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.

How to Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

Luna, Belgium

Having a healthy lifestyle starts with a healthy mindset. You need to be in peace with yourself to be able to have access to that stable lifestyle you want. It’s all about finding that balance between self-care and allowing yourself to have a treat. It is important to know how your body works and how to improve your way of living.

The motivation and will to become healthy comes from within and you are the only person controlling your body. If you really want it, go and get it. It is as simple as that. You have to find certain sources of motivation to keep track of that lifestyle you want to achieve. As long as your mindset is in a good place, you will be, too !

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One of the first things that is crucial to know and that you’ve probably heard a billion of times is drinking water. It makes you feel cleansed 24/7 and it is recommended to drink 180 ml per day. It will keep your system going and your skin clear!

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Eating healthy always sounds so boring and like it’s something you have to endure, but it is way more easy and delicious than it sounds. You can find tons of easy recipes online that are so healthy and really tasty. Another way to achieve health in general is finding healthier options for things like butter, sugar and other harmfull products we might use a little too much. Coconut oil, Agave syrup are way better options for those two examples. Try to include plant-based products as much as you can in your diet because those are the most beneficial food sources you can eat. Vegetables and fruits are really important but, they’re not the only ones out there ; quinoa, all kinds of rice, grains, beans, lentils … are  fibers and protein sources that are so easy to make, way healthier and better for the environment than meat or fish.

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After you get your diet down and decide which kinds of food are working for you and your inner body, you need to focus on your body image. That is where exercise will become part of your routine. Try to find ways you like to exercise because going to the gym is not always a pleasure for everyone. Dancing, hiking, yoga, swimming sounds like fun to me and are really nice activities you can do with other people.

Finally, you need to see this as a better way of living and not a restrictive way of living. You need to enjoy it in order to maintain it. That’s why balance is the most important thing. You should be able to treat yourself, but have a healthy lifestyle in general.

https://www.pickuplimes.com/

 

Halloween in Santa Barbara

Mohammed Alnasser, Saudi Arabia

First of all, this is the first time I have visited the U.S.A. and of course it is a nice fun and good experience at the same time. During my stay there were beautiful events and festivals including Halloween.

This was an interesting event for me because it was the first time I have been involved in this event and it was a beautiful experience in my life.

I participated in this celebration with the wonderful EF Institutes and it was a wonderful celebration. My costume was about a character in the circus. We were in competition with most of the students at the institute for the best costume and for the first time I won and I took fifth place.

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Tips to Organize your Trip

Alejandra Cabanas, Spain.

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In my opinion, one of the funniest things, is to organize a trip. Choose a destination, the hotel and what you will visit. So I will give you some tips to those persons that doesn’t like to do organize these trips as I do, to do it easier and faster.

First of all, and the most essential, you must choose a destination which will fit in with your pleasures for that trip: beach or city, cheap or expensive, relax or stressful…

 

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After this first step and have clear the budget that you can spend on the trip, I will recommend to book your accommodation and flight through the apps Air BnB and Booking, these networks that became so famous are actually the bests to find the best place to accommodate and the cheapest flights that for sure will fit with you. You should  check both to make sure that those are the best options.

After have a place to sleep you should take a look on the area that you had chosen for your accommodation. Take a look about the restaurants, clubs, laundry, the services that you think you will go. For this step there are a lot of networks that could help you, but what I used to use is Google maps, it will say you all he services on there with just sending the direction.

At the end, you must plan your activities. Outline the major activities you want to enjoy and how much they cost. Make any last-minute adjustments to your savings so you can ensure you have enough money. This will also help you figure out if you need any reservations for your chosen tours or activities.

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And after do all these steps, what you just need to do is to wait until he day of the leaving, and of course, enjoy your trip!

 

The Perfect Thanksgiving in San Francisco (on a budget)

Luna, Belgium

Thanksgiving is a public holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. It has been celebrated as a federal holiday every year since 1863, when, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. Together with Christmas and the New Year, Thanksgiving is a part of the broader fall/winter holiday season in the U.S. This year I’m going to celebrate Thanksgiving in San Francisco, so let’s see what activities I could do during this little trip!

WEDNESDAY 11/21/2018

Arriving on Wednesday evening, the best thing to do first is to check into the Airbnb : cheaper option than a hotel. A nice and free evening activity  in San Francisco is walking to the Golden Gate Bridge and see it completely lit up with a beautiful sunset. Enjoy the breathtaking view with a nice hot chocolate or coffee to take away from Philz Coffee!

