of gods. The leader of all those gods? Sadly FIFA. I’ll explain later.

tifo2Borussia Dortmund TIFO

The fans are the most important thing a club can have. It sounds cheesy I know, but there’s a reason fans are called “the 12th player”. They provide atmosphere around the stadium; they provide electric chants that energize the players. Most importantly, they provide TIFOs. A TIFO is a synchronized display before the game starts, with banners, flags and songs that the team march in to.

Top 5 Places to Visit in Portugal

Carlota Pedro Pinto, Portugal

Did you say you needed a vacation?

With the increasing amount of stress in our routines throughout the years, the word getaway is becoming more popular in our society. Everybody is always looking for an opportunity to turn off all the noise and go on a  little vacation.

And that’s when Portugal comes along….

Being one of the best getaway destinations right now, I’m gonna give you an inside scoop of some of the best places to visit while in Portugal!

1.Elevador de Santa Justa (Lisbon) – For one of the best views in Lisbon head to one of the most beautiful monuments right in the city’s heart. Towering above the whole city you can get  a breath taking view at any time of the day.

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2.Ponte de D. Luis I (Porto) – The panoramic views of the outlying city and the mouth of the river are truly memorable. One of the best spots to get to know Porto better.

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3.Ponta da Piedade ( Algarve) – The Ponta da Piedade makes for an amazing half day excursion from Lagos, and hiring a fishing boat to explore the cliffs is a life time experience!

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4. Pasteis de Belem ( Lisbon) – Pastel de Belem is a Portuguese cake, so it’s mandatory to at least have one when you come to the city ! Pasteis de Belem is the name of the world famous bakery that opened in 1833. It’s still open today and there’s always a long line to get in because of it’s amazing reputation, so be sure to get there early!

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5. Sintra – Remarkable cultural landscape this historic town is worth a day of your trip! In this amazing town you will find many monuments and breathtaking sights that will blow your mind away, which is totally worth an amazing tour through the streets of Sintra!

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As a native I’ve been always in love with Lisbon, being my hometown i have a special connection with the city. There’s many places that  I love to visit on my daily basis but walking through the streets of Lisbon will always be my favorite thing to do!!

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It’s Fiesta Time

Patrycja Iwaniuk, The Netherlands

The Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara is a week of celebrating the traditions, history, heritage, and culture that has been in Santa Barbara for hundreds of years. Since the beginning of the week, the first preparations can be seen. Music can be heard on every corner of the street. The first Fiesta eggs can be bought and smashed to color the streets with colorful confetti and even the people dress up in beautiful and traditional costumes. They proudly walk through State Street giving it wonderful ambiance.

Also, here at the EF school and in the Santa Catalina residence the feeling of Fiesta is in the air. More and more decorations are being hung up in the school and even some teachers can be seen wearing some great colorful outfits. Wednesday was Tamale Day and some students had the opportunity to make some beautiful Fiesta eggs, which are by the way strictly forbidden to use in the residence. Luckily for us, there is enough space outside to break these eggs and throw some confetti on our friends. As Wednesday night was the grand opening at the Mission, Thursday morning the decorations were even greater. In the afternoon students were welcome to enjoy some chips with salsa and delicious churros. To add to that, in what way can you end the day better than having people break a piñata in the middle of the schoolyard?

The big days, however, were without hesitation Friday and Saturday. Before the big parade, everyone started to get out their chairs and blankets to save the best spot for the whole family. After a very long wait in the sun, the parade had begun. Dozens of beautiful horses gaited through State Street and the music played by the musicians completed the picture. It was really a new experience for me as a foreigner, since I have never seen or been to this kind of a parade. Over the past couple of days, I have really seen that the people of Santa Barbara cherish this week of joy and a lot of tourists who walk down the streets with the biggest smile when someone throws confetti to them. We can still savor the moment for a few weeks until the confetti disappears and then the first eggs can be eaten as a preparation for next year. As for me, this was my first time and hopefully not the last… VIVA LA FIESTA!

Does the Street Art have a place in Galleries ?