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THURSDAY 11/22/2018

Thanksgiving is already here! To make the most out of this celebration you need to make sure to wake up a little early. This way you can enjoy the city when it’s calm and empty. In the morning you can visit the Japanese Tea Garden which is a really peaceful environment. For lunch, enjoy a nice picnic in the park in front of the Painted Ladies. In the afternoon a nice and not too pricey activity is the cinema ! This year, Disney made a movie based on the Nutcracker story and this certainly is a must see during the wintertime. If you’re not into musicals you can always go see another movie in the winter sphere. Ice skating is also something on your To Do list especially in front of the Macy’s Christmas tree, it’s a magical sphere.

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FRIDAY 11/23/2018

BLACK FRIDAY! This is a day you want to wake up super early to be in front of the stores cause this happens only once a year. Black Friday is an informal name for the day following Thanks Giving in the unites states, which has been regarded as the beginning of the country’s Christmas shopping season since 1952. Essentially, it’s a huge event where all the stores open early, close really late and  have a lot of sales and deals. If you don’t feel like being in a really crowded mall they also have plenty of deals and sales on their websites. There have been some scary stories in the past from people fighting about products and especially electronics but I still think it’s something you need to experience when you’re in the USA.

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In San Francisco the best places to go shopping are:

  • Union Square
  • Union Street
  • Market Street
  • Stonestown Galleria
  • Pier 39
  • Embarcadero Center
  • Ghirardelli Square

SATURDAY 11/24/2018

Take a day off! Try to make this day as chill and cozy as possible. Wayfare Tavern is one of the cutest restaurants that is really going to put you in the winter sphere. It has a beautiful fireplace and delicious winter food. You can also just enjoy the city and visit the most popular places like the Alcatraz prison, the Coit Tower, Fisherman’s Wharf and travel around the city with the cable cars.

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SUNDAY 11/25/2018

Every Sunday morning at 10am, you can catch the two-hour Champagne and Mimosa cruise around the SF Bay. This relaxing ride offers amazing views of the SF Bay including the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island and Sausalito. You will also ride past the Palace of Fine Arts, Angel Island and Fort Point National Historic Site.

Farmer’s Markets are an important start to Sunday in San Francisco. Each week, you will find several throughout the city. Here are the details on the largest and most popular (all are year around unless noted):

  • Heart of the City in the UN Plaza in Civic Center: 7 am to 5 pm
  • Divisadero’s Farmer’s Market on Grove at Divisadero: 10 am to 2 pm
  • Fort Mason Center Farmer’s Market: 9:30 am to 1:30 pm
  • Inner Sunset Farmer’s Market in the parking lot between 8th and 9th Avenue south of Irving Street: 9 am to 1 pm
  • Glen Park in the parking lot of the Glen Park BART Station: 10 am to 2 pm; Late March though late November

If you love live music, then you are in luck! Every Sunday night, you will find at least four of five live shows in San Francisco. Larger shows are at venues such as The Warfield, The Fillmore and The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. However, you will also find smaller shows at The Independent, Slim’s and The Great American Music Hall.

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If you are planning on living this experience, which I highly recommend, enjoy it as much as you can whit your love ones. And be thankful !

Importance Of Bathing

10 / 02 / 2018   Sana Kato, Japan

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Most Japanese like taking a bath. The history of bathing was transmitted from China with Buddhism. One of the teachings of Buddhism is “to prevent seven diseases and to acquire seven lucks”. Bathing was perceived as good for the body and the habit of bathing spread to people in Japan.

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People from all over the world take a shower to remove body dirt. There are other reasons why Japanese take a bath. Bathing has a relaxing effect. So we take a bath and cure the tiredness of the day. Bathing also improves blood circulation and leads to good health.

We usually have one bathtub per family. We clean the bathtub every day, keep it clean and take a bath.  For a short bath, people take a bath for a few minutes and for a long bath, people take a bath for several hours. A home tub is also a place where parents and children can communicate.

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We have a public bath in Japan. There are many types of baths that you can not take a bath at home. For example sauna, jacuzzi and outside baths. We go to the public bath for that. To make everyone comfortable, there are rules in the public bath. For example, we should take a shower before taking a bath because our body is dirty. Also we should wipe the body before returning to the dressing room because if we don’t do it the floor gets wet. Public bath is not a private, chartering bath, either. We should pay attention to it.

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In America there is no culture to take a bath and there is no public bath. I like taking a bath and public bath. So I think it is hard for me to live here because I can not take a bath and go to public bath. I wish there was a bathing culture and public bath in America.

 

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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Dark Side of K Pop Industry

Luna Speidel, Belgium

Although K Pop generally classifies “popular music” within South Korea, the term is often used in a narrower sense to describe a modern form of Korean pop that is influenced by styles and genres from around the world. The Asian pop singers are becoming more and more popular and, therefore, the music industry is pushing them harder so they can be at their best on stage, which is understandable. CDs, music videos and interviews have been taking their lives to a point where it becomes too much. Is it normal that at almost every concert at least one of the group members faints? Is it normal that they are doing more then 30 different dance routines per night for many months? We should take a deeper look and see if this is human abuse or not.

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The multi-million dollar industry that is controlling the lives of the big stars, makes everything look so glamorous and nice. But what the fans and the outside world in general doesn’t know, is that behind that fake image the artists are working 12 hours and maybe more a day every day to make everything look perfect. This leads to a form of abuse and is often hidden by the industry itself. You can’t force someone to stay on their feet and give everything they’ve got on a stage in front of millions of their fans. The fainting and collapsing on stage is a message and gives all the hidden darkness away. The industry can’t control everything and certainly not health.

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When you become someone famous in that industry, your whole life is being controlled and getting out of it is almost impossible. Things like dating and getting married are not allowed, unless the significant other is approved by the industry. Everything is made for the artists to become more famous and for that to happen every detail counts. Most of the Kpop singers need to have plastic surgery to maintain their beauty and achieve the perfect look that the fans want. But again, this is something that the entire industry keeps secret so the performers look like natural perfection. Their diets are really strict and can go to a point where these celebrities starve themselves to keep up with their perfect body image. That’s also one of the things that causes the lack of energy and fainting on stage.

 

 

With all that negativity that’s hidden, you would think that the artists make a lot of money out of it so it’s at least worth something to them, but even on that level, the Kpop stars are victims of financial exploitation. For one show, a regular Kpop group generally earns $4000, 90% of which goes to the company and 10% gets divided between the singers. The singers are also threatened with blackmail so they don’t break the contracts, which are often for long terms, and stay in the groups. In the end, it’s a really dark industry that’s is created to give people what they want so the company gets to make as much money as they can.

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Santa Barbara: a New Home

Francesca Vinciguerra, Italy

“One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things,” said Henry Miller, an American writer. My destination was not Santa Barbara, but was seeing a different culture. I came here to improve my English and to become more fluent in speaking, but now that I am almost at the end of my trip, I can say I had learnt much more.

I understood that, wherever you go, you will find a new home where you feel yourself. Home is not just a pretty building, but also an ensemble of friends and people that take care of you. I have been living in Carpinteria for a month with other four lovable multicultural girls, Anna from Germany, Solene from France, Didem from Turkey, Hikari from Japan, and with a big family composed by Michael, Lucy, their daughter, her husband and their three grandsons.

Before coming here, I was afraid of leaving my family and my country completely alone. I was longing for years to come to America, but I have never thought my dream would be concretely realized. America is the many European students’ big dream because someone says that here every dream could come true. My dream is to reach my personal success: becoming a biotechnologist and helping the research to find new solutions for diseases such as Alzheimer Disease, Obesity or Infertility.

Why right in California and not in Italy? I love Italy, but no sooner had I entered in University than I had understood that I would have to move abroad to practice my lab skills.

In just one month, I have recognized that I fit well with the way of living and working. People here are open-minded, out-going and like talking with foreigners. The weather is warm and you can go hiking and tanning at the same time because there are both mountains and seaside. The only flaw is food. People here love fast food and rarely sit down to eat. In Italy, we are used to sitting down around a table for lunch and dinner and the mealtime is a sacred moment. I enjoy high-quality cookery and sharing the mealtime with friends and with my family. I prefer simple and not too spicy food where you can distinguish each different flavor and tastes rather than a mix of a hundred ingredients. Except for food, in Santa Barbara I feel at home. I suppose that the reason why nobody makes me feel as a stranger or a tourist is that in California there is a mix of people coming from all over the world, accustomed to live and work together.

I hope to come back soon to be part of this “big American team”.

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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