Post graffiti, murals, frescoes or Urban Art, the Universe of the Street Art is known under many appelations. But where does it come from ? What were the changes ?

These different kind of appellations have evolved over time and with the artists in this movement. At the beginning the Street Art was known as “Graffiti” which was an act of vandalism during the 1960/1980s decades. 2018-06-24 11.52.31Nowadays, this form of Art which is exhibited in the international galleries, festivals or fairs like the “Urban Art Fair” in Paris, “District13 Art Fair” in Paris [which is coming soon in September 2018], “Beyond The Streets in Los Angeles” a huge showcase of graffiti and street art or the different festival of POW ! WOW ! in Hawaii, Long Beach, Washington and many other countries in the world.

This big change about Street Art in our time period evolved the attitudes and beliefs in this Art movement. Now, this kind of Art is perceived as cool and “in”, Artists don’t really need to hide anymore. Some of them became famous and can live on the income from their Art. Companies, city halls, associations and different kind of institutions call on these artists to beautify their buildings and facades. Artists are not perceived as “delinquent” like in the past when they could be arrested and go to jail for vandalism, but this fact depends as well on many aspects (location where the artists “graff” and if it can be legal or not).

Street Artists now are reconignized and some of them have their exhibits in Galleries because they deserve to be famous and well-known and live off their passion for their art. Their passion became their profession. However, if Street Art tends to be exhibited in galleries and only in galleries the movement will lose its meaning/value. If Artists forget the space that gave them their reputation, their birth as an Artist and they will expose/exhibit in Galleries, the fact that they wanted and desired to make Art accessible to the street, to people who don’t go on or are used to going in galleries will be lost and the debate on this accessibility and about money and business can be questioned.

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In other words, Artists should continue to do murals on the street and for free when they can/want and they have the right, as well if they wish to show and exhibit their Art in Galleries, Fairs, Festivals etc. Both can be combined for the well-being of each Artists.
E.F

Photography, a Breakthrough Technology In Art

Angele Dubos, France.

“Taking an image, freezing a moment, reveals how rich reality truly is.”

 

Photography is one of the most incredible breakthroughs in technology, in society and in art movements. As a mirror to the world, photography explores human emotions. It captures or marks a passage of time. Developed over the past 200 years, it enhances faster than any other visual art, plainly because it’s a blend between technology and art,  science and abstraction, reality and imagination, techniques and inspiration. Generally speaking, photography aims to capture the reality of everyday life, in parallel, it’s a fine art which requires time and attention.

This discipline, which has helped us to understand of our world, is widespread, omnipresent, everywhere: in our smartphones, advertising, social media, streets… Then how did photography become so renowned and appreciated by everyone?

Photography took shape when a Chinese photographer created the Camera Obscura, the first camera.  The main principle occurs when the image is projected through a screen which is a kind of mirror where the image is upside down.

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Then, a lot of cameras, which I’m not going to list for the reason that it’ll be so long, have risen in popularity in our societies. Cameras have been examined through scientists’ hands and professionals in order to become more effective and obtain higher performance. Some well-known brands are Nikon and Canon.

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Regarding photography as an art, this discipline navigates around genres, artists, themes, works and techniques. Sometimes similar to the art of painting, photography has followed mostly the art movement: avant-garde, propaganda, contemporary art,  modernism, pointillism… On one hand, works are really carefully thought through by the artists focusing on lighting, the subject, the background, the meaning. On the other hand, some artist’s photographs are snapshots and have been captured in the right amazing moment.

However, some works are misleading, such as the The Kiss by the Hotel de Ville. Photographed by Robert Doisneau in Paris, this work is one of the most iconic of the 20th century. It reveals the love and romantic aspect that photography may have. Whereas, this photograph was actually all planned, all organized and everything you see was set up, even the extras behind, the cars, and included the blurred background.

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Photography also addresses fashion, photojournalism, war, advertising, death, nature, nudes, paparazzi and even more. That’s why I strongly suggest that you buy and read this book: The short story of Photography, which reviews in an enjoyable and pleasant way, the history of photography from the first movement until today.

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